Tuesday, 24 July 2018

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1938: Erich von Stroheim in Les Disparus de Saint-Agil

Erich von Stroheim did receive Oscar nomination for portraying Walter, the English teacher in Les Disparus de Saint-Agil.

I rather enjoyed Les Disparus de Saint-Agil for the strange coming of age mystery (?) that it is, about a boys school where some strange disappearances begin to occur.

Spoiler Alert, as I write about the best known actor among the supporting cast of a mystery. That usually means only one thing, well that seems to be the point in this case. Actor/director Erich von Stroheim didn't always play the villain, however he does carry a natural striking presence that is also more than a little menacing. This is merely a side effect though rather than a strict intention. This makes him perfectly cast here as Walter the English teacher of the boys school who everyone views as a little scary. von Stroheim's approach in this really is perfect by not trying in a certain sense. Of course he tries but von Stroheim rather delivers just that ease of menace that naturally comes from his presence without really adding much on top of it. The one notable thing he does is to avoid diminishing it, but also not amplifying it either. He rather establishes this natural state of Walter as this very calm and demure individual. He speaks with a quiet yet direct and assured manner. He walks as a man who is essentially a loner, in his very small and very internalized method of moving. von Stroheim presents a man who is not trying to bring attention to himself, however through that brings attention to himself as this overly insular man. There is an early moment that represents this so well where Walter asks the kids essentially if they think he is scary, which von Stroheim delivers beautifully as there is both a solemn hollowness in his manner yet an earnestness deep within it all the same as a man who doesn't want to be seen as scary.

The character of Walter the English teacher for most of the film is quite the red herring which is played up so well by von Stroheim. Again how von Stroheim plays it though is essential in this by carrying that casual unintentional menace. This is through his way of playing every weird action of the man as though he is unable to be anything but a little creepy. I love that von Stroheim doesn't create any false moments just to mislead you in the mystery, but rather makes it this accidental frustration. In the end von Stroheim reveals the truth by so consistently presenting the man as he is, and as this genuine person even if the genuine man always looks a little suspicious. Eventually though suspicious are lifted from him as he ends up helping one of the young rebellious boys trying to solve the mystery. This portion of the film is sadly a little rushed, typical to so many films from the period that want to keep their running time short. Thankfully we do get a bit of it and von Stroheim is rather entertaining as he is tries to go along with the boy. What is entertaining about this is actually von Stroheim once again sticking to the consistency of the character through his performance. von Stroheim still performs him in the same way, which works as both once again reinforcing that the man was honest the whole time, but also makes it a little funny to see Walter become a bit of a Sherlock Holmes of sorts along with the boy. Sadly this does not last nearly long enough. It is however enough to make the final scenes of the film, where a few of the boys welcome Walter into their secret club, properly heartwarming particularly through von Stroheim whose expression still is consistent in his stoic manner yet still reflects a very subtle appreciation in the reserved man. Although I wish the film made a greater use of his work this is a fun little performance from Erich von Stroheim that makes such great use of his onscreen persona.

20 comments:

Emi Grant said...

Louis: Your thoughts on your Top 5 favorite tracks of The Social Network's score.

Charles H said...

Ratings and thoughts on the rest of the cast

Anonymous said...

Louis: After finishing Psycho, Hitchcock and Lehman wrote a screenplay about a blind man that would have been played by Jimmy Stewart that regains his vision by receiving the eyes of a dead man. While watching a show on Disneyland with his family, the man would have received visions of being shot, eventually realizing that the dead man had been murdered and the image of the murderer was still imprinted in the retina of his eyes. The story would have ended with a chase around the ocean liner RMS Queen Mary. It was never made because Walt Disney had forbidden Hitchcock from shooting there because he had seen Psycho.

In the 90's, Lynch had written a script about three men who used to be cows and he had described the script as being a really bad, stupid and repulsing comedy but he found the idea of it fantastic. Stanton was to play one of the three men and he and Lynch had persuaded Brando to play one of the other men, but Brando found the script completely hollow.

