Saturday, 29 June 2019

Alternate Best Actor 1963: Marcello Mastroianni in The Organizer

Marcello Mastroianni did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Professor Sinigaglia in The Organizer.

The Organizer is a rather effective film that follows textile workers as they attempt to organize then maintain a strike.

Marcello Mastroianni appears more than 20 minutes into this film, as just barely the lead. This as his character more than anything acts as a catalyst for how the strike will develop. He is not one of the workers but rather an on the run "organizer"/former teacher who is attempting to help the workers in their efforts for better treatment. This is just a brief description however and this is a rather fascinating performance to examine by Mastroianni that is a far cry from the slick modern Italians you'd find him in his Fellini collaborations. Mastroianni actually leverages his typical charisma to offer a wholly different sort of character for himself, in the professor who is anything but the common man. Mastroianni delivers a very different physicality than is typical to his other performances of the period. He has a very effective meek expressionism in his manner. This as he walks very much around like a slightly fearful and rather modest teacher. An interesting approach actually as really what is about half of his performance is that of a rather comedic take, in a film that in its overarching themes is most certainly a drama. Mastroianni plays him almost as this goofball who sticks out quite sorely across the crowd with his slanted walk, and way of always seeming a bit overly, while also oddly, dressed.

I will say though I rather love the approach Mastroianni takes in this regard in it effectively distances the professor from the rest of the people, though while still managing to show why he'd be able to endear himself to the majority of them. This is as Mastroianni has the right off-beat energy in this manner of a man whose joyful attitude is rather endearing. It also helps that Mastroianni manages to be genuinely amusing here in his comedic moments, which he rather naturally brings to the fairly dramatic narrative. This such as his somewhat trollish expression when reacting to seeing he's stopped a potential sexual rendezvous, or his complete lack of hesitation in his manner in a later scene where a prostitute he's staying with says he doesn't need to sleep alone. The way Mastroianni jumps up in that moment is a bit of comic gold and makes the professor rather likable. He importantly doesn't go overboard in his approach that would stretch the honesty of the character. Mastroianni manages to make his manner both enjoyable to watch but also natural within his character. Mastroianni uses it to portray the man who in many ways doesn't really fit in where he is as a fugitive professor among the working class, however he realizes this essentially in this affable way.

Mastroianni's approach though also works in creating this certain specific dynamic within the man, where he is is this affable sort but with a certain pathos. Mastroianni's work finds the right pathos through his quieter scenes where he explains his motivations. In these moments there's a real sense of history in his eyes of a man who has seen much pain in his time. He's especially strong in the moment where he reflects on the situation forcing a woman to become a prostitute with a quiet discontent that so powerfully realizes the man's convictions as an underlying fact. These though are in a way the fuel within the character that flows from the professor when he must speak to the crowd of the workers to to convince them to keep on the good fight. Mastroianni makes these moments especially pointed as he fashions them in contrast to the near clown we see the rest of the time. Mastroianni however rightly plays this as part of who the man is as he almost brings this hesitation before each moment, portraying the professor purging the strength out of himself in order to make his statements. In turn Mastroianni makes them such genuinely striking moments of a fervent passion from a meek man. This as he calls upon a strict righteousness in his words with such a direct strength within his eyes in these moments. Mastroianni in these scenes shows a man who becomes in his element, in a way that has always been within him, however now as he reveals it with such a direct purpose. His way of spurring this grandiose strength out of such modesty makes it all the more notable, since he shows still to come from a man of that modesty through that hesitation. He's a man who must conduct what he believes out himself, which he can do with such thunder, but must still deliver from within himself. This is very much an against type turn by Mastroianni as he takes his usual casual cool charisma and re-purposes it to this more erratic role. Mastroianni does so successfully in making the professor a real character without a becoming a caricature. He finds the man who is of a different life, in an entertaining way, yet never sabotages the serious intentions of the man that brings out in such a remarkable force. The professor isn't your standard Mastroianni lead, or even union hero, however his work crafts instead such a unique sort, that leaves an equally unique impression both within the film and among his oeuvre.

