Thursday, 30 July 2020

Alternate Best Actor 2002: Leslie Cheung in Inner Senses

Leslie Cheung did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Jim Law in Inner Senses.

Inner Senses is a spooky, if sloppy, little ghost story about a woman, after being haunted in her apartment, going to her therapist for help.

This sadly marks the final performance of Leslie Cheung, who unfortunately committed suicide about a year after the release of this film. I will say my own, limited, exposure to Cheung places his tragic passing not in the middle of a phase like it is with so many actors, but rather the beginning of a new one. This is as all the other performances of his that I've seen emphasized a youthful vibe, this even in Happy Together, where he was nearly in his 40's yet came off in his early 20's still. Here however he looks like a man of his 40's, and not in a bad way, as we first see him giving a seminar on ghosts. Cheung is wholly comfortable here, even if almost say him as an entirely different actor, in presenting a middle aged man. This with a quiet assured quality as he rattles off a ghost encounter before dismissing it and the overall concept as a false perception of the mind. Cheung effectively exuding that sort of slight pompousness of a college professor though with the right degree of charisma not feel like a blowhard. When the woman Cheung Yan (Karena Lam) comes to him with her ghost problem, Cheung reacts effectively as a caring yet dismissive psychiatrist regarding the claim. He finds the right balance in that he grants the empathy to the distress of the woman well his eyes also suggest the certain indifference to the claim, suggesting the man quite assured in his lack of beliefs regarding ghosts.

As Yan continues to seek his help, as her counters continue, Cheung naturally increases that sense of empathy towards her. This as he continues to present and speak in a calmly reassuring way, through that of consistent denial towards the existence of the ghosts. This though slowly developing into a more romantic chemistry which I like that Cheung doesn't overplay. This in making sort of a natural flirtation based on his natural charm more so than any overt, potentially creepy attempt, to seduce her. When her condition doesn't improve to the point of severe depression he has her committed. Cheung's portrayal of this is important in the film as even though he presents being comfortably distant in the moment, earnestly as to not encourage her from trying to romantically with him, his eyes still appropriately emphasize the empathy even within that situation. The only problem is Law himself begins to see the ghosts as well. This where Cheung's performance naturally loses that self confidence and ego. This rather falling into just a fear in which he work portrays someone being wholly crippled in his stricken manner and horrified expression. This to the point that his character shocks himself in some futile attempt to end the haunting. This naturally leading himself to believe Yan and actively try to solve the problem without just simply doubting it.

This leading first to a frankly terrible love montage scene that is tonally out of whack with the rest of the film, however Cheung makes his way through it without any issue of his own. This in more than anything granting the sense of connection between the characters, as Law seems to solve Yan by connecting her with her past traumas by reuniting her with her parents. The ghosts continue to haunt Law though and Cheung's performance captures with it the emotional exasperation as the pressures mounts against him. This creating a sense of a devastating depression that seems to form as he begins to realize who the ghost is, a girlfriend who had committed suicide in the past after he had broken up with her. This leading to final confrontation with the ghost through sadly with an eerie connection to Cheung's actual death, as we see Law face this on top of a building where the ghost wants him to jump off. Even forgetting that unfortunate connection to the man's actual reality, Cheung is devastating in the sequence. This in presenting so bluntly the real grief of the man filled with a real anguish and shame as he attempts to apologize for his previous actions, though without taking the next step of killing himself for them. Cheung finding a reality within the personal connection of the scene with a powerful portrayal of the man dealing with the sins of the past. This is a strong performance from Leslie Cheung, even if unfortunately his last, as it suggests he had potential a new phase of his career in store. This in his performance here shows a different side of him, a maturity in his moving portrayal of a man dealing with his past literally haunting him.

46 comments:

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Ratings and thoughts on the cast.

Luke Higham said...

1. Sanada
2. Ejiofor
3. Sol
4. Paxton
5. Cheung

Tim said...

1) Ejiofor
2) Sanada
3) Sol
4) Cheung
5) Paxton

Bryan L. said...

Louis: Your thoughts on Cory Finley as a filmmaker so far?

RatedRStar said...

A lot of people tend to think that Hong Kong Cinema died after Leslie Cheung and Anita Mui (also died in 2003) had passed away, I don't think that is quite true as I think HK cinemas death was a more slow and painful process which came about from many things.

Anonymous said...

1. Ejiofor
2. Sanada
3. Sol
4. Paxton
5. Cheung

RatedRStar said...

Leslie Cheung was such a huge loss though and I would imagine if he were still around I would have loved to have seen him team up with the likes of Nicholas Tse who I think is the actor he reminds me of most in terms of youthful vulnerability

Michael McCarthy said...