And Raoul Walsh planned to make a biopic of Jack London, who wrote The Sea Wolf. Thoughts on these never made projects?

Bryan L said...

Louis: Your 2000s cast and director for I, Tonya? I'm thinking Kirsten Dunst for Tonya and Giovanni Ribisi for Jeff Gillooly, along with one from the Streep/Sarandon/Weaver group of actresses. Stumped on Shawn Eckhart though.

Bryan L said...

Group of actresses for LaVona Golden

Anonymous said...

Ghost Rider (1980's version, directed by John Carpenter)

Johnny Blaze: Kurt Russell
Roxanne Simpson: Jamie Lee Curtis
Blackheart: Michael Wincott
The Caretaker: Robert Mitchum
Mephisto: Donald Pleasance

Blade (1980's version, directed by David Cronenberg)

Blade: Denzel Washington
Karen: Angela Bassett
Deacon Frost: Judd Nelson
Whistler: Harry Dean Stanton

The Punisher (1980's version, directed by Sergio Leone)

Frank Castle: Robert De Niro
Howard Saint: Harvey Keitel
Quentin Glass: Roy Scheider
Frank Castle Sr.: Kirk Douglas
Livia Saint: Kathleen Turner
Spacker Dave: Johnny Depp
Joan: PatrĂ­cia Clarkson
Bumpo: John Candy
Maria Castle: Meryl Streep

Bryan L: Elizabeth Taylor and Anne Bancroft would have been great in that role.

Louis: Your picks for cinematographer in retro versions of these movies:

L.A. Confidential (1950's (Huston))
Unforgiven (1960's (Mann))
Drive (1960's version (Sturges))
Detroit (1970's (Jewison))
Baby Driver (1980's (Miller))

Calvin Law said...

Louis: thoughts on Chris Williams, Bernard White, Andy Daly and Cornelius Peter (the focus group moderator) and on Silicon Valley?

Calvin Law said...

https://variety.com/2018/film/in-contention/coen-brothers-ballad-buster-scruggs-film-venice-oscar-1202883508/amp/?__twitter_impression=true

The Coens Brother's latest is now a film, not an anthology series.

Luke Higham said...

Really excited for this. I suppose this has gone way up everyone's anticipated lists.

Luke Higham said...

*most anticipated

Luke Higham said...

Calvin: That Venice line-up is stacked. Yet there's no Radegund or Kursk. I guess the former has been moved to 2019. Still hope we might see the latter.

Bryan L said...

Anonymous: He chose Elizabeth Taylor as LaVona in an 80s version of the film, so yes.

Anonymous said...

Louis: your top 10 will poulter acting moments

Charles H said...

Louis: Your thoughts on the endings of Hud.

Luke Higham said...

Saw MI: Fallout. Enjoyed it alot.

Cruise - 4
Cavill - 4
Ferguson - 3.5
Pegg - 3.5
Rhames - 3
Baldwin - 3
Kirby - 3.5
Harris - 3
Monaghan - 3
Bassett - 3

L Rime said...

I also saw Fallout. Definitely one of the better action movies I've seen.

Cruise - 4.5
Cavill - 3
Ferguson - 4
Pegg - 3.5
Rhames - 3.5
Baldwin - 3
Kirby - 4
Harris - 3
Monaghan - 3
Bassett - 2.5

Anonymous said...

Louis: your top 20 tom cruise acting moments

Louis Morgan said...

Emi Grant:

In the Hall of the Mountain King - (An arrangement obviously and a downright brilliant one. The reworking of the classical piece towards the electronic style not only fits right into the film's overall score, but also is sheer perfection in terms of the use of the scene. The choices in such frankly weird sounds, create such a powerful dynamic piece that properly pays tribute to the glorious original, yet still fashions itself in a unique fashion.)

