Thursday, 16 March 2017

Alternate Best Actor 1947: Pierre Fresnay in Monsieur Vincent

Pierre Fresnay did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Saint Vincent de Paul in Monsieur Vincent.

Monsieur Vincent tells the true story of a French Catholic priest who dedicated himself to helping the poor.

This is a rather different part than the other two performances I've seen from Pierre Fresnay such as Grand Illusion where he played an aristocratic soldier with a particularly strong connection with his captor, and The Murderer Lives At Number 21 where he played a somewhat carefree detective. Fresnay seems almost unrecognizable in this role compared to those earlier performances. I write almost though because there is the idea of the charisma he revealed in those earlier performances, but utilized in a different way. The film opens with Vincent coming into a village where some are being quarantined off and basically ignored by the rest of the populace. Vincent comes onto the scene almost like a shrewd hero though still to only administer proper priestly duties such as healing and prayer. Fresnay again has that charisma of his other performances but he alters it properly given the man Vincent is suppose to be. In that Fresnay is charming as usual, but in a most unusual way. Fresnay underplays it so elegantly in that he comes across just as well as those earlier performances, yet somehow still maintains the modesty essential to such a role.

Fresnay's work is rather fascinating here in that it is a brilliant example of an actor both internalizing and externalizing in their performance. In that Fresnay's work is often reactionary here, and so powerfully so are his reactions. In the early scene where he tries to save the people from the plague his eyes are so piercing as he watches the people shirking their duties as human beings. What is so incredible though is it is not disdain that Fresnay realizes rather he conveys more disappointment towards those not taking up the duties as they should. Fresnay is careful as this certain condemnation of their actions never feels sanctimonious, though of course Vincent is always very much in the right, but nevertheless Fresnay captures the purity of this intention. Fresnay never seems above it all though and with that is so remarkable. Fresnay is able illustrate so much more about Vincent in such slight reactions. Fresnay never simplifies though with this as even as there is a moment where he must glance into someone's souls, he is just as able to speak with another person just as one human being to another.

Fresnay actually brings a certain humor in Vincent in so many moments, but always in such a generous loving way. Fresnay grants these moments as though Vincent wishes to attempt to share any joy he may have with those around. Of course what Vincent specializes in is finding suffering and attempting to try to alleviate it in some way. After Vincent helps as he can with the contagion, Vincent receives praise and thanks while he only really reacts by informing the villagers that he prayed for their sake as well because of their selfishness, though not in so many words. Fresnay doesn't mock in his delivery nor does he make too ethereal. He makes it a grounded yet earnest declaration alluding the man who wishes for others to be the best individual they are able to be, yet is well aware that may be unlikely with those he speaks to. Throughout the film we witness Vincent as he goes through the years helping one person after, noble, poor, slave whoever needs while not asking for thanks in fact purposefully avoiding it.

Again with this it seems like we should expect an angel among men, and in terms of his accomplishments he kind of is. Fresnay though does not allow himself to be pigeonholed as such in this brilliant work of his. Again this is in terms of how he externalizes and internalizes all that Vincent is as a person which extends beyond his good works, even if that's mainly what the film focuses upon. Fresnay's work feels just as reality since he refuses to be merely an idea of Saint, he instead intends to reveal the man in the Saint, even if that man is quite saintly. Fresnay's work is far greater than the film itself because of this approach. I love the way Fresnay makes the passions in Vincent so very real and palatable. In any scene where he is helping others Fresnay presents such genuine concern in every moment as helps, and the moving quiet joy he expresses when helping those who truly need it. Furthermore though Fresnay also echoes the world Vincent does live in, which is ripe with corruption and contemptible individuals, by providing the right sense of dissatisfaction with those people. Fresnay though is terrific in that he is incredibly incisive in just a glance or a calm remark, such when he is offered a scent candle to avoid the scent of suffering slaves on ship, as he alludes to that disappointment without becoming defined by it. Now that is what I even mean by his humanizing of Vincent though. What is so outstanding about this work is how deeply unpretentious it is despite playing a figure worthy of such pretenses.