Monday, 24 June 2019

Alternate Best Actor 1963: Patrick McGoohan in Dr. Syn, Alias The Scarecrow

Patrick McGoohan did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Dr. Christopher Syn aka the Scarecrow of Romney Marsh in Dr. Syn, Alias The Scarecrow.

The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh is a very entertaining 3 part adventure mini-series about a pastor who moonlights as a costumed smuggler to thwart the government of King George III and help his impoverished community. I will say the film cut, which qualifies McGoohan for this review, isn't exactly the most inspired cut, though the good qualities of the miniseries are still quite evident, however I'd recommend the three episode version.

This film is technically one the early instances of a masked hero film, though of course there have been others as well a la The Scarlet Pimpernel, a rare exception compared to the modern use of the masked hero. Now the Scarecrow isn't quite a superhero per se, but he isn't too far off of one. This is especially as one could almost see him as a bit of a 1700's England Batman. This is as the masked hero element is strongly emphasized here with the separation of personality between that character and the man who "plays" him. In this we have McGoohan delivering the best Batman performance that has been given, however he is not playing Batman, but nonetheless the qualities of his work realizes that specific duality, if not a bit more. In that we have the monster created that is the Scarecrow, who is the face of the opposition to England, and the known face to his forces made up of local men, except for his fellow masked cohort (or sidekicks) of Mr. Mipps aka Hellspite (George Cole) and the young squire's son John aka Curlew who are part of that duplicity.

McGoohan's portrayal of the Scarecrow begins with his scratchy, almost screeching, voice that is quite befitting of a living Scarecrow. Scarecrow, in that Batman way, is more evocative of fear than of heroism despite his actions and McGoohan's portrayal captures this. His voice that almost of a living monster capable of great misdeeds, but chooses to help the poor. McGoohan's facial work is obviously rather limited given the mask, however one can still see his eyes and in this regard McGoohan does not waste his one place for expression. Obvious technically minor however his eyes are with this nearly dead, haunting quality, that again evokes his Scarecrow as an otherworldly being than simply an outlaw leader. I love that McGoohan presses this point, as much as one can for a generally family friendly film anyways, in creating the idea of a genuine menace within the role. The most notable in this when Scarecrow goes about scaring a traitor to exile. McGoohan is genuinely eerie in his piercing eyes, and cold way of telling the coward "You're dead", followed by that wonderfully mad laugh of his that is more fitting of a creature than a man.

This is of course in sharp contrast to the secret identity of the Scarecrow, in the pastor Christopher Syn. McGoohan already passes the first test in that if you obviously didn't no he played both parts you'd never consider it. He is wholly dissimilar with McGoohan using his oh so wonderfully refined voice of his as Syn. McGoohan accentuates that though in creating really two parts within the idea of Dr. Syn. This is as McGoohan, much like the public/private Bruce Wayne featured in some portrayals of Batman, crafts variations within the two sides of Syn. The Syn where he meets with his two inner circle members, and the public persona of the pastor. Now in both McGoohan brings such a dignified manner however he uses them in two different ways. The public pastor actually could be fairly straight forward, however even in this McGoohan finds a bit of variation. This in moments of genuinely attending his flock McGoohan delivers a calm warmth in his role, with his eyes accentuating a man who cares for these people, even if he's technically deceiving them. This however is only when Syn is interacting directly with the rather unknowing but respectful congregation of his.

