Sunday, 9 November 2014

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1977: Dirk Bogarde in Providence

Dirk Bogarde did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Claude Langham in Providence.

Providence tells the story of an aging writer Clive Langham (John Gielgud) with many personal demons as well as the actually story he's concocting in his head while he fails to sleep one night. The style of the story in the story never quite worked for me, although I did think the "real" scenes were fairly effective.

Dirk Bogarde's performance is a slightly tricky one to examine as the majority of his performance is very much of a particular style. He's not playing a real man but rather the Claude Langham which is created in the mind of his father Clive Langham. The character is obviously never meant to be realistic exactly so it explains Bogarde's performance. The first scene we see him in Claude is prosecuting a man (David Warner) who mercy killed another man with extreme prejudice. Bogarde's certainly good as he brings such a brutally cold intensity in his monologue against the man. Bogarde doesn't really cut back much on this after he gets out of the courtroom though as Claude is in a loveless marriage where his wife (Ellen Burstyn) actively seeks another man, the man being the man he had been persecuting, and Claude does not seem to care all that much.

Bogarde only really internalizes the cold intensity of Claude and makes it a tad less aggressive. He still makes a rather forceful element of any scene he is in as Claude has no hesitations in his ridiculing others and seeming to lack any warmth whatsoever towards his wife. This is turned on its head a bit though when we see Claude mistress who is an older woman who shares the appearance of Clive's wife and Claude's mother. These scenes seem to be purposefully strange which are made even more so by Bogarde's performance. He's technically a little less icy I suppose but still cold. This is obviously the point though as Gielgud's narration jokes about the way Claude let's his affections be known which are in his typical structured fashion. Bogarde's certainly continues to his serve his purpose accordingly though, even if it all a perhaps a little too much.

Bogarde fully exonerates himself though as he let's the purpose of his performance in the majority of the film by relatively brief finale of the film. The finale depicts Clive's birthday in reality where he is visited by Claude and his wife who are not all like the people he depicted in his story. Bogarde takes a far more naturalistic approach in this scenes as he portrays the actual Claude. As the real Claude Bogarde turns in a rather unassuming portrayal of a man who really doesn't have any major problems in his life as he seems to love his wife, and not even mind his problematic father. Bogarde is rather effective though as he quietly suggests some sadness that Claude feels regarding his past with his father but what makes it so effective is that he only allows it to be a glimpse. Bogarde in handling this way shows that Claude really is not haunted or even deeply troubled by it rather it is a sad memory.

Well this is certainly an interesting display of Bogarde's talents as he gets to go quite broad than rather subtle in portraying the fake and the real Claude. He's certainly good in both sections, but a problem arises which is my problem with the film as a whole. I never found the story section of the film to be all that compelling, funny or even very moving, after awhile they became a little repetitive. I felt the best moments of the film were any scene involving Gielgud which were basically any moment that wasn't truly part of the story section.  I will give Bogarde credit in that I do think he makes a go of the story sequences better than any of the other actors, and I did feel he the best part of those scenes besides Gielgud's narration. Bogarde's performance does not fully break free from the shortcomings of these scenes though and I still feel his most effective scene is as the real Claude.


koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

Ratings and thoughts on Gielgud?

Louis Morgan said...

Gielgud - 4.5(It's quite something to hear Gielgud play such coarse character, and he has quite a bit of fun with the role. His narration for much of the film is quite lively and often rather funny, I just wish he was telling a better story, although his quips are the highlights. Outside of the narration though Gielgud is exceptional at doing his biting insults routine as the aging writer, but he also brings a rather affecting despair behind his sardonic surface)