He’s the Guy

Those social media posts of ‘this moment in this famous film was totally unscripted!!!’ as if that by itself makes it better miss the point.

Moat unscripted material, like most ideas, inventions, ideas, notions, &c … fails — such is the nature of creativity: the best stuff, it is devoutly to be wished, sticks around; the rest dissipates into the ether … except that it’d be better if it went further away so it doesn’t return.

So what is their point, these people and their posts? Do they mean to say that Marlon Brando [not Vito Corleone] picked up and pet a stray cat in the first scene of The Godfather? Do they mean to say Martin Sheen was wrestling his own demons in the first scene of Apocalypse Now … ?

No.

This doesn’t make sense, right?

But they also don’t seem to know what is happening, which is that actors who are acting to the nth degree, aren’t, by the time someone like Robert Shaw offers something like Quint’s monologue on the sinking of The Indianapolis it is because he [Shaw] had become Quint. Quint did what Quint wd do — Shaw was the conduit. Shaw was Quint.

Brando was Corleone.  A cat strayed on set. Corleone picked it up. Brando was somewhere in there, but utterly imperceptible to the viewer — God’s power went at the right hand of Moses, as it were.

Sheen, as it happens, is a hybrid — I’m told he, the actor, was hammered at the time, and fighting his battles. And Willard, it happened, was in a similar place. And Sheen did it as Willard.

Travis Bickle talking to himself — note the wording, that: himself — in the mirror in Taxi Driver? Same dealio. It was not De Niro, except as a consummate actor.

Ask them. They’ll tell you the same.

Which is why they’re awesome enough to do it.

Just as it is and isn’t a coincidence that two of these example moments are from Coppola films, plus Scorsese and Spielberg — namely, that they’re consummate directors so immersed in, knowing so well what shd happen that it simply does — so, too, it isn’t the actor. It’s the guy in the story.

[This is also about the time writers start sounding really goofball, saying their characters went off and did something they totes didn’t expect. It’s because they’ve done it so well, the characters simply did what such people wd do in those times, places. and ways. The author had, I mean this deeply, not much to do with it anymore.]

When Pilate crowed, ‘Behold the man!’ — Ecce homo!, which is to say, he’s the guy — he said more than he knew, more than he cd know. Jesus was who he was and did what he did because of it. Ironically, Pilate also was who he was and did what he did because of that. He was [understandably] clueless — thinking, for instance, that he was in charge of things ’round here — and said Ecce homo! and thought he was being clever or something.

Not clever by half, at least.

And Jesus said as much, when he told the guy who was not the guy, essentially, yeah, you don’t even know you’re not the guy, do you?

It’d be nice and it’s not impossible to believe that the people writing those posts know all this, and are ‘actually’ saying — as if, say, unscripted and coming truly from within themselves — that the people involved are so good at this acting thing, they’ve become the character and it’s the character, in a real and the most significant sense, who did the deed.

But I do not think so. Too often has it been so that people and their social media personae ‘need’ a thing to be ‘true’ [by which they mean not true but ‘factual’ … even though they’ll prolly also say ‘so true’]. Once in a writing workshop some unfortunate said, ‘but this really happened’, to which the professor, a professional writer and eventually a financially successful one said as harshly as possible so, like the dissipating dumb idea it wd never come round again, ‘Who cares?’

Sometimes it feels as if the speaker, poster, memer knows, but can’t come near to expressing it.

But this is rare.

Too rare.

 

 

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