Sunday, 22 October 2017

Alternate Best Actor 1988: Daniel Day-Lewis in The Unbearable Lightness of Being

Daniel Day-Lewis  did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Tomas in The Unbearable Lightness of Being.

The Unbearable Lightness of Being follows a Czech surgeon and the two women in his life just as the Soviet Union invades.

Watching this film made me think of the single performance by Daniel Day-Lewis that I've seen where I was underwhelmed by his work, this isn't some cryptic warning for the rest of the review by the way. That performance though is his work in Nine where he was miscast as the dazed Italian director Guido. Now it is easy enough to say that was a bad film, but I started thinking what was it that made Day-Lewis seem miscast there. It may have been the nature of the role of Guido who has a lack of urgency right to the point that a major plot facet of that film is that Guido never even completes his film that he's suppose to be making. That is in contrast to Day-Lewis's other performances where you can find some urgency or at least some purpose even in the most constricted of situations. It got me thinking and that perhaps Day-Lewis needs most of all to be an active performer, and this is not in regards to reactions either. Day-Lewis has one of the greatest reactions in all of cinema on his resume, but rather it is this passiveness was required in Guido that was ill-fitting to Day-Lewis's methods as an actor. Now the reason that got me thinking was here was again a part of a man who partially lets others react around him, but also is a Lothario.

The film focuses on Tomas and the two women in his life the sexually liberated artist Sabina (Lena Olin), and the far more conservative and shy waitress/inspiring photographer Tereza (Juliette Binoche). Now in terms of the film the women are as important as Tomas, in fact there are substantial portions of the film where Day-Lewis is absent, but I digress. The nature of Tomas as a womanizer is very specific here, and fortunately for Day-Lewis it requires often a more active approach. Now in part this does rely on Day-Lewis being a naturally charismatic and attractive to which women are just simply drawn to him. These are the least interesting parts to Day-Lewis's performance actually as again Day-Lewis seems almost to dislike the idea of easy ways out in terms of acting. Thankfully though the more active performer is required in creating the two distinct relationships between the two women. In his scenes with Olin, Day-Lewis emphasizes very much the lust, and with Olin develops well this spirit of antagonism within that which effectively alludes to the way this fuels their flames essentially. These moments are particularly direct with both actors showing there is no time wasted as the two give in quickly to the pleasure with one another in passionate though purposefully limited fashion.

That is in sharp contrast to the relationship with Binoche's Tereza which Day-Lewis portrays initially as Tomas approaching her in a similair way he would any other one of his "conquests". Day-Lewis though naturally realizes the way this changes though as Tereza reveals her hesitations but also desire for a deeper interaction with him. Day-Lewis is very good in portraying a gentler, less lustful, side to Tomas in these moments finding these reactionary moments of the man moving from lust to love, and bringing a real gentle quality to even their sexually charged scenes. In these moments Day-Lewis presents this patience of the man conveying a deeper relationship there. His and Binoche's chemistry works quite well in throughout the film building the two's connection from moment to moment. Although their relationship is frequently challenged by the Soviets, and Tomas's infidelity the two find the foundation of a genuine warmth and affection. In the moments where Tereza questions Tomas's actions even, Day-Lewis is quite good actually by not portraying shame, but rather presenting a man who doesn't designate a deeper importance to sex unlike Tereza. The depth instead comes from the two just being together, and both actors excel in realizing that joy and more so comfort in each other's presence particularly in the closing scenes of the film.

Although much of Day-Lewis's time is spent in those moments of the relationship, returning back to the most active Day-Lewis is the best Day-Lewis holds particularly true here. While Day-Lewis is definitely quite good in those scenes, his best are when Tomas is front and center. This is found in part of the film as we first see Tomas casually disregard the Soviets, which he initially delivers with only a minor intensity though as just someone in a conversation with friends. Tomas though writes a more scathing article against the Soviets, which is problematic when they invade leading Tomas and Tereza to leave the country though they eventually return. This leads Tomas to come afoul with the government who press him to name names of his collaborators or be no longer allowed to practice medicine in his hospital. These couple of scenes offer perhaps the Day-Lewis we all love most as he is downright amazing in the scenes just through his eyes portraying such sheer disregard for the government agent asking the questions. There is such a powerful incisiveness to Day-Lewis's work as in his very being you get such a incredible sense of Tomas's discontent, even though he never once raises his voice in the scene. Once again Day-Lewis is outstanding in this most urgent moment, expressing the most struggle so well in very few minutes, and in a part of the story that isn't given that much focus yet makes a substantial impact because of this performance. This isn't one of Day-Lewis's greatest turns, perhaps because how passive the character is, but that isn't saying much when talking about one of the most talented actors alive. This is still a very strong and remarkable turn from the great Daniel Day-Lewis.

