Monday, 16 April 2018

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2008: Mathieu Amalric in A Christmas Tale

Mathieu Amalric did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Henri Vuillard in A Christmas Tale.

A Christmas Tale is an entry into the ennui-filled-reunion genre this time focusing on a family gathering for Christmas while their mother possibly faces death.

The use of many a foreign language actors in Hollywood films is a bit of a curiosity as they become generally known for work in their home country and then is typically cast as some creep in an English language film. That is a particularly strange thing as in most circumstances that is not the nature of their performances in their native tongue, and it often requires one seek out that work to properly see the range of their talent. Mathieu Amalric is one such actor that can even be seen in one of his other performances as such a creeper Dominic Greene in the bond film Quantum of Solace also from 08. A Christmas Tale offers thankfully sort of a different side to the performer here as the black sheep of the family the film focuses. The black sheep for reasons that are not made entirely clear throughout the film, however as the film opens Amalric's Henri is banished from the family by his sister Elizabeth (Anne Consigny) after she pays off the numerous debts he has accrued, however that does not seem to be the exact reason for banishment. Now I write "sort of" a different side to Almaric as it is easy to see why he could be pigeonholed in a certain type role in terms of un-creative casting in that Almaric certainly brings an impish quality here as well. A different type of impish quality though as he carries it in a far more jovial way as though his Henri is in some way embodied by the spirit of Bacchus or of some such sort of like spirit as we catch up with Henri a few years after his banishment.

One of the first acts of Henri's in the film is walking around drunk then face planting directly into a roadway. This would seem perhaps a cry for help for most characters however that is not the nature of Henri exactly, which is so well developed through Almaric's performance. Even in the moment of wandering around there is almost this dancing spirit to it. He doesn't do a dance mind you however Almaric brings a certain energy about his actions that very much embodies this sense of enjoyment within Henri even when suffering some quite extreme physical harm at times. Almaric very much defines around the pain this since of pleasure not of masochism but rather just as part of his overwhelming behavior being this search for such zest towards life. This obviously isn't the most sane of an idea and properly Amalric finds more than a hint of madness in his cheeky little grin even after crashing into the pavement. Amalric portrays it as this bit of insanity yet he manages to project it not so much as this problematic self-destruction but rather this particularly intense and idiosyncratic way of embracing what life has to offer him. The nature of Henri seems to become all the more abundant when he is allowed to return to the family because their mother Junon (Catherine Deneuve) has leukemia and is need of a bone marrow transplant with her same blood type.

Henri visits with his current girlfriend Faunia (Emmanuelle Devos), where he seems to prepare her for some horrible visit with his family. Of course how Amalric interacts with every member of the family helps to define not only his character, but also the family's dynamic and history as well. It is here that we begin to understand the man and Almaric's performance intentions become much more clear. We see perhaps Henri at his purest with his father where actually Almaric portrays the least joyful mania in work and speaks in their moments together with while not an earnestness in his words there is such an honest in his delivery of them and his eyes. This is contrast to the rest of the family where we get much more of the man seeming to live on this extreme edge at all times. A vicious joy of ways that Amalric expresses as Henri speaks to his siblings, particularly his sister. He makes this carefully troubling as this exuding of such joy even when delivering insulting or self-deprecating remarks to himself or even those around him. When his brother-in-law attacks him for one of these such insults, Amalric even laughs this off. There is the intensity of this that Amalric though that reveals this certain anxiety even as he presents such an overt joyousness in the act at all times. The strange juxtaposition of behavior though twists itself in the most fascinating ways between Henri and his nephew, suffering from mental problems, and his mother. In his scenes with his nephew Amalric plays them especially because he actually tones down Henri's typical manner a bit, and adjusts it in a way. He projects a certain more uncompromising warmth to the boy creating the sense of an Uncle trying to support the troubled boy in some way. In these moments Amalric creates the sense of how he would help the boy as Henri's always strangely positive attitude would help the boy as in his eyes as it seems to helps Henri through a rough life.

