Thursday, 2 October 2014

Alternate Best Actor 1953: Montgomery Clift in I Confess

Montgomery Clift did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Father Michael William Logan in I Confess.

I Confess is a decent enough, albeit not particularly thrilling film from Alfred Hitchcock, about a priest hearing a murder in confession while later being suspected of that murder.

Montgomery Clift plays a very different from Private Prewitt in From Here to Eternity as he plays the unassuming priest Father Logan. They do share one strong similarity in that they are both men of an intense moral conviction. Prewitt refused to fight in the Captain's boxing team, despite constant harassment for doing so, and Logan refuses to break his vows as a Catholic priest to reveal what was told to him. Technically Clift could have taken the exact same approach for both Logan and Prewitt but it is interesting to see how Clift approaches Logan in a different fashion. Although obviously hearing the confession of the murder obviously bothers him for obvious reasons, even before he is being suspected of the murder, Clift does not portray Logan's conviction in causing him any personal pain rather he uses this to show the nature of Logan as a priest.

Clift portrays Father Logan as a man who has absolute belief in the sacred nature of the confession and therefore there is never a doubt in his mind about not speaking about the confession. Clift is very good in every scene where Logan is pressed for any information associated with the confession only to speak in a way that in no way alludes to anything being held secret. Clift suggests merely the purity of the man's conviction as he keeps Logan's demeanor matter of fact as he refuses to divulge any information about the confession. It technically would probably be tempting to portray some strong internal struggle in the character but Clift stays true to the character by just carrying a pronounced sense of duty in his manner in these scenes. Clift continues to take a seemingly unorthodox approach to the other aspects of the role as well particularly in regards to the past romance that Logan had with a woman before he became a priest.

Logan technically forces himself to be even more quiet about the murderer because he was a blackmailer of his old flame (Anne Baxter), and Logan in no way wants to harm her reputation. Clift again is very much true to his character as a good priest above else. Even in the scenes where she declares her undying love for Logan Clift is very careful in his reaction. Clift is quite effective in showing that Logan's feelings for her have diminished long ago in favor of his devotion to the priesthood. Clift treads quite a fine line in that on one side he makes it clear that Logan no longer shares his sentiments and portrays an understanding of that without being overly warm yet still avoiding presenting Logan as an emotionally cold man. Clift finds the right balance that always feels right for the self-sacrificing character that is Father Logan. Clift simply never cheats the character and creates the selfless nature of the man in an honest and affecting fashion.

Although Clift is lead the film spends a considerable amount of time with Baxter's character or with Karl Malden detective who is slowly building the case against Father Logan. The film never quite bothers to choose if it wants to be a character driven piece on the Father or a more traditional Hitchcock thriller suffering due to that. Clift's performance is forced to be particularly reactive in nature, but he manages to create a fairly powerful portrait of this man through this. The end of the film is especially striking because of Clift's work in the way he so wonderfully realizes the selfless nature of Father Logan. As he stands accused of murder, and considered guilty by many even before the trail begins. Clift reactions are consistently effective in showing the way Father Logan quietly seems to almost absorb the responsibility of the situation. It's poignant soulful work from him here and I only wish the film was not quite so confined by the progression of the plot.

16 comments:

luke higham said...

1. Mason
2. Mori
3. Ford
4. Brando
5. Clift

Anonymous said...

Ratings/thoughts on Karl Malden and Anne Baxter

Anonymous said...

Good review! Can I have your ratings and thoughts on Helen Mirren in Hitchcock and Helen Hunt in The Sessions?

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar said...

I'm changing my predictions:

1. Mason
2. Mori
3. Brando
4. Ford
5. Clift

Michael Patison said...

I'm changing:
1. James Mason
2. Masayuki Mori
3. Marlon Brando
4. Montgomery Clift
5. Glenn Ford

Anonymous said...

@GerDonaldSutherlandAnOscar: how was Gone Girl? And how were Affleck, Pike and Neil Patrick Harris?

mcofra7 said...

1. Mason
2. Mori
3. Brando
4. Ford
5. Clift

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar said...

@Anonymous:

It was pretty great. I'll give my thoughts sometime soon, and I don't want to give too much away but my ratings are,

Affleck:4.5 (very, very close to a 5)
Pike: 5
Harris: 4
Perry: 4 (close to a 4.5)
Dickens: 4.5
Coon: 3.5
Fugit: 3.5
Pyle: 3.5

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

1. Mori
2. Mason
3. Ford
4. Clift
5. Brando

Kevin said...

Louis, or anyone else, what are your thoughts and ranking for David Fincher's films?

Mine would be:

Se7en
Zodiac
The Social Network
Fight Club
Alien 3
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
Benjamin Button

Haven't seen The Game or Panic Room

JackiBoyz said...