68 comments:

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Thoughts on the rest of the cast.

1. Dafoe
2. Keaton
3. Neville
4. Caine
5. Day-Lewis

Luke Higham said...

Louis: And your ten biggest missed opportunities of the 80s onwards.

Anonymous said...

Louis: Your ten biggest missed opportunities of the 40's and the 50's.

Charles Heist said...

Glad Day-Lewis still got a high rating for one of his last reviews.

Charles Heist said...

Final change

1. Dafoe
4. Neville
3. Keaton
4. Caine
5. Day Lewis

Luke Higham said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Louis: your top 10 heath ledger acting moments

Anonymous said...

Louis: Your thoughts on this Downfall scene.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VykaQB4sRmE

Robert MacFarlane said...

Louis: Do you think The Book of Henry could have worked as a horror movie if they just kept everything the same and gave it a John Carpenter score?

Anonymous said...

Louis: your top 20 paul newman and James masón acting moments

Michael McCarthy said...

Louis: With all the talk about Twin Peaks lately, I've been on a David Lynch kick recently (I've been watching the show myself, currently on episode 11 of The Return). I wanted to ask, is there a good chance of you upgrading Laura Dern to a 5 for Wild at Heart? Because I've rewatched it a couple times since your review of Stanton, and not only does she sell the shit out of her own character, I'd even say she's the reason Nicolas Cage's performance works at all.

94dfk1 said...

Anonymous: I found his Top 5.

1. "Why so serious?" - The Dark Knight
2. Interrogation scene - The Dark Knight
3. Hospital scene - The Dark Knight
4. "Can't you let me be" - Brokeback Mountain
5. Pencil Trick - The Dark Knight

94dfk1 said...

Louis: Your 70s cast for Birdman and 90s cast for Tropic Thunder?

Omar Franini said...

1. Dafoe
2. Neville
3. Keaton
4. Day-Lewis
5. Caine

Henry W said...

Louis and you guys, what do you believe caused Day-Lewis to retire? Do you think he'll be back in 5-10 years? I've been hearing a lot of chatter that his "retirement" may just be for an even longer sabbatical after which he will return.

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

1. Dafoe
2. Neville
3. Keaton
4. Caine
5. Day-Lewis

Matt Mustin said...

Henry W: I don't know, I mean, as great an actor as he is, he never really seemed to enjoy it very much. I think it was mostly just exhausting hard work for him.

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Henry: He may want to spend some more time with his family, or pursuing other interests. He's arguably the most immersive method actor ever, and preparing for just one role is bound to be mentally tasking.
Regardless of how long his "retirement" is, it's a massive loss to acting in any case.

John Smith said...

1. Dafoe
2. Keaton
3. Neville
4. Caine
5. Day-Lewis

Calvin Law said...

Michael: I completely agree on Dern, and Cage for that matter also deserves a 5.

Calvin Law said...

Also, hope you enjoy Part 11. It's my favourite episode.

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Louis: Your top 10 actors with the best (natural) voices.

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Your thoughts on the Phantom Thread trailer.

Henry W said...

That trailer has me somewhat worried. It evokes something that is put together in a rushed fashion. Daniel Day-Lewis seems to be going for something entirely different to his work in There Will Be Blood, but to spare the trailer some slack, I'm liking what he brought, a more unassuming performance I'd imagine. PTA is known for his auteur stylistic choices and decisions, but to focus more on character arc and actor performance as he did for his last two projects in Inherent Vice and The Master instead of the film as a holistic work may be bad. Either way, I'm hyped for the film, even if the trailer did disappoint me a tad bit.