Of course with his mother it is where we see the painful existence that is Henri's life. Amalric is great in these moments with here as there is such rich, in many unpleasant history between the two felt in every interaction. Amalric presents on the surface the hints of just an old love, as any son should have with his mother, yet around every kindness there is such a palatable resentment in his eyes, and within his delivery. He never loses himself to obvious anger towards her, rather again reveals that joyful attitude that becomes to represent Henri's desperation. Amalric reveals that to essential be this defense mechanism for Henri to deal with both his own failures, but also the disregard so many of his family members have for him. He carefully portrays most strongly when really the feelings of sorrow or sadness should be most prevalent, leaving him in troubled yet functioning state of mind. Amalric realizes this state so well and shows how it brings both the best and the worst out of him. As that even when he does the right thing to save his mother by donating his marrow, Amalric portrays it it in front of her directly with almost a maniacal glee as though to diminish his positive act in order to in no way deliver his love, this is against when we see him with the doctors alone to which Amalric reveals a far more desperate concern allowed away from the limits of his family. Amalric naturally realizes this man who self-sabotages almost to fulfill the role that his family has set for him. He creates the sense that this has been earned in the past, but only exacerbated by his banishment. Although we never learn what caused his sister to banish him, Amalric's work gives understanding to it through this state he makes so vivid. He shows this through a man who has made so many mistakes to the point he never seems to apologize for them rather would remain in his state of "bliss", even if he can't quite succeed with that even. This is a terrific performance by Mathieu Amalric, and easily the most compelling aspect of this film, as he so well realizes the complexity of the man's relationship to his family which in turn creates such a complicated state of the mans so cheerful in his misery.

37 comments:

Luke Higham said...

Ratings/Thoughts on the rest of the cast.

Matt Mustin said...

Louis: What are your thoughts on the score for Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy?

Calvin Law said...

I'll need to check this out. He really is a great actor when given a great role.

As for my personal choices for top directorial achievements, my top 10 in alphabetical order would be (1 film per director)

Alien
Blue Velvet
Collateral
Goodfellas
High and Low
Hot Fuzz
L.A. Confidential
The Innocents
Stalag 17
The Thin Red Line

Luke Higham said...

Calvin: Really looking forward to The Diving Bell And The Butterfly review.

Luke Higham said...

Calvin: Do you have anything planned for your blog in the coming months. And your 2017 Picture and Actor choices are missing.

Calvin Law said...

Luke: Yeah I took them for some editing. And I might be doing some Oscar predictions, but nothing else in store yet.

Calvin Law said...

Louis: thoughts on the Hotel Artemis trailer?

Anonymous said...

Louis: Your thoughts on the cinematography of Badlands, Dredd and JFK.

Anonymous said...

Louis: Did you like the film?

Bryan L said...

Louis: Your thoughts on the voices of Sam Rockwell, Andrew Garfield, Jennifer Lawrence and Michael Fassbender?

Anonymous said...

Louis: Your cast and director for 80's and 90's versions of There Will Be Blood.

Anonymous said...

Bryan L: I'm pretty sure he's already given his thoughts on Fassbender's voice before.

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Is Julie Christie a 4.5 or 5 for McCabe And Mrs. Miller.

Mitchell Murray said...

Rockwell - A case where the voice perfectly matches the face, and is naturally fitting for manic or deadpan comedy.

Garfield - I must admit I'm a little taken back whenever I hear Garfield speak because me and him have almost the same pitch. Its not a particularly commanding or distinctive voice, but it does match the modest personality of a lot of his characters. And on top of that, Garfield has proven quite proficient with the American accent in multiple regions.

Lawrence - Hers is a pretty dry and flat voice and thats not always a good thing. Winter's Bone aside, where the stoicism of her speech benefited the performance greatly, she doesn't seem to have a lot of vocal range and stays on the same note in almost any genre, which does show her limitations.

Fassbender - Fassbender is an interesting one because his origins really do show in his speech patterns. Its a raspy, somewhat whiny voice and Fassbender can use it to add a certain ambiguity to his performances. He's not the best at accents but he can perform them well enough when needed.

Anonymous said...

Louis and everyone else, I'm sorry if already asked you this, but what do you think of the Netflix and Cannes controversy?

Calvin Law said...

Louis: would it be possible to add thoughts on Creed to Film Thoughts? My apologies, I should have stated when I requested the series.

Calvin Law said...

Also just watched The King of Kong today on a whim Louis and thank you very much for the recommendation Louis.

Luke Higham said...

Louis: You mentioned previously about Coster-Waldau as Balian instead of Bloom. Could you give your reasons why and is there anyone else who could fit in that role.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if Poitier is good in Band of Angels. I've heard some bad things about that film such as Gable's performance.

Bryan L said...

Anonymous: You are correct. He indeed covered Fassbender's voice before.

Mitchell: Well said, particularly on Lawrence's voice. Also interesting to note both her and Emma Stone have husky voices, yet Stone has made better use of hers.

Louis Morgan said...

Luke:

Deneuve - 4(As is sort of expected from her she is quite good at doing the ice queen, however that isn't all there is to it. She finds a nice nuance within her work to create the sense of both the bitterness, but not complete anguish within her children. Deneuve's own performance finds the right variation in there is just some sense of genuine decency within her attitude, even there is a certain briskness to her whole demeanor. She's particularly good in her sort of "heart to hearts" as she does well to sort of bring the emotion in the moment but not wholly deliver to fully be the mother needed for her children.)