Pieces From the Whole - (Obviously every piece outside of that arrangement though is technically more experimental though shares the same electronic approach of atypical sounds, and sampling to create the pieces. This is fantastic example of that creating such a singular mood with the semi-melodic dancing of the more traditional synth, that is so beautifully under layed by the bizarre yet brilliant sampling essentially used as percussion of sorts. It is marvelous the way it creates this successful combination of both a certain joy against a more ambient dread.

In Motion - (Another fantastic piece that you can almost take as more traditional score montage yet filtered in a completely new way as almost this 8-bit style score. Again the layering of the sounds adds so much to being both this thrilling piece in its upbeat overtones, yet with again the quiet "off" notes under layed that create that certain dread as part of it. It's almost a video game fashioned into a score, not just a videogame score as it makes uses of those types of sound effects to create such an usual yet effective piece.)

Complication with Optimistic Outcome - (This piece takes really the approach of the last two, and inverts it. Creating an overtly disconcerting effect by having the ambient noises as the overtones, with the more upbeat synth underneath. As invigorating as the other two, however in a different more purposefully off-putting fashion.)

Intriguing Possibilities - (This actual fashions itself as sort of an in-between in this effect creating more of an even ground of the tapestry between the quick tempo light synth, against those more distant sounds. Again brilliantly realized as it is both so engaging while also sort of inducing a certain paranoia.)

Luke:

The Peterloo looks rather impressive at least on a technical level, Rory Kinnear also looks quite promising, and it will be interesting to see how Leigh tackles a historical epic of sorts.

Charles:

Mouloudji/Claudio/Grave - 3.5(All three give good performances, and somewhat notable for the time as there weren't too many Freddie Bartholomew level actors at the time. All three acquit themselves well delivery the right degree of naturalism while also all being sort of a different aspect of rambunctiousness. Whether that be the two more openly rebellious boys, or the one with his head in the clouds. Each grants an honesty to their characters and I only wish that the film had allowed a bit more of their secret club scenes. As the three do have a strong chemistry with one another, but only have a little bit of time to flesh out their dynamic. They don't fail, but I do wish the film had given just a bit more time to them.)

Simon - 4(Once again a pretty good pathetic louse. Simon once again though avoids becoming one note creating such a vibrancy in his rather loathsome sort. Again Simon delivers a certain pathos within the character's shame though this time through the character veering into slightly comical undertones. These are effectively handled by him as he grants to it the right darkly comic manner that makes the character's fall a little sympathetic despite the despicable nature of the character.)

Louis Morgan said...

Clariond - 3(Fine in not overdoing the authoritarian element of the character doing well to create the sense of a certain complexity in the role without over emphasizing any aspect of that.)

Bernard - 3.5(His little simple asides are rather amusing throughout, bringing a rather cheery earnestness to his character's reactions that he makes funny while never becoming too cartoonish.)

Anonymous:

Damien Chazelle as a writer has become rather controversial figure with many enemies it seems and rather seems just a little comical given his choice in subject matter doesn't aim for controversy. As a director he less controversial though, though I do see some "Live By Night", "Life Aquatic" style hatchets just waiting to cut him down. With that aside right now I'd say he's someone refining his voice, but more than anything, in my view, successfully implementing it through clear vision defined by a sort of precision. This is in the story, the technical craftsmanship, and in some ways even the emotions within the acting. As an obvious lover of jazz, so far he very much takes that precision to direct in a musical fashion which is an effective invigorating dynamic in my mind. Whether that be sort of the four movements of La La Land, or the frantic pace of Whiplash, he uses that to create a certain rhythm, that also builds towards a crescendo of all his moving parts. Both of his endings, haven't seen his first film yet, he fires all that he has essentially to end his story on a high note. It's a rather fascinating approach I find and has been quite successful so far. It will be interesting to see if keeps a similair style with "First Man" as it is the first film where he doesn't control the structure wholly, he didn't write it, and the first film that is in no way about music.

Anonymous:

The Hitchcock sounds pretty interesting, and it is always funny to think about how Hitchcock sort of built his films around locations like that. Although the central idea seems a touched too far fetched, Hitchcock really best with his less outlandish plots for the most part, the set pieces/Stewart in the lead likely would've lead to at least a minor thriller.