One of my favorite aspects of McGoohan's work is as the public persona of Syn as he interacts with those he has a less favorable view of. This is chiefly when he directly speaks with the officials of the crown especially the film's chief villain General Pugh (Geoffrey Keen). McGoohan plays these moments with this certain affable distance, conveying the idea of Syn as essentially an unknowing party when it comes to the politics of the land. This with just the utmost innocence in his delivery, mostly, as the bit of nuance in these moments I absolutely love. This is as McGoohan delivers this sharp wit, as the seemingly guiltless man, with just the most impeccable deliveries. My favorites of these being his moment of dismissing Pugh's accusations that his congregation is helping the smuggler with "you have no proof of that" that he manages to show Syn jesting a bit at the General's expense while being apparently entirely truthful in this. The same feature being realized in a moment of just wishing the general good health after he's caught a cold. McGoohan is cutting in his oh so assuring way with the words of a goodnatured citizen, but his eyes capture this glint of mischievousness that brings such an enjoyable humor within the ruse of the character.

The final "face" is the real face of Syn, who is again is based on this quiet dignity though in a different way than the meek pastor we see at his services. McGoohan is fantastic in capturing this unique power in his presence, through his calm certainty. Within this McGoohan conveys what is this overpowering intelligence within the character that is captivating in every moment of his work, particularly when he is outlining a part of his plans. There is this force of personality that he delivers but what I love about it is how McGoohan does so with this grace and ease in his demeanor. In the one major moment of summing of his philosophy McGoohan is incredible, not through some grandiose speech but rather these sincere and direct words of man of unshakable convictions fueled by a pointed, though unassuming, passion. McGoohan shows a man who knows precisely what he is doing and almost always has a plan to make things right. McGoohan however doesn't over do this and does ensure there is still a humanity within the character, even with the certain mystery within Syn in this film. There's a great moment, where I'll cheat since it is cut out of the theatrical cut, where is partially belated by the young John for not showing a great deal of emotion. McGoohan is outstanding in this moment of just the ever so slight exasperation towards his current problem, actually does portray the emotions within the man. Syn follows the line with telling John that it is essential always keep one's head, and in that moment McGoohan brilliantly captures the internalization of concern while also presenting the exact method of Syn. McGoohan, as much as he so effectively realizes the force of the man defined by a careful will and insight, he never forgets the man within that. These are but the moments of slight disruption though as McGoohan is simply spectacular in creating this marvelous hero where every moment of his work is on point. McGoohan finds something different to explore within each side of the man while still crafting it as an extension of a single man with a mission. McGoohan shows us in proper measure the strengths of the confident Dr. Syn, but again within that nuance creating enough of a man in an honest struggle each time. This is again, I'll restate, this is the greatest performance as Batman in terms of the needed virtues of such a role, even though he doesn't play that part. He owns this role in giving such consistently entertaining and compelling portrayal of his masked hero that I wish the miniseries could've had at least a few more installments.

Wednesday, 19 June 2019

Alternate Best Actor 1963: Maurice Ronet in The Fire Within

Maurice Ronet did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Alain Leroy in The Fire Within.

The Fire Within is a rather effective film following a depressed man as he tries to find a reason for living through a single day.

Maurice Ronet's performance is at the center of this unusual film, for the period, as it takes on its potentially melodramatic setup with this calm mostly naturalistic approach. Ronet's work in turn is essential to the film's approach. This is in the realization of Alain who initially appears as though he may be your typical romantic lead. This is as we see Ronet with a quiet passion as he shows affection to his apparent paramour who leaves for New York. Ronet portrays a somber ponderer, as we see a man prepared for a descent. The film actually skips over the traditional more extreme of the alcoholic, as we jump ahead to Alain as he is prepared to leave a treatment facility, though more of forced out in a way, and is told essentially he must face his life as is. Ronet's performance evokes most vividly this most unbearable state of mind in Alain. This as this quiet anxiety of Alain as he looks off with a distant fear it seems as he is given his supposedly positive prognosis. Ronet effectively underplays this, and naturally creates this internalized agony as the man seems to look inward even as he listens. This creating a most difficult state when within his mind is the last place the man ought to look given his situation.