Fresnay though gives that humor even almost alluding to his flawless delivery of his various bard from Number 21 in a few scenes where Vincent avoids any direct praise from an old acquaintance. Fresnay always brings these little moments, and they don't even have to be comedic. Even in the grand chambers where Vincent tries to encourage the best out of the "elite" emphasizes an understanding and embracing warmth by his unaffected portrayal of Vincent. Now I did not even mention that this is a story set over decades as we see Vincent age to an old man. Fresnay excels in just another facet of his work as he so gradually ages the man with his performances taking on certain mannerisms fitting to an older man, a squint, a hunch, yet doing it in such a natural way that there is no disconnect from Vincent of one year to the next. The film again is one great deed after another, which Fresnay elevates greatly by his nuanced work, and the film ends actually on Vincent only sort of criticizing himself for still not doing enough to help others. This could be terribly self-indulgent, but it is not at all. Fresnay makes it such a beautiful moment as again it is expressed with only a humble grace. Fresnay's whole performance is an amazing piece of acting as he allows a saint to be man even if he is a flawless one.

36 comments:

Luke Higham said...

It seems he'll be your #2.

Your thoughts on the songs from Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story.

Charles Heiston said...

Glad to see a 5 for Fresnay. I would not mind if he took the overall but that is unlikely. Could he be upgraded for The Murderer Lives At Number 21?

Luke Higham said...

Charles: He might take the overall from Bogart, but an upgrade's less likely I think.

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

I wouldn't mind him overtaking Attenborough, although that seems quite impossible at this point.

RatedRStar said...

I knew he would do well, when I saw an Oscars for foreign language vid and this was the first winner I was like" Is that Fresnay" this looks very promising.


Robert MacFarlane: I saw your favorite films list, fine with all of them, except 1992 of course which I think is a real mehh lol I am quite stunned to see A Few Good Men as your favorite film of 1992.

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Although Bogart has always been a 5 for me for his work in Casablanca, going by Louis's initial review, I was surprised that he won 1942.
Louis: Any chance of Claude Rains being upgraded for Casablanca?

RatedRStar said...

Yes Louis =D I agree with Tahmeed definately, for totally fair and completely unbiased reasons of course hehe.

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

RatedRStar: If it makes you feel any better, I want you to know that Rains is a 5 for me for all of his nominated performances. I'd rank them this way-
1. Notorious
2. Casablanca
3. Mr Smith Goes to Washington
4. Mr Skeffington (underrated work by him I feel, in spite of the nomination)

RatedRStar said...

Tahmeed: Marvellous =D....

Out of his 4 nominations, I gave him 2 wins, how many would you have given?

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Daniel: He's my win in 1939, 1942 and 1946.

RatedRStar said...

=D Nice.

Varun Neermul said...

Louis, your thoughts on 'the moon song' from the movie 'Her'.

Anonymous said...

Louis: Looks like Venom is getting his own spin-off movie. Thoughts on this?

Luke Higham said...

Anonymous: About time, though I'll refrain going any further until seeing Spider-Man: Homecoming.

Anonymous said...

Luke: I just hope it doesn't suck and Venom is played by a good actor.
Louis: Your cast and director for a 1960's version of The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

Louis Morgan said...

Luke:

Here's the first five, (as listed by the youtube playlist)

I'll preface that all of Reilly's vocals are excellent.

Walk Hard - (Funny but I don't feel the Verse and the chorus meld all that well with one another. Both are entertaining approximations to Cash originals though, but I don't think it stands alone past just being a fun parody which isn't the case for most of the songs from the film.)

Take My Hand - (An effective love style song of the period, and just in a way rather straight forwardly so in this case. A good straight forward case though in that you really could imagine it is from the 50's with its catchy light style.)

