Saturday October 25, 2008

New Yorker Quote of the Day - III

“Marlon’s going to class to learn the Method was like sending a tiger to jungle school.”

—Fellow-student Elaine Strich on Marlon Brando in Claudia Roth Pierpont's article, "Method Man," in the Oct. 27th New Yorker

This is a great issue of the New Yorker but this may be the best article in it. I've read about method acting for years but this is the first time I really got it. The piece begins with an incredible performance by Brando in a failed play, "Truckline Cafe" in 1946. A young Pauline Kael saw the play and near the end had to turn away because one of the actors appeared to be having a seizure on stage; then her companion grabbed her arm and said "Watch this guy!" Kael: That's when "I realized he was acting."

Or wasn't acting. Brando says of his teacher, Stella Adler, "She taught me to be real, and not to try to act out an emotion I didn't personally experience during a performance." That's when I understood — as much, I suppose, as a non-actor can understand. He's got to actually feel what he's saying or it doesn't work. It accounts for the unevenness of his work. The subtitle of the piece is "How the greatest American actor lost his way," but the article is also about how the greatest American actor found his way. Everyone loses their way — everyone — but not everyone finds their way in the first place. There's a My god, what might have been? quality to the article, but, again, and maybe this is the Minnesotan in me, there's also, in the article, a sense that: My god, what WAS. The author ticks off the five or six great performances that Brando gave us in great movies, and, because of the ferociousness of his talent, that's a lament. For me, that's the pinnacle. I go back to David Mamet's Bambi vs. Godzilla: "Mike Nichols told me long ago that there is no such thing as a career—that if a person has done five great things over three decades of work he is indeed blessed." Brando was more than blessed; he blessed us.

Posted at 10:08 AM on Saturday October 25, 2008 in category Quote of the Day  
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