Ronet's performance sets up initially this terrible state, that does not hide its intention, as Alain decides that he will commit suicide the following day in thought. This thought granted as just a quiet statement within Ronet's work which captures a quietly harrowing certainty regarding this intention. This will contrast with the rest of Alain's life, however in this aspect Ronet shows a man who has already mentally prepared for this action, not even decision, requiring some shattering change to change him from this course. Ronet's work powerfully establishes an atypical lead with this thought as a central element to the character. This element that is an overarching facet of the man. Ronet captures this as this underlying weight within his work, as this understood fact within the man's mind that propels him forward. This in this internalized depression that doesn't reveal itself as open sobs, but rather is this painful constant. This detachment that Ronet so effectively portrays, not from emotion, but rather this certain detachment form the world. This as Ronet reflects this position nearly as the observer combined with this sense of withdrawn sadness that compels his search for essentially a meaning for his life.

The rest of the film then is following Alain around Paris he checks in with his old friends, and just some random people in this quest for meaning. Although as much as this could sound like a directorial exercise, and in some ways it is, Ronet's performance is always an essential element within the success of this approach. This is as Ronet grants a real texture to every situation in creating the man's pointed yet also aimless state. This is as no scene that is merely taken for granted within Ronet's work which captures this act of searching beautifully. There's a brief moment in particular where he grants a ride with some workers where he mentions his state of illness to which they are a bit incredulous towards. Ronet is fantastic in this scene portraying this certain shame and awkwardness in this interaction with people he doesn't really know. This is as Ronet delivers this right stilted quality in Alain as he can't really explain his situation to those who don't know him, as they wouldn't know how, and he may no garner the sympathy from those who have no sense of the fragility of the man's ego. Ronet doesn't undercut the journey in these moments, but rather makes it all the more vivid in granting this honest alternative perspective of sorts.

Alain's quest though is really to attempt to find meaning from his friends, who are all sympathetic to him, to a point. One of his stops is with a friend who is now a family man who tries to essentially convince him there is much to be enjoyed in maturation. Ronet captures this blithe attitude in this scene where he still carries this distance that grows all the stronger as the man essentially tells him he needs to grow up. Ronet's reactions are that of a man who cannot accept this, as this would destroy his idea of life and happiness, even though such a path is the destructive one he is now on. He finds a potential alternative in regression towards a life again towards mind altering substances, which are encouraged by old friends. Ronet is excellent in creating this initial greeting with the smile of an old friend, however this too shifts as he spends more time with these "old friends". This life of meaningless pleasure though is equally worthless in Alain's eyes, as reflected in Ronet's performance which delivers this uneasiness of the one sober man in a room. Ronet delivers this physical discontent as he wanders around the room of the intoxicated. He creates the sense of a pent up energy against this thin contentment that again is a failure in his personal quest. Alain ends up at a dinner party of caring friends who too suggest he try to seek happiness in his past loves. Ronet's performance again is so captivating as a man out of place though this time differently than among the workers, the family or the rakes. This is as Ronet becomes less the reactor and more so the active party. Ronet's performance creates this swell of discontent know as he effectively creates these rather fascinating understated emotional outbursts. This is as again Ronet maintains the state of depression, and fitting to this downtrodden state. He has his moments of anger though of this festering withdrawn bitterness to the one man who outwardly looks down at him. He also though has a wistful moment of trying to express love to his friend's wife. This being not some grand plan but rather this near whimper of a man just trying to grasp onto anything at all. This too is denied, though again with suggestion he can find happiness in his past, to where Ronet returns to a state of resignation. A state all the more certain in a way within its conviction to sorrow. Ronet's work crafting such a unusual power in his portrayal of a man's hopeless crusade, that manages to still lead to the same end, but with a change in the complexity of the final choice.

Saturday, 15 June 2019

Alternate Best Actor 1963: Peter Breck in Shock Corridor

Peter Breck did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Johnny Barrett in Shock Corridor.