Mama - (Again another effective representation though this one made ridiculous by its titular lyrics. An enjoyable bit of rockabilly though authentic in its instrumentation from its electric guitar solo, to its backup singers, to its "yell" style singing and of course its dramatic retard at the end.)

A Life Without You - (My favorite of this set that almost could have been a ballad by Roy Orbison, but hey why wouldn't I love Roy Orbison style parody. Again the parody though is only really in the knife lyrics, this could have simply by an Orbison song up to that point. The intention to detail is quite remarkable in how they get just about everything right in terms of the song structure and instrumentation. It's quite something as it is a beautiful song with Orbison's style of basically becoming progressively more dramatic, in both singing and orchestration, until its powerful end.)

Let's Duet - (I have to admit Carter/Cash duets are not my favorite from Johnny Cash to begin with. Again though in terms of the recreation is it is incredibly impressive in every regard, and I would say they fashion this then as one of the best Carter/Cash duets, though with its rather amusing over the top lyrics that are perhaps too obvious to even be innuendos.)

Charles:

Maybe.

Tahmeed:

Maybe.

Varun:

I don't love it with its purposefully, I'm going to assume, tinny vocals. I mean its okay with it, again, purposefully simplistic style and lyrics. It has a nice melody and its pleasant but again I don't love it.

Anonymous:

Apparently the script is from the writers of Amazing Spider-man 2, I'd say that's not a good thing. I also don't understand the rush as I feel the character should be set up through spider-man first.

Anonymous:

Directed by Peter R. Hunt:

Solo: Robert Vaughn
Kuryakin: David McCallum
Waverly: Leo G. Carroll
Gaby: Claudia Cardinale
Victoria: Diana Rigg
Uncle Rudi: Walter Slezak

Anonymous said...

Louis: If they ever did Carnage in live-action, who would you choose to play him?

Luke Higham said...

Beauty And The Beast. It was okay, yet Gad and Evans completely saved it for me.

Watson - 2/2.5
Stevens - 3 (He's a good casting choice after all, but the CGI is a detriment to his work and they should've let him go full makeup here, which would've only benefited his performance)
Evans - 4.5 (MVP without hesitation)
Gad - 4
Kline - 3.5
McGregor - 3
Thompson - 3
The rest of the antiques are solid, yet don't stand out much.

Louis Morgan said...

Anonymous:

Walton Goggins.

Charles Heiston said...

Louis: Your thoughts on the cinematography of A Bittersweet Life. And how do you think Min-sik Choi would've done in the lead role of Sun-woo.

Luke Higham said...

Charles: Did you see Logan.

Charles Heiston said...

Luke: I had to postpone it. I'll see it tomorrow. I'll give you my thoughts afterwards.

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Your thoughts on the Iron Fist Pilot. :)

Anonymous said...

Louis: Will you watch the Blade, Moon Knight and Ghost Rider Netflix shows when they come out?

Louis Morgan said...

Charles:

The cinematography is very sleek, low key stylish work. It's just a good looking film in really a rather straight forward fashion. Every scene is lit really as it should be which be praised particularly the rainy escape sequence. There are some nice flourishes as well particularly the soft glows around the cello scene, and basically everything in the final sequence is pretty wonderful looking.

I feel Choi would have been a little miscast as Sun-woo, as I feel he comes off just a bit too worldly in his natural screen presence. I've never seen Choi give a bad performance though so I'm sure he could have been good if not great, but Lee was perfectly cast.

Luke:

It wasn't very good, but I did not find it worse than Luke Cage really. I guess Luke Cage had Marhershala Ali at least. This has two of the worst actors on Game of Thrones (though better here than they were there though that's not saying much), some Michael Shannon wannabe, and maybe David Wenham hamming it up (he didn't do much in the pilot). Nothing about it was gripping, nor was it entertainingly bad. It was just rather bland.