The idea does indeed sound pretty stupid, however Stanton seems like perfect casting for a former cow for some reason, something about seeing him staring and chewing just seems right. There is some humor in it, however it does sound like just a little too much for its own good, though maybe Lynch in all his madness could've made it work.

The life of London could make for a great biopic. It would've been fascinating to see Walsh tackle it who probably had the right hard edged sensibility for it, and I could easily see James Cagney as London who he shares at least a vague resemblance to.

Bryan:

I, Tonya directed by Curtis Hanson:

Tonya Harding: Amy Adams
Jeff Gilooly: Casey Affleck
LaVona Golden: Sissy Spacek
Shawn Eckhardt: Ethan Suplee
Diane Rawlinson: Jennifer Jason Leigh
Martin Maddox: Clancy Brown

Louis Morgan said...


Anonymous:

L.A. Confidential (1950's (Huston)) - Ted D. McCord
Unforgiven (1960's (Mann)) - William C. Mellor
Drive (1960's version (Sturges)) - James Wong Howe
Detroit (1970's (Jewison)) - Douglas Slocumbe
Baby Driver (1980's (Miller)) - Dean Semler

Calvin:

Chris Williams - (He is consistently hilarious by bringing such earnestness to every second of his performance as essentially the sycophantic henchmen. The overt eagerness that Williams brings though to every moment, with such a genuine emotion behind it is what makes it so amusing as he portrays every moment of Hoover's behavior as though serving Gaving really means the world to him.)

Bernard White - (He delivers perhaps my favorite fringe supporting performance in the series particularly in his evolution of the character in each season. From the first season where he directly delivers the completely devoted, yet completely hollow methods of the wannabe guru. He is fulfilling a define type and doing so beautifully. His best moments are sort of his side reactions in this where he reveals either his overt manipulations, or more than anything just his lack of sincerity. His progression then is great throughout the seasons as he loses the facade more and more, and White's way of bringing such desperation to his performance, while always trying to maintain some sense of "zen" in his delivery becomes all the more pathetic as well as all the more hilarious.)

Andy Daly - (Every one of his sort of one offs is great through his delivery that sort of find this perfect combination through almost demonic antagonism and more of just an overly jokey doctor routine. Every one of his bits is great though as Daly finds this right combination, but I also love how he builds sort of a greater familiarity in his appearances in regards to his interactions with Richard.)

Cornelius Peter - (He's hilarious by sticking to his one note of all costs, that one note being wholly believable as the excessively pleasant moderator with his delivery that keeps the same gentle stability no matter what is being discussed or what occurs.)

Although it is certainly one of my most anticipated films of the year now, I am a little disappointed because I was really looking forward to a Coens mini-series.

Anonymous:

Poulter:

1. Interrogation tactics gone wrong - Detroit
2. "enforcing" the story - Detroit
3. Getting charged - Detroit
4. Confronting Fitzgerlad - The Revenant
5. awkward smile - Detroit
6. Arriving in the hotel - Detroit
7. All against the wall - Detroit
8. Leaving Glass - The Revenant
9. "You're a good guy" - Detroit
10. Killing a looter - Detroit

Charles:

The ending of Hud is tremendous in its uncompromising approach with the original shine of light in Lon being so distance in his cold nihilistic walk away from the ranch while Hud fails in his attempt to talk the boy out of it. That works brilliantly against the rare of moment of sincerity, and potentially a better man as he tries and fails to talk to boy. The single moment of Hud's brief moment of clarity is such an incredible moment of acting by Newman before Hud returns to his typical cynical self. A scene that works so well as just a moment between these characters, and a natural end to the story. It also though earns its more symbolic view of the west with the bad youth failing to truly change, and the good youth simply walking away from it all to leave it to rot.

Anonymous:

Might as well wait, since I'll be seeing Mission Impossible soon.