Shock Corridor follows a journalist as he goes undercover to solve a murder, or win a Pulitzer prize...whatever comes first I suppose.

Director Samuel Fuller is one of the interesting rarely mentioned directors of his period. This isn't to say he specialized in making masterpieces however his storytelling offered particularly unique perspectives for the period with a notable daring for the time. This is evident here as he broaches the subject of mental illness. I'll admit the film opens with a fundamental flaw in it damns exploitation of  such things then proceeds to engage in such things itself, especially in its depiction of nymphomaniacs as basically sex crazed zombies. Having said that film captures a vivid atmosphere within its setting and there is a certain fascination to see a film of the period even attempt to broach the subject matter even if it may be rather flawed as such. As is common with a Fuller film, Peter Breck leads and is not a particularly well known actor, or even a character actor of the period. Why this is, isn't exactly a mystery from the outset of the film. We meet his Johnny Barrett as he prepares to go undercover at the mental institute with the help of his editor, a doctor and some begrudging help from his stripper girlfriend Cathy (Constance Towers). Breck isn't all that charismatic of a performer and as he speaks of his wish to either catch the killer, or fame, lacks a requisite drive to really setup Johnny as someone in over his head for the wrong reasons. Breck is very calm at the prospect, a bit too so, and there's no sense initially that anything should go wrong, other than the sledgehammer objections offered by Cathy.

To enter in however he needs to put up the front of a man sexually obsessed with his sister, to be played by Cathy, and here we get Breck's performance within a performance. Well he's a bit better than crazy pretender William Powell in Love Crazy, but Powell was trying to be funny. Actually I shouldn't mock to much as the sort of seething insanity Breck offers with some needed internalized subtlety, however this is usually put aside for a bit of shouting. A lot of shouting from Johnny, and really the other insane cast members, that sadly typically feels more like hot air than genuine anguish as it is all a bit too thin and overcooked. This initially though is just the front towards Johnny's real intention, though really the film's subplot, to find the murderer. In this we return to Breck's somewhat bland, though not entirely bad, approach as the driven reporter. He delivers at least enough of an incisiveness in his eyes as he listens for clues, though only problem is how it is so detached from creating a real sense of who Johnny is. Does he care about the patients? Is trying to care? Is he completely selfish? Is his drive to find the killer leading towards madness? Well the question to all of these is...maybe.

The reason for this is the lack of nuance, and really connection within Breck's performance. In a given scene he very much accentuates what is needed for that given plot development bit, and little more than that. In this even there are somewhat mixed results. His nadir are the yelling and screaming moments, which remain hot air even as it is suppose to be that Johnny is genuinely becoming crazy. There's no notable difference though in the way Breck plays the "acting" from the "reality". He doesn't connect that  growing madness with the drive to solve the case which could've been an impetus towards his eventual madness. Those are separate as a calm and cool reporter. In his moments of the inmates we have the scenes where he is sympathetic towards them and those that are not. Breck portrays both just fine, though doesn't create a sense of conflict in terms of exploitation their testimony. This is as his portrayal of Johnny never creates an complexity in his methods, or in turn his character. He is whatever the scene needs him to be, and his own work does not push the character forward. The one element of his work that does have any forward momentum is his portrayal of the physical wear of the situation. In there Breck actually does create that connective tissue between scenes as his physical work creates a greater sense of exasperation and wear from being in the mental institution. Sadly this does not even connect to his mental state where is the failing of his work. In the climactic moment of the film we have Johnny going hard to find the murderer which should be the revelation but through the deterioration of Johnny. Breck though just plays it as a little angry making his the next scene as a catatonic seem downright goofy. It doesn't help that Breck's blank stare is just kind of vapid and corny, rather than haunting. I love to find a great performance from an unknown actor, however this is sadly not one of those. This is a shame as the elements of a great performance do exist in the character of Johnny, however Breck's middling if not often lackluster approach does not realize that potential.