Roussillon - 4(He brings a real natural sweetness and warmth in every moment. He works well as the opposite to Deneuve, however does well not to go on some extreme either. He finds the right natural quality in just bringing the father who always seems to be looking for a bright side to life, and is always there to offer a genuine love to every one of his children.)

Consigny - 3.5(Despite her character being such an essential character in the film I thought her part was severely underwritten as the film never quite allows one a bead on her character. Oddly enough the element kept purposefully ambiguous is where her performance comes most to life as she does successfully find the complication in her moments with Amalric. In that she finds this sense of some old bitterness that mostly detaches herself from him, even though we never quite understand the full extent of this.)

Poupaud - 3.5(Her performance has technically the least "purpose" however she quite excels as sort of the mostly impartial observer to the events as they transpire. She's quite effective in her reactions by portraying this very low key and natural humor in her character's own bemusement towards the family she's observing.)

Mastroianni, Devos, Capelluto - 3(Their collective story I felt sadly was underdeveloped partially because both of the non-Henri brothers seemed just like a single thought, making the sister-in-law very much the same. All three are fine though in bringing a needed naturalism in their interactions however the emotional potential of their story came off as a touch inert.)

5

Well Coster-Waldau has proven himself far more charismatic and capable as an actor in general. He's also already in the film to boot. His work as Jamie though has shown the ability to real bring to life the idea of a haunting past, and the idea of the attempt of the redemption of it. He could have brought the complexity within the character lost in Bloom's portrayal.

Tom Hardy
Cillian Murphy
Heath Ledger

Matt:

Downright beautiful work that very much evokes a very specific atmosphere in its careful instrumentation. It's work very much fitting to the world of hidden emotions I love the blend of more distant emotional voices, often covered by colder repetition of sounds. It creates this beautiful balance along with the overall styling Iglesias's realization which is this brilliant combination of sort of a jazzy classical in a way. It is terrific in the way it only sort of riffs emotions in one way or another. It grants this very specific elegance, while also realizing this distinct somberness, all while being very subdued. Outstanding work.

Calvin:

Looks like it could be fun as essentially the continental from John Wick full movie. The cast in particular looks potentially promising, I mean it's always good seeing the Goldblum, and starting to seem the same way for Bautista oddly enough. Foster is hit and miss lately, looks like she could go either way. I'm glad Brown seems like he could be successfully branching out since he certainly has the talent for it. Charlie Day on the other hand I'm not sure has more than Charlie, I mean like Charlie, but I wish casting directors would notice Glenn Howerton is clearly the more talented, acting wise, out of the Sunny cast.

Glad to hear you liked it.

Louis Morgan said...

Anonymous:

As to be expected with any Malick film, Badlands is gorgeous to look at. Every shot just feels so meticulously realized to create such a rustic beauty, to the point even a desolate areas look so mesmerizing. It achieves such a grand scope within that with this accentuation of the individual, or the pairs so small within the vast landscape. Altogether stunning work that captures that beauty of nature yet someone finds a certain ominousness quality within it as well.

A love Dredd but I would be lying if I said it's cinematography was one of its high points. Anthony Dod Mantle once again uses what could be described as sort of putrid color palette. I'll say I prefer it to his Oscar winning work, but not by all that much. Yes it is not suppose to be beautiful place but this is an example of going a touch too far in that department to the point it occasionally dilutes the image. The lighting is a touch inconsistent as well, sometimes effective sometimes not so much. Thankfully though any camera movements, and composition of the shots capture the action effectively.

JFK is probably Robert Richardson's best work that is a combination of a bit of different work. In that it includes its "stock footage" shots that naturally work within the actual stock footage, these very much are done in the right way in that they more of subconsciously evoke rather diminish itself within it. This is streamlined with the "present" cinematography which is sort of this idea of shining a light on the truth. In that the shots generally have this careful singular most striking light, that is within more generalized pristine work that is particularly striking. An idea of this almost supernatural aura at times, that never seems too much, but rather just grants a very distinct look to the film.

Anonymous:

I did well enough. As mentioned above some of the character elements felt somewhat underdeveloped. There are parts far more compelling than others, and the strands do not come together for a wholly remarkable whole as they do not effectively build off each other.

Bryan:

Rockwell - (His voice is great in this very sort of low key distinct quality that is very much in an average man sort of way. There's nothing special about his voice except there kind of is.)

Garfield - (Well he doesn't often use it but he naturally has rather properly refined soft voice, that is quite pleasant I suppose.)

Lawrence - (Very much should embrace the Sissy Spacek naturalism possible from her voice, but has since rejected that to the point of almost a vulgarization of it.)