Louis Morgan said...

I'll get to those other comments soon.

Luke:

Color me very intrigued as it wasn't exactly what I expected, however that should be expected with PTA at this point who has never done wrong in my view. Visually looks incredible, particularly those costumes, and seems to based around a very personal, potentially very dark, dynamic as we also saw with the Master. I don't think this will appease those who desire a more Boogie Nights style of PTA again, but that's fine by me. Obviously Day-Lewis's performance from the trailer alone is quite intriguing, subdued from what we saw, in a fascinating way, though there seems to be some potential for some real fire as well.

Mitchell Murray said...

Finally got around the seeing "Wind River". I must say that while it's probably the most disturbing and personal of Sheridan's little trilogy, I do think "Sicario" and "Hell or High Water" were more assured efforts overall. Sheridan had the right idea with those in letting someone else direct his words, but here he seems less confident and I feel another person could have rung out this story for greater effect. Nevertheless, it is a solid movie. Sheridan knows his way around the American frontiers and his eye for cinematography and sound design are especially strong.

Renner - 4.5 (A really strong, underplayed effort on his part. I liked the different level of gruffness he brought to the role, in how he presented a man who is an outsider yet has faced a similar state of trauma to the people he's helping. He plays the stoicism quite well and is very moving in some of his more vulnerable moments.)

Olsen - 4 (This is in a way a gender neutral character and Olsen plays it as such. Olsen might not be the most convincing actress to play an FBI agent but that fresh faced inexperience completely works for her character here as she is thrust into this job with no real training. She hits all the notes she has too so its really a solid performance on her part.

Greene/Birmingham - 4 (Both are very good in contrasting parts. Birmingham is powerful and completely grounded in displaying the grief of his daughter's tragedy. Greene is likewise solid but in a more deadpan and comedic character)

Robert MacFarlane said...

Everyone here seems to have less issues with Wind River's (and by extension, Taylor Sheridan's) gender/racial politics than I do.

94dfk1 said...

Louis: Oh and director for each of those two?

Luke Higham said...

I sincerely hope he finishes with a bang in what I personally believe will be his last leading role. (I don't think he'll be retired for good, but a much longer sabbatical)

And I hope he'll end up with nine fives with Phantom Thread and his upgrade for Gangs Of New York.

Luke Higham said...

Louis: With these critically mixed/failures that Fassbender's had over the past 2 years, what do you think he should do moving forward.

I personally think he needs to take a break or cut down the amount of projects he's doing per year.

Louis Morgan said...

Luke:

Olin & Binoche - 4.5(In regards to Olin I can't help but feel that her later nomination in 89 may have been partially to make up for her not being nominated for this film given that this performance is in a similair vein in some respects. Olin though excels as the more lusty Sabina and is absurdly alluring in this regard however she doesn't simplify the idea at any point. Again she matches Day-Lewis in establishing their particularly chemistry but what I really like what Olin does is recognize almost this certain respect she brings in the moments of interactions with both Tomas and Tereza. She effectively realizes Sabina's way of embracing fully her own bohemian lifestyle while suggesting almost a longing of her own towards perhaps the more substantial relationship seen with the others. Binoche I will say I'm not quite sure I knew exactly what she was doing with her accent the whole time, there's just some strange patches there. I did though find she gave a wholly effective performance past that point anyways. She effectively portrays shyness of her character here because she never simplifies this opposite either. Binoche allows it define her to an extent throughout, portraying it as this inherent nature in the character, and conducts herself in this way even in her less shy scenes technically speaking. Binoche makes it a natural and essential part of the character without ever making just a throwaway element to be dispensed with. In the moments she opens it up Binoche makes it very natural in that she never simply changes the woman Tereza is, but rather finds well the connection to her opening up with the warmth within the relationships between both her and Day-Lewis, and with Olin. Both are terrific because they don't just set it as black and white as the two sides of coin. They instead make it more complicated effectively finding the two sides in an honest way, but also making the changes in both women genuine.)