Monday, 10 June 2019

Alternate Best Actor 1963

And the Nominees Were Not:

Michael Redgrave in Uncle Vanya

Laurence Olivier in Uncle Vanya

Patrick McGoohan in Dr. Syn, Alias The Scarecrow

Gunnar Björnstrand in Winter Light

Peter Breck in Shock Corridor

Alberto Sordi in Il Diavolo

Predict those five (Redgrave from Vanya for prediction purpose),  these five (Shaw from The Caretake for Prediction Purposes) or both

Robert Shaw in The Caretaker

Donald Pleasence in The Caretaker

Steve McQueen in Love With a Proper Stranger

Burt Lancaster in The Leopard

Maurice Ronet in The Fire Within

Marcello Mastroianni in The Organizer

Sunday, 9 June 2019

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2013: Results

5. Nawazuddin Siddiqui in Lunchbox - Siddiqui's work effectively turns his character from a purposefully thin caricature trying to impress, to a honest protege trying to learn.

Best Scene: Being chewed out for his mistakes. 
4. Colm Meaney in Alan Patridge: Alpha Papa - Meaney plays right into his wheelhouse, effectively so, being the right irascible straight man of sorts to Steve Coogan's daffy title character.

Best Scene: "Always on my Mind"
3. Bill Nighy in About Time - Nighy captures just the right tone for the material in his easy going approach that finds both the humor and the heart in the material.

Best Scene: Last chat. 
2. Lily Franky in Like Father, Like Son - Franky delivers a completely naturalistic turn that offers such a wonderful and authentic contrast to Masaharu Fukuyama's leading turn.

Best Scene: Hurtful suggestion. 
1. Joaquin Phoenix in The Immigrant - Good Prediction Michael McCarthy, Luke, Charles, BRAZINTERMA. Maciej, and Calvin. Phoenix delivers one of his best turns, in his ambitious performance that captures his film's tone so beautifully, and so powerfully creates a complex portrait of a liar.

Best Scene: Only taste poison.
Updated Overall

Next Year: 1963 Lead

Saturday, 8 June 2019

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2013: Nawazuddin Siddiqui in Lunchbox

Nawazuddin Siddiqui in Lunchbox did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Shaikh in Lunchbox.

Lunchbox is a sweet little film about a retiring widower, Saajan (Irrfan Khan), who strikes up a friendship through notes with a housewife, who prepares his meals, via his lunchbox.

Nawazuddin Siddiqui features in a subplot within that main story, as the man set to replace Saajan once he is retired. Siddiqui's performance is near caricature, though not quite there, in his opening few scenes as he puts on more than an ounce of eagerness in his eyes and every delivery as Shaikh tries to make a good impression on Saajan. This, however, is not a criticism as this sets up the character well as Siddiqui's performance, which as I said doesn't quite become caricature, brings the right thinness to really the act his Shaikh is putting on for his mentor. This is evidenced through Siddiqui's performance which delivers the right nuance to the character once Saajan makes it quite clear that Shaikh's people pleaser every-second-of-the-day routine isn't really going to work for him. Siddiqui tones it down considerable revealing the act that was seen before, and from then on features a far more down to earth performance appropriately. His performance then changes to become fairly reactionary as Shaikh reveals a bit about himself, but more so reveals a bit more of his somewhat difficult past as well.

Siddiqui changes to a proper naturalistic approach in his work offering the right interest in his eyes, and a genuine warmth in his voice as he engages with the older man's wisdom far more without the pretense. He and Khan strike up an appropriate chemistry with one another, with Siddiqui evoking this real interest in his eyes as he looks upon and listens to Saajan. These scenes of a more honest mentor/protege relationship are relatively brief in their snippets, yet all well portrayed in both actors bringing out this bit more warmth and sense of empathy between the two in each successive scene. Siddiqui's own work is relatively subdued yet certainly effective in just creating this likable, if somewhat flawed, man trying to learn something from his experience. His one major scene outside of the relationship is late in the film as he tries to help the housewife find Saajan, after he has retired. Siddiqui does some fine work to be sure, giving an earnest depiction of the support of the young man who has invested a great deal in the plight of the older man. Much like the film, this is a nice little performance, that I really didn't require anymore from, even if limited within itself. Siddiqui gives a good performance, that just matches the film's heart with his honest turn.

