Sunday, 15 April 2012

Best Supporting Actor 1956: Anthony Quinn in Lust for Life

Anthony Quinn won his second Oscar from his second nomination for portraying Paul Gauguin in Lust For Life.

Anthony Quinn's performance as Paul Gauguin has a strange Oscar myth that goes along with his performance which is that he is only in the film for a very short eight minutes. This is a bizarre continually restated myth because he is probably in the film over twenties minutes. I must say such myths astound me because all one needs to do is watch the film to see he is obviously in the film longer than that. Either way though that is commonly used as reason he did not deserve to win, even though the size of a performance really does not matter, it is the impact made by it.

Quinn most certainly does have an impact with his performance as Paul Gauguin in Lust For Life, one of those roles that seems frankly tailored made for Quinn. Gauguin is a braggart, very sure of himself and his opinions, who enjoys his pleasures, but is also very rough around the edges. Quinn is quite good in his very first scene and instantly makes an impact on the film. There are many actors playing artists that Kirk Douglas's Vincent Van Gogh meets, but Quinn even in his first relatively short scene is the only one who makes a man out of him. Quinn effortlessly becomes Gauguin from his first scene he realizes the distinct manner of Gauguin.

Quinn is pompous and pretensions, and shows that Gauguin does not mind making a scene in fact he wants to make a scene. Quinn has the perfect sort of carefree quality in his performance showing Gauguin casual disregard for any sort of common manners. In his first scene he is quite good in establishing Gauguin casual interest and supporting in Van Gogh's work. There is not an over enthusiasm in Gauguin though as Quinn carefully shows in an early indications of the problems they will have later. Also in his early moments Gauguin gives a little "wisdom" to Gauguin, Quinn is quite effective because he shows although that it might not really be the most intelligent advice given, Gauguin most surely believes in it.

The real meat of his performance comes later as Gauguin goes to live with Van Gogh as an attempt by Vincent's brother Theo to rid Vincent of his loneliness. From their first scene together Quinn and Douglas create a dynamic together that you know will not end well. Van Gogh's desperate want for a friend and fellow artist, but Quinn is effectively hard boiled in his depiction of Gauguin. Although there is the faintest hint in Quinn's performance of Gauguin's respect for Van Gogh as a person, as well as understanding of the great troubles of the man, he never avoid showing the simply truth that the main reason Gauguin went there is simply to have some room and board for free.

Their scenes together really work as Douglas is far more enthusiastic but as well as emotionally intense, and unsure as Van Gogh, whereas Quinn shows Gauguin to be in ways harder, more controlled in and simpler in his ways. Both actors really show that neither of the men match and that they are destined to have problems. Quinn is properly pompous with just the right amount of humor in his performance as Gauguin criticizes Van Gogh in various ways. He shows this as just Gauguin's way, he doesn't exactly purposefully try to upset Van Gogh but Quinn shows that Gauguin ego is so large that he really can't avoid it.

Some of Quinn's best moments come in the two of their fights together as both actors naturally show the way their simple discussions can quickly become heated and violent arguments. Quinn again contrasts well against Douglas. Douglas showing Van Gogh exacerbating tendencies, and Quinn shows a harsh reality in Gauguin simple and rough attacks on Van Gogh. My favorite moments of Quinn's performance though I think might come in when he shows Gauguin try to calm the situation by backing down, or eventually by leaving. Quinn convey that although Gauguin is a bit too quick to anger himself he is not mentally unbalanced in the way Van Gogh is. In this short subtle moments he shows an understanding and realization in Gauguin over his own treatment toward Van Gogh, and that perhaps he has gone too far himself. This may not be his best or his longest performance but Quinn manages to make the most of his role as Paul Gauguin. He not only creates an intriguing portrait of this man, but as well with Kirk Douglas delivers some of the best moments of the film.

1 comment:

Fritz said...

Yes, he was great and I remember how stunned I was when I saw the film for the first time because he had so much screen time.