80's:

1. Stalingrad - Sergio Leone
2. Dune
3. The Color of Money
4. Scanners (Anyone besides Stephen Lack in the lead, preferably James Woods)
5. Night Skies - Spielberg
6. Explorers
7. The Living Daylights/License to Kill
8. Gershwin - Martin Scorsese
9. Frakenstein - Cronenberg
10. The Temple of Doom

90's:

1. The Godfather Part III
2. Bonfire of the Vanities
3. Candyman
4. M. Butterfly
5. Gattaca
6. Alien 3 (even though I am defender, Fincher without interference would have been preferred)
7. Fantomas - David Lynch
8. Les Miserables
9. Lethal Weapon 4
10. The Talented Mr. Ripley (Unfortunately missing a properly talented Mr. Ripley)

Louis Morgan said...

Anonymous:

40's:

1. The Magnificent Ambersons's third act
2. Heart of Darkness - Orson Welles
3. All is Quiet - Kurosawa
4. A German a Daruma Temple - Kurosawa
5. Mourning Becomes Electra
6. The Life of Christ - Orson Welles
7. The Family - John Ford
8. Destino (Original)
9. Sorry Wrong Number
10. Joan of Arc

50's:

1. Charles Laughton's Directing career
2. Macbeth - Laurence Olivier
3. Don Quixote - Orson Welles
4. Kinderspiel - Robert Aldrich
5. Laurel and Hardy - Billy Wilder
6. The Man With the Golden Arm
7. Samurai II
8. The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit
9. The Brothers Karamazov
10. Quo Vadis

Anonymous:

Great scene for Ganz's performance and an effective scene in general as it portrays Hitler's continued isolation even with men around him. I like how in every scene you see man espousing as though he's use to an echo chamber now seemingly just yelling at a crowd of nervous people too petrified to break the news of his failures, but also too petrified for their own lives to be proper yes men anymore.

Robert:

Well now that mention it...

Louis Morgan said...

Anonymous:

Newman:

11. Apology - Hud
12. Visit to the Judge - The Verdict
13. Ending - Hud
14. The Mass - Road to Perdition
15. Losing badly - The Hustler
16. The Sting - The Sting
17. Being confronted by the family - The Verdict
18. Refusing to run - The Long Hot Summer
19. Winning - The Verdict
20. First set of games - The Hustler

Mason:

11. Recitation - Odd Man Out
12. Brutus's stabs Caesar - Julius Caesar
13. Hospital - Lolita
14. Nemo's point of view - 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
15. Ending - Odd Man Out
16. PTA meeting - Bigger Than Life
17. Brutus's speech - Julius Caesar
18. Confrontation - The Deadly Affair
19. Nemo's Entrance - 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
20. Offer - The Verdict

Michael:

Yes.

94dk1:

Birdman 70's Directed by Sidney Lumet:

Riggan: Vincent Price
Mike: Maximilian Schell
Jake: Dick van Patten
Laura: Juliet Mills
Sylvia: Jean Simmons
Sam: Margot Kidder
Lesley: Lois Smith
Tabitha: Sylvia Sidney

Tropic Thunder 90's directed by Ivan Reitman:

Tugg Speedman: Arnold Schwarznegger
Jeff Portnoy: Chris Farley
Kirk Lazarus: Michael Keaton
Damien Cockburn: Rowan Atkinson
Sandusky: Sam Rockwell
Cody: John C. Reilly
Alpa Chino: Chris Tucker
Four Leaf: Rip Torn
Rick Peck: Val Kilmer
Les Grossman: Tom Hanks

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Your ten biggest missed opportunities of the 00s and 10s.

Louis Morgan said...

Robert:

I didn't love Wind River either, it's a film that's faded considerably for me outside of one element, and I didn't love the film to begin with. He could avoided much of the racial problem I'd say if he had cast more appropriately for the lead, and I think that actually would have reduced the gender issue partially. In that it would have been more of the single white outsider in general who is lost rather than the only woman with more than a couple of speaking lines.

Luke:

In regards to Fassbender I don't think he's really made a major mistake here. The first two X-Men films were successful so it's hardly his fault for not predicting the third one would be a failure. The Light Between Oceans was a miss from a director whose previous efforts were all considered successful, same with Assassins' Creed, same with The Snowman. Song to Song was filmed long ago, and even then how can you blame the guy for wanting to work with Terence Malick. Alien Covenant, I guess he could've known better, but really I don't think he came off too poorly there as the one heavily praised element in the film even by many of the detractors. He just had a spot of bad luck, there wasn't anything wrong with his choices really.