1. Mason
2. Mori
3. Ford
4. Brando
5. Clift

Kevin said...

Mason
Mori
Ford
Brando
Clift

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar said...

1. Fight Club. My ratings for the cast,
Norton: 5
Pitt: 4
Carter: 4.5

2. Gone Girl

3. Se7en
Freeman: 4.5
Pitt: 4.5
Spacey: 4
Paltrow: 4

4. Benjamin Button
Pitt: 3.5
Blanchett: 5
Swinton: 4.5
Henson: 4
Flemyng: 4.5
Ali: 4
Harris: 4

5. The Social Network
Eisenberg: 4.5
Garfield: 4.5
Timberlake: 3
Hammer: 3
Mara: 3.5

6. Zodiac
Gyllenhall: 4
Downey Jr: 4.5
Ruffalo: 4
Edwards: 3
Cox: 3.5
Lynch: 4

7. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
Mara: 5
Craig: 2.5
Plummer: 3
Skasgard: 3

8. Alien 3
Weaver: 5
Dance: 4
Dutton: 4.5
A collective 3-3.5 for everyone else.

9. The Game

10. Panic Room

Matt Mustin said...

For the record, these would be my ratings on the casts of the Fincher movies I've seen. (in no order)

Fight Club
Norton-4.5
Pitt-4(I agree with Louis on this one)
Carter-3

Seven
Freeman-4.5
Pitt-2.5(would be a bit higher if not for the final scene)
Spacey-5
(I don't remember Paltrow)

The Social Network
Eisenberg-5
Garfield-4.5
Timberlake-4
Hammer-4
Mara-3

Dragon Tattoo
Craig-4.5
Mara-4.5
Plummer-4
Skarsgard-3.5

Zodiac
Gyllenhaal-4
Ruffalo-4
Downey-4.5
Lynch-4.5




koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

My Fincher ratings (from the ones I've seen;

Fight Club:

Norton: 4.5
Pitt: 5 (ya'll need Jesus, non-believers)
Carter: 4.5

The Social Network

Eisenberg: 5
Garfield: 4.5
Mara: 4
Hammer: 4.5
Timberlake: 4

Zodiac:

Gyllenhaal: 4
Ruffalo: 3.5
Downey: 3.5
Lynch: 4.5

Benjamin Button:

Let me re-watch it before I make my ratings.

Gone Girl:

Affleck: 4.5
Pike: 5
Perry: 4
Coon: 4.5
Harris: 2
Dickens: 4

Se7en:

Freeman: 4.5
Pitt: 1.5
Paltrow: 3.5
Spacey: 5

TGWDT:

Mara: 5
Craig: 4
Plummer: 4
Skarsgaard: 3.5

As for the films overall:

Fight Club
The Social Network
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Gone Girl
Se7en
Benjamin Button
Zodiac (I need to re-watch it)

Louis Morgan said...

Anonymous:

Malden - 3(He's good, as usual, but he just doesn't get to do much other than recite exposition. He actually does that rather well though always still suggesting depth to his character even though there really isn't any)

Baxter - 2.5(Baxter's best at cold or emotionally damaged characters. She's neither of those here and I found her whole performance a little overbearing)

Mirren - 4(She manages to enliven a film that needs it rather well. It's charming and entertaining work that manages to make up a little for Hopkins's less than stellar performance as the man himself)

Hunt - 4(A re-watch probably is needed but I have no desire to see The Sessions again with its horrible attempts at comedy. Thankfully Hunt's performance has nothing to do with the comic part of the film. Although her accent is a tad dodgy she gives a rather strong portrayal of the unusual warmth of her character)

Kevin:

1. Zodiac - (A fantastic procedural through and through. I love the time it gives to all the small players and especially the terrible atmosphere of dread he creates)

2. Seven - (One brilliant serial killer thriller that is consistently thrilling and frightful throughout)

3. The Social Network - (A story that could have been quite boring but is told in such a fluid and fascinating fashion)

4. Alien 3 - (The dodgy special effects and the treatment of Aliens's characters aside Fincher managed to find one more emotional journey for Ripley to take, and managed to create a fresh story out even though the setup is basically the same as Alien)

5. The Girl With Dragon Tatoo - (This is one that I do feel is actually a perfectly fine thriller although I do think it is a bit baggy and never achieves the heights of his best work)

6. The Game - (Although I do like Michael Douglas's performance its just never turns into a particularly compelling thriller)

7. Fight Club - (The style just wore thin for me as I find it a whole lot of flash that really doesn't add up to anything)

8. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button - (Unfortunately I just find this one a boring and oddly dour retelling of Forrest Gump)