Louis Morgan said...

Anonymous:

If Noah Hawley produces one of them definitely. Seriously though I'm finding that the Marvel Netflix shows are kind of fundamentally flawed.

Robert MacFarlane said...

MCU Netflix shows have the same problem MCU movies do: sticking to a specific formula.

Anonymous said...

Louis: Why? Because superheroes work better in movies?

Luke Higham said...

Louis: There's a rumour going around, that we could get an Obi-Wan Kenobi in exile film in 2020 with McGregor returning. Your thoughts on this.

Louis Morgan said...

Anonymous:

No, not at all. I'm sure I'm getting repetitive on this point but Legion shows what can be done with the superhero genre. The Marvel Netflix shows, as Robert noted, stick far too closely to a specific formula. They don't take any real risks with the storytelling to the point that they stretch out their hero vs villain formula every time. Although I find they have more problems than that.

Louis Morgan said...

Luke:

I'm all for McGregor getting to play Obi-wan in a good film, I just hope they have the material for it.

Anonymous said...

Louis: Out of these three Marvel Netflix shows (Blade, Ghost Rider and Moon Knight), which one are you most interested in?

Louis Morgan said...

Out of those three I'd say Moon Knight since his origins are so peculiar.

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Thoughts on:
Darling
Let Me Hold You Little Man
Guilty As Charged
Royal Jelly
Black Sheep
Beautiful Ride

Anonymous said...

Louis: Your cast and director for a 1960's version of Public Enemies.

Louis Morgan said...

Luke:

By the way going through these songs, this has to be one of the most underrated soundtracks around, and listening to Reilly's performances makes me feel I should move him up the ranking a bit.

Darling - (Rather good Buddy Holly stylized song, the right type of toe taping, repetitious and wholly entertaining song. Again a rather straight song but oh so good really.)

Let Me Hold You Little Man - (Okay this one is more directly hilarious in crafting such absurd lyrics so fitting to Bob Dylan's style, though as more of a The Byrds cover of a Dylan song. This one is a bit simpler taking just that general acoustic sound without doing too much with it, not the best song in the bunch in terms of the music itself but still pretty good while being very funny in terms of the lyrics.)

Guilty As Charged - (Essentially a Johnny Cash cover a Marty Robbins song. Again pretty straight forward in that regard and so well done. This time with the flamboyant, brass amplified, instrumentation, and hard yet "eloquent" lyrics. What it captures best is that sort of epic quality found in this type of ballad.)

Royal Jelly - (Now this is pure Dylan parody right down to Reilly's doing the mumbly delivery. This one is funny but I don't think it works that much as song. As it seems purposefully indulgent without trying to really be all that enjoyable in terms of the actual music. Again this one kind of sacrifices that by just going more directly for the laughs.)

Black Sheep - (Going for Brian Wilson, unencumbered Wilson, style arrangement and writing style, which in itself I don't always love. There is some enjoyment to be had in trying to recreate that sort of creativity though it isn't wholly appealing in its sort lack of structure style, with wild shifts throughout. I'd also say this is one that steps slightly too close to just a lyrical parody with almost just going into "Good Vibrations" for a moment.)

Beautiful Ride - (LOVE everything about this song. This is from Reilly especially impassioned performance so fitting to a musical biopic, the actual music though is immaculate though as well with such rousing chorus and such poignant verse, yet it also manages to be genuinely hilarious, through some choice lyrics, without comprising the general tone of the song. Brilliant work.)

Anonymous:

Public Enemies 1960's directed by John Frankenheimer:

Dillinger: Charles Bronson
Melvin Purvis: Alan Arkin
Billie Frechette: Susan Kohner
J. Edgar Hoover: Martin Landau
Homer Van Meter: Rip Torn
Baby Face Nelson: M. Emmet Walsh
Pretty Boy Floyd: Peter Fonda
Alvin Karpis: George Segal