Sunday, 5 May 2013

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1975: Max von Sydow in Three Days of the Condor

Max von Sydow did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite winning KCFCC, for portraying Joubert in Three Days of the Condor.

Three Days of the Condor is an effective thriller about a low level CIA operative Joseph Turner with the codename the Condor (Robert Redford) who becomes entangled in a complex plot after all of his co-workers are murdered.

Max von Sydow plays a freelance assassin known only as Joubert who we first see leading the murders of Condor's co-workers. Sydow plays the assassin of a similar sort to say Anton Chigurh in No Country For Old Men, who goes about his task quickly and efficiently. Sydow though doesn't exactly take the approach one might expect from the assassin who is too good at his job. Usually they are played in some sort of detached psychopathic manner, Sydow does not take this approach instead gives a most unique portrayal of the strange man Joubert, that succeeds in being the killer he should be but does something else quite remarkably.

In being the killer Sydow is excellent in portraying the incisive manner that the man takes about his task. He is very quiet there such an eerie quality to Sydow's manner here. He is believable as being a man you might not notice at all in his modest style, yet Sydow is brilliant as when you do notice him there is that element to him that creates such menace. Sydow isn't cold exactly but nevertheless is quite chilling as he conveys the ruthlessness that is in Joulbert. Joubert doesn't yell, or even get angry he calmly moves and talks as he goes about killing. Sydow portrays it as simply as his nature and he doesn't require a second thought.

What especially stands out about Sydow though is the emotional quality he does have in the role. For example in the scene where he has leads the murders the last person says she won't scream Joubert responds with a simple "I know". There is a feeling in Sydow's performance that he almost can empathize not that it stops him from completing the murder in anyway. It makes these moments particularly striking though because Sydow shows Joubert who understands human emotions just fine, he does not portray him as a soulless monster, but a man with all the feelings within a man yet still fully capable of killing without hesitation.

Sydow through portrayal of Joubert in this fashion actually makes him all the more memorable of figure. Instead of being just a killer who does not know anything else or anything better Sydow's makes him a man who certainly knows of many things and can enjoy the little things of life yet he has chosen that his profession simply is what suits him the best. Sydow's final scene where he talks to the Condor in just a casual manner is an incredible scene for Sydow. Sydow in the scene presents both Joubert's considerable intelligence as well as his philosophy behind what exactly it is that he does.

The intelligence is best summed up by the vivid description of the Condor's possible future which is perfectly delivered by Sydow which emphasizes past knowledge of this man, as it is clear Condor's possible fate is something Joubert has seen before. In terms of philosophy Sydow has such an ease and grace in his delivery that he allows one to understand exactly why Joubert does what he does, and even why he is able to do it without blinking an eye. Joubert describes it as refreshing, and even though what he is speaking about is killing for money Sydow plays it so well showing the complete contentment within the killer.

 Sydow establishes Joubert as the man who seems the most comfortable not only with himself, but as well the whole world. It is quite strange as well as considering he is the cold blooded killer of the film, but it succeeds because it fits the nature of the film as well as due to Sydow's completely selling this character. He creates just a fascinating man in Joubert who can be a peace not needing to know why but rather simply needing to know how much. This is simply the best type of supporting performance in the film one that is wholly intriguing when he is on screen and always remembered when he is off. This is a great performance by Max von Sydow's as he left me only wanting to know more about this man.

12 comments:

RatedRStar said...

Terrific work as usual by Von Sydow in a very underated thriller, Three Days Of The Condor really needs to be more popular than it is. I think Robert Redford is really underappreciated in the 70s where he was generally a good leading star.

Anonymous said...

Max Von Sydow is always a reliable actor.

Anonymous said...

Have you seen him in The Diving Bell and the Butterfly? I've seen bits of his performance in that, and what I've seen really impressed me.

mrripley said...

He was very good but it was a bit of a standard assassin role,the one who doesn't say much but can be chilling,i like the scene where he thanks redford for letting him out of the lift first,good bout not gr8 solid i would say 3 stars and dunaway is a supporting role and she is v good too.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

@Anonymous: He's only in Diving Bell for about five or seven minutes. Whether or not that constitutes as an awards-worthy "one scene wonder" or a glorified cameo is generally debated. I had a friend that considered it the Best Supporting Actor for 2007 for a few years before he changed his opinion.

Psifonian said...

One of my dream projects has been a film with Joubert training Anton Chigurh from "No Country for Old Men."

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

@Psifonian: I'd see it.

Michael Patison said...

Have you deleted most of your review of William Hurt in Broadcast News because you intend to update your thoughts on him?

Michael Patison said...

I just finished Branagh's version of Hamlet, and you should seriously consider reviewing him for lead, as well as possibly Derek Jacobi or Richard Briers for supporting, when you get to 1996. In my opinion it's the closest he gets to equaling Olivier's perfection of Shakespeare. I actually preferred the film on the whole to any one of Olivier's three. It's long, of course, at over 4 hours since the entire play is done.

Louis Morgan said...

Psifonian: I'd love to see that, I'm sure their falling out would come with Chigurh's inability to take things as impersonally as Joubert does.

Michael: Yes I did, as I really did not agree with anything that I wrote originally. I need to get around to updating it.

I'm sure I will at least review Branagh in lead for Hamlet.

Psifonian said...

Louis,

I like the idea that Chigurh, who was a Special Forces veteran in Vietnam according to McCarthy's novel (and implied relationship with Wells in the film), became so obsessed with the concept of fate's rigidity that he became a much more inflexible version of his mentor, Joubert. I could even imagine Joubert being tasked to dispatch his former apprentice, only to be afflicted by a crisis of conscience when he realizes that perhaps Anton has the right idea of it all.

Louis Morgan said...

That would make a fascinating story. A movie about the mentor/protege relationship of this type of hired killer would be something to see especially if von Sydow donned the glasses and the hat again.