Anonymous:

There Will Be Blood 1980's directed by Francis Ford Coppola:

Daniel Plainview: Gene Hackman
Paul & Eli: Nicolas Cage
Henry: Stacy Keach
H.W.: Christian Bale

There Will Be Blood 1990's directed by Terence Malick:

Daniel Plainview: Charles Dance
Paul & Eli: Joaquin Phoenix
Henry: Will Patton
H.W.: Jake Gyllenhaal

Anonymous:

Well as someone who loves a proper cinematic experience I do in part understand the urge for the rejection of Netflix. It however is a bit of overarching "those kids these days"/snobbery on the part of Cannes. Although that shouldn't be too surprising given that booing is considered a norm for the festival. The french limit on streaming itself is utterly ridiculous, as having to wait 3 years to put it on a streaming service is limiting far past any normal theatrical release. That sort of mindset is quite simply rejecting the future, and also forgetting the past. The idea that all films spent their day in wide release has always been untrue. Streaming has frankly become a way for so many to see films they'd never be able to see otherwise, so to reject the outcome outright is elitism. Furthermore Netflix, and other services has become a viable outlet for films that simply would not have been made otherwise. For them to reject it wholesale is simple trying to ignore a truth of the changing film industry.

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Where would you rank Christie for 1971 Lead. The other 5s are Ullmann, Redgrave, Walter, Page, Jackson and Gordon.

Luke Higham said...

And is Weisz a 3.5 or a 4.5 for The Mummy.

Mitchell Murray said...

Bryan: Thanks. I find that Emma Stone comparison quite funny since they seem to be friends in real life, and when there in interviews together some of their physical mannerisms are just uncanny. Its weird how they have almost the same voice, but Stone is able to infuse hers with so much more charm, sincerity and personality than Lawrence. Of course, that may extend to their acting styles as well.

Luke Higham said...

Louis: And your reasons for Hardy, Murphy and Ledger as Balian.

Bryan L said...

Louis: Oh and would Paul Bettany have worked as Balian as well? I believe he was considered for the part.

Mitchell: I hope Lawrence gets another part soon which would play to her strengths, like Ree Dolly. I didn't like the movie much but she was rather great in that one.

Anonymous said...

Louis: Your rating and thoughts on Joseph Calleia in Public Enemy Number One.

Anonymous said...

Louis: What rating does Dan Janjigian have in The Room?

Anonymous said...

Louis: Examples of performances you think started off weak and then got better as the film progressed?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous: Janjigian - 2 (He came off as a drug dealer, so good for him)
Louis: I've read that the original choices for the main leads in The African Queen were Bette Davis and John Mills. In the late 30's, Warner Bros. wanted Davis and David Niven for the leads. Later, in the 40's, Mason was considered for Charlie. Thoughts?

Anonymous said...

Louis Morgan: How do you feel the last three Best Actor Oscar winners would (in their primes) fare in the following:

Terry Malloy
Alec Leamas
George Eastman

Anonymous said...

Louis: Your thoughts on the acting in the ending of The Straight Story?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous: Oldman would actually be a great Alec, but I'm sure that there are better choices for Terry and George than DiCaprio or Affleck.

Anonymous said...

Louis: your top 20 kevin spacey and jake gyllenhaal acting moments

Anonymous said...

Anonymous: I'd recommend saving those questions for the next review.

Louis Morgan said...

Luke

Sixth. 3.5

Hardy's great, and technically could've broken out then. Murphy is great and as proven by Blinders, and Wind that Shakes the Barley can be a charismatic lead. Ledger in some ways was kind of the talented Bloom.

Anonymous:

Janjigian's worthy of an upgrade to a 3 at least to begin with, however reading the account of his performance in The Disaster Artist paints his work in all the greater light.

Anonymous:

Tilda Swinton in Julia
Cornel Wilde in Leave Her to Heaven
Katherine Waterston in Inherent Vice
Kevin Costner in JFK

Anonymous:

In each instance it's probably better the way it turned out, except perhaps Mason who certainly could lead an adventure film, although it would have been pivotal to know who he would have been paired with.

Anonymous:

Terry Malloy - (DiCaprio it would probably play into his bad tendencies, Affleck definitely could work well even sort of doing a riff on that just a bit with Out of the Furnace, and Oldman for say a London set one could have been great.)

Alec Leamas - (Perfect casting with Oldman. Don't see DiCaprio or Affleck fitting the part though.)

George Eastman - (DiCaprio potentially could be great in the role. Oldman certainly could work although doesn't seem an obvious choice. Affleck would be ill-fitting as there seems something shady about him to begin with. It should be a golden boy losing his luster so to speak, so DiCaprio would make the most sense.)

Anonymous:

One of the honest, and moving moments of acting committed to celluloid. Both Stanton and Farnsworth capture so much in so few words and you instantly understand the connection and some difficult between the two. It is absolutely beautifully realized moment of such understated power.