1. Ejiofor
2. Sanada
3. Paxton
4. Cheung
5. Sol

I know I should probably put Sol above Cheung, but I found Oasis to be so cringey that it hurt my appreciation of his performance a bit.

Luke Higham said...

RatedRStar: There seem's to be an ongoing trend in Asian Cinema where one country's film industry is in the midst of a golden age. Japan had a 40+ year period of greatness due to Kurosawa, Ozu, Okamoto, Mizoguchi and Kobayashi.

HK from the 80s to the mid 2000s due to their stars like Cheung, Tony Leung, Anthony Wong and so on.

Currently, it's South Korea since the turn of the century.

RatedRStar said...

Basically Cheung was sort of seen as HKs Michael Jackson and Anita Mui was very much akin to HKs Madonna.

Bryan L. said...

1. Sanada
2. Sol
3. Ejiofor
4. Paxton
5. Cheung

1. Gulpilil
2. Spall
3. Hoffman
4. Gourmet
5. Kinnear

Anonymous said...

Luke, what changes do you think we’ll see on Louis’s Top Ten for 2002?

Luke Higham said...

Anonymous: Infernal Affairs and below will be pushed out. I'm fairly certain about City Of God and The Twilight Samurai.

Calvin Law said...

My thoughts exactly, monsieur. Also Michael’s response has me interested in seeing whether Louis will lean his way or my way. Be right back as I prep my next fruit basket.

Aidan Pittman said...

Louis: Your cast/director for 1960s and 1980s versions of Hard Eight?

Louis Morgan said...

Luke:

Lam - 3.5(Felt she lacked as a strong of really an emotional arc as Cheung did in his performance. She's good though in terms of creating the sense of the reaction to fear while creating the emotional sort of exhaustion combined with the fear. This while also finding enough chemistry with Cheung, even if I felt she was a touch overshadowed by him.)

Lee - 3(Felt there could've been a bit more of him, as I felt he was pretty effective in his over the top smile really on top of a generally slightly creepy manner.)

Bryan:

So far I've felt he's acquitted himself well enough, although I wouldn't say he quite has a "vision" yet, given I had no idea he directed Bad Education, not that this is a problem exactly. Both films though are sort of "chamber pieces" so to speak, Thoroughbreds, where he was more so the auteur, more overly stylistic than Bad Education which was more procedural. Both fine examples of lightly styling what there was in each, this in presenting the austere qualities of the world in Thoroughbreds against the rather blase world of Bad Education. I would say just a fine step forward in both instances, wouldn't say overly impressive in either, but certainly not a bad star.t

Aidan:

Hard Eight 1960's directed by Robert Rossen:

Sydney: James Cagney
John: Dennis Hopper
Clementine: Shirley Knight
Jimmy: Ossie Davis
Craps Player: Jack Nicholson

Hard Eight 1980's directed by Stuart Rosenberg:

Sydney: Robert Mitchum
John: Steve Buscemi
Clementine: Jennifer Jason Leigh
Jimmy: Billy De Williams
Craps Player: James Spader

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

1. Sanada
2. Ejiofor
3. Sol
4. Paxton
5. Cheung

1. Gulpilil
2. Hoffman
3. Spall
4. Gourmet
5. Kinnear

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Your thoughts on Andersson and Ullmann in Persona.

Calvin Law said...

Reading over this again makes me miss Cheung even more :(

Mitchell Murray said...

I should really make a note of checking out this movie, as well as the rest of Cheung's career.

On a similar note to what Calvin said, I just watched a "making of" special about the original "Alien" film. It has left me with a greater reverence towards the picture, in it's endlessly fascinating production/themes, but also a sense of melancholy having been reminded of John Hurt, Harry Dean Stanton and Ian Holm. May they all have peace wherever they are.

Bryan L. said...

Mitchell: How come you think Sarah Polley wouldn’t have been a good fit for Jenny (Gangs of New York)? She’s a good actress and would’ve been in the right age range.

Anonymous said...

Louis, have you seen the argentinian film Nine Queens from 2000? It also stars Darín.

Mitchell Murray said...

Bryan: Well that's mostly based on my own, admittedly limited knowledge of Polley's career, which is relegated to two films; "The Sweet Hereafter", which I liked her in, and "Splice", which I thought she was honestly rather awful in. She can do emotional trauma as seen in the former, but I'm just not sure she has the charm and presence to fit a character like Jenny. Also, given that it was an accented role, and I've never seen Polley attempt any kind of dialect beyond her native Canadian, I would've personally gone with someone who had demonstrated that ability Ex. Kate Winslet.