Sunday, 2 June 2019

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 2013: Joaquin Phoenix in The Immigrant

Joaquin Phoenix did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Bruno Weiss in The Immigrant.

The Immigrant follows the story of a Polish woman coming to America in the 1920's and being tricked into a world of corruption due to her sister being held indefinitely within quarantine on Ellis Island.

Viewing the film again after some time only aggrandized my appreciation of it particularly in terms of the efforts of writer/director James Gray making the film of a begone era. The idea not of a dated filmmaker, but a distinct style and ambition that is greatly appreciated as his films seek to be the great films of that theoretical era. That is the case here that grants a grander scale to an intimate story, however none of that necessary delicacy lost in this chosen lens. Although an essential facet within this approach is through the performances, but most notably through Marion Cotillard's masterful work as the mistreated immigrant Ewa. The most daring Joaquin Phoenix though is essential within the film's vision as the pimp who takes her in. Phoenix, as always, being an actor who very much ingratiates himself within a film's spirit and setting. His intensity being an ideal quality for this character who might've been right for a Montgomery Clift or Marlon Brando. Phoenix's intensity not a crutch though, nor the sole defining feature of any performance of his, and as typical for the great actor this is only part of his realization of the character of Bruno Weiss.

Phoenix's initial, and quite effective, approach to the man is this of the liar. A liar in every respect as we meet him as he offers a "helping hand" by offering Ewa a place to stay and claims there to be means to help her sister when they are incarcerated at Ellis Island. The perspective granted to Bruno, or the lack thereof for the most part, poses a difficult challenge in portraying the essential truth of the character, which I will get to by the end of this review. Phoenix though just on the surface makes Bruno several deceits within this one man. The first being that of a charitable man towards Ewa. I actually rather love the choice in which Phoenix does not bare a great deal of charisma in this regard. Instead the method that Phoenix portrays is rather matter of fact as he delivers suggestions of work for Ewa as a seamstress as pretty thin that would only work on a woman in as desperate straits as her. Phoenix spends little time on the lie and makes it something that Bruno has done many times before, and doesn't spend too much effort on. This fitting to a man that everyone knows is corrupt except the poor woman he plans to exploit.

We get see a bit more of a literal performance however as Bruno shows off Ewa his vaudeville show, that is a grotesque "goods" display, as he shows off his prostitutes to potential costumers. In this we do get a bit of a show from Bruno, which Phoenix rightly makes less than impressive as shows go. This as this rather horrendous desperate act in every call out for each performance as Phoenix doesn't hide the liar that is Bruno in yet another form. This twice over in a way as in part we see the lie to Ewa as Phoenix brings that same weakness as he tries to explain the show with this messy rushed yet hesitant manner towards Ewa. Then in the performance itself Phoenix again is great by showing off the truth of it by making the lie so obvious. In that he does not deliver any sense that Bruno is presenting anything other than what it is. This with his more lustful attitude accentuated playing towards the crowds base desire rather than trying to act as though this is an actual performance of talent. This rather layed out with Phoenix presenting it as though every word from Bruno is that of the lowest form of salesman with a lust in himself for the profit from his vaudeville show.