Luke Higham said...

Louis: I'm fine with his choices since they all had some potential to begin with and I was the most optimistic for them.

Luke Higham said...

Calvin: For your blog, could you do franchise rankings like the one you wrote for Harry Potter. e.g. Star Wars and Middle Earth

And could you do a post on your top 20 deaths in film.

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Your top ten Gregory Peck moments.

Robert MacFarlane said...

Louis: I don't even think the film needed an outsider character to tell its story. I wasn't just referring to the relative pointlessness of Olden's character, but the card at the end of the movie that feels entirely unearned.

94dfk1 said...

Louis: Thanks! Sam Rockwell as Sandusky is a nice touch considering the nature of Tropic Thunder and his part in Galaxy Quest.

Everyone: Thoughts on these retro castings for the two leads in The Place Beyond The Pines?

70s
Luke Glanton-James Caan
Avery Cross-Robert de Niro

80s
Luke Glanton-Mickey Rourke
Avery Cross-Harrison Ford

90s
Luke Glanton-Val Kilmer
Avery Cross-Tom Hanks

00s
Luke Glanton-Joaquin Phoenix
Avery Cross- Matt Damon

Robert MacFarlane said...

94dfk1: I assume the 00's one is directed by James Gray?

94dfk1 said...

Robert: Yes indeed.

Also, Nic Cage as an alternate for Luke in the 90s version.

94dfk1 said...

Or Al Pacino for Avery in the 70s version as well.

Louis Morgan said...

Robert:

I completely agree in regards to the card at the end.

Luke:

Peck:

1. "Do your duty" - To Kill a Mockingbird
2. In their shoes - To Kill a Mockingbird
3. After the attack - To Kill a Mockingbird
4. Cross examining Tom - To Kill a Mockingbird
5. The Mob - To Kill a Mockingbird
6. Shooting the dog - To Kill a Mockingbird
7. "I AM A DOCTOR" - The Boys from Brazil
8. You're going to rot - Cape Fear
9. Old soldiers fade away - MacArthur
10. The traitor - The Guns of Navarone

00's:

1. Star Wars Prequels
2. The Prisoner - Christopher Nolan
3. The Pledge (3rd act)
4. X-men 3
5. Sequels to Master and Commander
6. The Punisher
7. Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull
8. Watchmen
9. Public Enemies (Cinematography)
10. Gangs of New York

10's:

1. Edgar Wright's Ant-man
2. The Hobbit
3. Out of the Furnace
4. Death Note
5. Les Miserables
6. Ghostbusters
7. War Machine
8. Voyage of the Dawn Treader
9. At the Mountains of Madness
10. Suicide Squad

I considered Cary Fukunaga's It, but since the film turned out well, and since he apparently wanted to keep the sewer sex, maybe it's best it didn't happen.

Luke Higham said...

Louis: What would you have done to make the Narnia films better.

Anonymous said...

Louis: Your top 10 missed opportunities of the 30's and 60's.

Mitchell Murray said...

(Robert and Louis)

The racial and gender politics of "Wind River" ultimately meant very little to me. The way I saw it, Olsen's character was kind of a throw away but replace her with a male equivalent, and nothing changes. So in the end it her being a woman really was irrelevant to the story since I can't recall any scene where she was explicitly sexualized or demeaned.

I also have no problems with the casting of a white lead, because while I wouldn't be opposed to Cory being played by a native american, I could imagine the story being effective either way. I know this isn't everyone's view on it, but having Cory as a white man wasn't distracting to me as there was a clear respect and understanding between him and the tribe. To me it did emphasize the movie's commentary in both the blunt manner in which the differences of privilege are presented, and how in the essence of our human spirits and emotions we are all on equal terms.

Louis Morgan said...

Luke:

Even though I like the first and second films well enough, though Voyage feels like an afterthought with how disposable it is, the film's never had a real sense of vision for the world. It goes for sort of generic fantasy just and needed a more ambitious director at the helm, for the first film at least, as those films are a great example of truly the achievement of Jackson and company with LOTR.