Calvin Law said...

Saw All or Nothing, I’m could argue against Spall being in Lead but definitely could argue for it too. He was great so I’m looking forward to his review.

Luke Higham said...

Calvin: I hope it'll be the next review.

Anonymous said...

Louis: your thoughts on these casting choices:
Willem Dafoe as Quint (Jaws)
Casey Affleck as Tom Joad
Jake Gyllenhaal as Michael Corleone (Part II)
Tom Hardy as Alec Leamas
Josh Brolin as Charley Malloy


Robert MacFarlane said...

RIP Alan Parker

Aidan Pittman said...

R.I.P. Alan Parker

Luke Higham said...

RIP Alan Parker

Calvin Law said...

RIP Alan Parker

RatedRStar said...

RIP Alan Parker

Mitchell Murray said...

Rest in peace, Alan Parker.

BRAZINTERMA said...

RIP Alan Parker

My TOP7 his films:
7º The Commitments
6º The Life of David Gale
5º Birdy
4º Angel Heart
3º Midnight Express
2º The Wall
1º Mississippi Burning

RatedRStar said...

So the Bafta TV awards were a little odd, far more odd than the HK film awards were in presenting to nobody lol. I did like that most of the nominees were live on Zoom.

Some big shocks, Will Sharpe winning Best Supporting Actor, I really want to watch Girl/Haji now.

Luke Higham said...

RatedRStar: I see that being the norm for awhile. I can't see the Oscars having a physical ceremony next year.

Maciej said...

RIP Alan Parker

Tim said...

R.I.P. Alan Parker

Bryan L. said...

Anonymous: He commented on Casey Affleck as Tom Joad in both Joseph Kroners' review for The Shop on Main Street and the "My Wins" post.

Bryan L. said...

RIP Alan Parker

Louis Morgan said...

Luke:

Andersson & Ullmann - (Andersson and Ullmann's performance are a match unlike most performances even in films based on duality of some kind and of characters in conflict. This is there are not bluster filled conversations between then since Ullmann's mute and Andersson is anything but. They then create these scenes that are incredible in each moment through both of their performances as one. This in Andersson's performance that is a brilliant work in creating really the mental instability in a person who wishes project stability. Her performance creating this layers of the woman unraveling in her interactions with Ullmann, as she begins as this calming reassuring sort then slowly devolves into accusatory violence. Andersson not only naturally realizes this transition but each scene of each of these phases is a highlight in brilliance. This in that Bergman touch as there isn't a false note, yet it is at such an extreme. I mean her performance of the beach description alone makes the film feel like one of the most sexually raw ever filmed, and there isn't a hint nudity or even sexual interaction in the scene. This is against Ullmann's performance which is fascinating in the way her silence speaks volumes throughout. This in her ability to react to Andersson combines different qualities herself in her own reverse arc, though hers in a different challenge. This as she seems broken at first in just a near catatonic state, however as it continues the more incisive her silence becomes simply through such minor changes in her performance.)

Anonymous:

I have not.

Anonymous:

Dafoe - (I mean Dafoe can do most things anyways, so of course. However a far more tempered and realistic version of his Lighthouse performance, definitely easy to see.)

Gyllenhaal - (He has the intensity, but he doesn't have the right sort of presence. I've never seen Gyllenhaal convey power of presence, he can be menacing but he needs that sort of sense of strength of self that I haven't seen.)

Hardy - (Of course, I mean his Tarr was kind of near Leamas anyways, so definitely.)

Brolin - (Yes because he's a good actor, however he wouldn't be my immediate choice. I can definitely see it though.)






RIP Alan Parker

Lucas Saavedra said...

Louis: are you going to watch the movies Kamchatka and El Bonaerense (seems like it doesn't have a title in english) for this year?

Robert MacFarlane said...

Louis: What do you think of Ralph Wiggum’s George Washington play in “I Love Lisa”? I had actually never seen the episode in full until recently and was very taken aback at how radically different his characterization was in the early years. Do you think they should have kept him as a more awkward borderline-Aspie type than the idiotic meme magnet he turned into not too long after?

Louis Morgan said...

Lucas:

We'll see, definitely not on the top of the list at the moment.

Robert:

I think its great, and will always favor nuanced Simpsons, with some actual heart, without sacrificing the humor. That episode being an example in you have the great bit of the Rex Harrisonesque "best choice" being given the boot, but then you have something genuine in the relationship involving Ralph that is genuinely moving by the end of it. So yes, that Ralph I much preferred.

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