The most dangerous lie though is where the sheer brilliance within Phoenix's work is most evident. This when he convinces Ewa to sell herself, to a less aggressive John. This with this coaxing now of this gentle supportive man, something that Bruno decidedly not. The greatness of the work in this scene though is the success of this lie is no longer as much in terms of naivety of Ewa, but rather the smallest bit of honesty infused into Bruno through Phoenix's work. What is so incredible here is the way Phoenix makes this the most dastardly of all his lies. This is as Phoenix's gentle words are delivered with a genuine quiet quality of protector, even with the ends being a horrible as they are and still a manipulation. The cause of this change in quality of the lie is shown in a single outstanding reaction by Phoenix as Bruno looks upon the scene. His expression finally is filled with a sympathy for the woman, an obvious love for her in Phoenix's eyes. The problem is that Phoenix shows Bruno use this most honest emotion of his for his cruelest intention, as this actual concern enables his most powerful manipulation to encourage Ewa to sell herself.

Phoenix makes Bruno's love Ewa a nearly unsaid constant that he seeds within his work, that grants understanding and a greater depth to every act of the man, even as we so often look at him from the outside. This is even within the deceptions that often try to obfuscate this. An example of this is in first two confrontations with his cousin Emil aka Orlando the magician (Jeremy Renner), who too loves Ewa though has no desire this to hide nor does he wish to exploit her. Phoenix then I think finds a fitting approach in the near mental break as he presents a sheer mess of a man when confronting his cousin. It is the most base anger that Phoenix portrays as a mad smear of pathetic desperation, a painful emotion which Phoenix is a master at depicting (no pun intended there). Phoenix's work is earned within creating this idea of Bruno's refusal to accept his own feelings fully, while also still reacting in jealousy due to these feelings resulting in the proper explosion of insanity of a man at war within his mind, never mind the cousin. Phoenix shows again the liar, and the extent that it tears through the man in a most unique way.

Viewing the film again, I will admit freely my great affection for this performance which so matches the tone of the film, while also providing a most unique antagonist of sorts. A character's end that is created through that seed and cultivated within Phoenix's performance in a few pivotal moments before the end of the film. The aforementioned early scene of a reaction, but there is another essential reaction in a scene where Ewa receives confession. This scene already features one of the best acted scenes, no qualifier needed, through Cotillard's work, but Phoenix should not be forgotten in his brief however essential reaction to the words. Phoenix is amazing as his reaction conveys this momentary empathy towards Ewa, just brief, along with a certain sorrow, as he hears her resignation to go to hell, almost sensing his own path as well as his own crimes. This only so brief as Phoenix, without word, naturally portrays Bruno lying to himself as he scoffs towards back to the indifference of a cruel pimp. A bit more nuance of thought is a bit more forced upon when Emil decides to try to take Ewa away from Bruno directly by threatening him with an empty gun. Phoenix is fantastic in the moment in capturing the sheer visceral fear of the gun pressed against the man, but more importantly captures that emotional vulnerability in the moment. He still lies in his own way in claiming he was trying to help her, however the lies fall in Phoenix's delivery with a genuine despair as his words plead his case but his voice confesses the truth. In the end though Bruno is forced to either fully sacrifice Ewa or finally face his earnest feelings to sacrifice for her. This is as Bruno finally does help Ewa find her sister and a chance at living in America not in shame, by also accepting blame for his actions. On my initial viewing, I thought I needed the full perspective of seeing the whole of the work of Phoenix, as the final scene is essential to understanding the entirety of his work, but also fully experiencing its poignancy. Phoenix captures the sheer desperation of Bruno in these moments as he can barely stand and his slurred speech fitting to a man severely beaten due to not giving up Ewa to the police. The emotional state though is where the true power of his work exists, where again Bruno lies though no longer for his own sake. Bruno's confession is finally admitting his love to Ewa while also admitting his full abuse of her. He lies in his final lashing out at Ewa for believing in the good in everyone, while in this moment Bruno has forced out the modicum of goodness in him. Phoenix's work is this exhaustive vulnerability of a man finally tearing this truth out of him that delivers this real heartbreaking sorrow as the goodness of Bruno comes out by finally admitting his evil nature.