Anonymous:

1930's:

1. I, Claudius
2. The Son of Kong
3. Crime and Punishment
4. Disraeli
5. Drums Along the Mohawk
6. Scrooge
7. They Won't Forget
8. Night Must Fall (Outside of Montgomery)
9. Dracula
10. Les Miserables

1960's:

1. Napoleon - Stanley Kubrick
2. Murder Inc.
3. Cleopatra
4. Runaway Train Kurosawa version
5. The Alamo
6. Support Your Local Sheriff
7. The Charge of the Light Brigade
8. Bunny Lake is Missing (A better twist needed)
9. My Fair Lady
10. A Dandy in Aspic

Louis Morgan said...

Correction for #6, Support Your Local Sheriff is pretty enjoyable, I mixed it up with Death of a Gunfighter.

Louis Morgan said...

Also an extra note on the Phantom Thread trailer, I've found myself watching it about six times now, and I've become more and more fascinated by it each time, especially that pained chuckle by Day-Lewis in the "Why are you not married" moment, the same thing happened to me with the initial teaser for The Master.

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Your current top ten favourite actors of all-time. I'm curious as to where you'd put Day-Lewis.

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Louis: Your top ten favorite voices on film by actors (not put on).

Matt Mustin said...

Tahmeed: I'm confused by what you're asking.

94dfk1 said...

PTA said once that Daniel does loves acting. I'm guessing it's just that he immerses himself so much that he only chooses to act once in awhile.

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Matt: Just normal speaking voices, ie Morgan Freeman, Sean Connery.

RatedRStar said...

1. Dafoe
2. Neville
3. Keaton
4. Caine
5. Day Lewis

Would Nocturnal Animals have been on your disappointing list, I mean these lists Louis, you have to be careful with it =D.

RatedRStar said...

Luke: I am gonna get letterboxd, I feel like ranking films from each year and it looks like its good to use.

JackiBoyz said...

1. Dafoe
2. Keaton
3. Neville
4. Caine
5. Day Lewis

Luke Higham said...

2. Keaton
3. Neville

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Louis: Is Frederic Forrest a 4 or 4.5 for Apocalypse Now.

Luke Higham said...

Tahmeed: He's a 4.5.

ruthiehenshallfan99 said...

I just read that Danielle Darrieux passed away on the 17. Heartbreaking to read about, as she was one of my favorites. May she rest in peace.

RatedRStar said...

I only sadly saw Danielle Darrieux in 5 Fingers and that is it unfortunately so far.

Anonymous said...

Louis which of the main 2 film versions of The Hound of the Baskervilles is your favorite, the 39 or 59 version and why? also I dont know if you mentioned it before but which dog did you think was scarier?

Louis Morgan said...

Luke:

Hold off on that, but I will confirm that he would be in the top ten.

Tahmeed:

I believe I've given those lists before, as even though Jeremy Irons sounds amazing that's indeed his natural voice.

Anonymous:

Both tell the story fairly well so it really comes down to the more individual elements. I preferred the 39 version for Rathbone as Holmes, and the black and white feels perfect for the moor setting to the point I do think the hound itself is superior as well, though I don't find either all that scary. I do think the 59 version is a respectable adaptation as well. I even prefer Morel's Watson and the against type Christopher Lee gives Baskerville a greater impact as a character. Overall I do side with 39, but it's not runaway victor in that regard.

RatedRStar:

So I gather you were looking sad while standing in the storm as you were seeing those lists then?










ruthiehensallfan99:

RIP

Anonymous said...

R.I.P. Robert Guillaume

Calvin Law said...

I'm starting to think that Dafoe could be our next Best Supporting Actor Oscar winner. Carrell's losing a bit of steam with the lukewarm LFF reception and if he gets in I think it'll be for Battle of the Sexes. And I can't think of anyone else at this point who has a bigger card to play.

Louis Morgan said...

Calvin:

At this point I don't see who is beating him since Carrell is going lead for both films at the moment. If he switches for Last Flag Flying I think he could have a chance, but it's Dafoe's to lose.