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Entries in A Most Wanted Man (5)

Tuesday
Apr 26 2016

Willem Dafoe: a man for all seasons

For our impromptu Actors Month,members of Team Experience were free to choose any actor they wanted to discuss.Here'sDaniel Crookeon Willem Dafoe.

Willem Dafoe is a Greek god,in the most ceramic of ways.Rather than present himself as a blank canvas,Dafoe's vessel is a malleable lump of clay that he shapes on the kiln as the character sees fit.His fire-burnt expressions,calcified in psychic scars,detail their histories in an unrelenting mask of past,present,and future.The man is drama.But his tragic side so often overtakes the comic in the cultural consciousness that his nimble lightness often sneaks under the radar.As his performances play out in the frame,he tactfully tears at their rigid façades to reveal the far more complicated,often contradictory stories within;He's always got a secret.

The severity for which his performances are known is only half the story.Just as his luminescent Sgt.Elias in Oliver Stone'sPlatoonoffsets the pitch-blackness of Tom Berenger's sadistic Sgt,Barnes,Dafoe has an uncanny ability to hide his radiant purity behind a stalwartly strict face.For God's sake,he defined the model of a conflicted Christ in Scorsese'sLast Temptation;doing the impossible,he reconfigured the Messiah's pop cultural characterization as a man with a pulse,who sinned and lived off the cross.He is a duplicitous study,ready to convince you that he's a treacherous monster until he reveals on his deathbed – over a ceremonial sip of Bean's delicious cider – that he was a misunderstood sideliner all along.

More Willem worship after the jump...

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Wednesday
Jul 29 2015

Nina Hoss on Searching for the Soul and Identity in 'Phoenix'

Josehere.

In her six films with director Christian Petzold,Nina Hoss has explored the roles women have played in German history during the twentieth century,inJerichowshe played a postmodern femme fatale trying to convince an Afghanistan veteran to kill for her,inWolfsburgshe played a mother being wooed by the man who ran over her son,inBarbarashe was a doctor trying to escape East Germany in the 1980s,and in the post-WWII setPhoenix,which might be their greatest collaboration to date,she plays Nelly,a former cabaret singer who survived a Nazi concentration camp,but was left brutally deformed.As she tries to reclaim her past life through a surgery described as a recreation,rather than a reconstruction,she must come to terms with the fact that she is now living in a world that has very little to do with the one she left behind.

Hoss' layered performance as Nelly is the kind of work that should be garnering awards buzz,as it helps her establish herself as one of the best living actresses,and places her as Petzold's greatest collaborator,rather than his muse.In 2014,English speaking audiences got their first taste of Hoss' brilliance as she managed to steal the show inA Most Wanted ManandHomeland(her character is returning for Season 5) and asPhoenixmakes its Stateside debut,it's about time we all start talking about Hoss more frequently.I had a chance to talk to her to discuss her work in Phoenix and how it relates to classic Hollywood films,as well as her preferred acting method and the career path she might take years from now.

Our interview isafter the jump...

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Saturday
Dec 13 2014

Team FYC: A Most Wanted Man for Best Adapted Screenplay

Editor's Note: We're nearing the end of our individually chosen FYC's for various longshots in the Oscar race.Here'sAmiron "A Most Wanted Man".

Anton Corbijn's latest film,A Most Wanted Man,is one of the year's best American films.It's the type of work that is elevated above the trappings of its overly familiar genre with superb performances and intelligent observations on the real world conditions that give birth to its story.It is arguably the smartest film made about America's increasingly troubled relationship with,and its definition of,terrorism.Yet,it is surprising to compare the film's screenplay,penned by Andrew Bovell,to its original source,the 2008 novel of the same name by John le Carré,and notice the dramatic improvement that the adaptation has made to the text.

With densely plotted novels,particularly in the espionage genre,one of the biggest challenges of adaptation is the careful omission of narrative threads without disrupting the harmony or logic of the story.Le Carré's book is one of his lesser works,a straightforward piece about Issa (Gregoriy Dobrygin),a Chechen fugitive in Hamburg,whose history of being tortured in his homeland is sufficient cause for authorities (German and American) to assume ties with terrorist organizations.Issa's story is intertwined to three other protagonists who are afforded equal attention in the novel: a banker named Tommy Brue (Willem Defoe),a lawyer named Annabel Richter (Rachel McAdams) and a spy named Gunther Bachmann (Philip Seymour Hoffman)...

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Friday
Aug 01 2014

Review: A Most Wanted Man

Michael Cusumano hereto check in with my weekly review.

Anton Corbijn's film of John le Carré'sA Most Wanted Manbuilds to a single moment where the main character,Günther Bachmann,head of a modern day German counter-terrorism spy ring,comes face to face with a devastating realization.Corbijn fixes the camera on him and lets the moment hang there wordlessly.You can practically see the ramifications shake the character to the core of who he is and what he believed about his place in the world

To let the whole movie live or die on a single moment like that is a high risk/high reward gambit.The fact that Gunther is played by Philip Seymour Hoffman should give you a clue as to why the filmmaker was confident his lead actor could drive it home with the power it required.After Hoffman's heartbreaking death at the age of forty-six the temptation to go for broke in singing his praises would exist no matter what his final significant performance,but it turns out no hyperbole is required.Hoffman's last starring role is one of his best.It's a subtle and satisfyingly layered performance,one that would be worth the price of admission even without the poignant context.

As Bachmann,Hoffman walks as if he carries the weight of his responsibilities in his bulky physique.His eyes speak of a soul heavy with guilt and unwanted knowledge about the dangers of the world.Yet when he speaks in his gentle German accent it is with an unexpected softness,and he often lets a wry smile creep into his expressions.We get the feeling that this fugitive sense of irony is one of the last lines of defense between his psyche and the horrors of the world.

We learn that years ago Bachmann was responsible for a mission gone horribly wrong,and his assignment to a rinky-dink unit in Hamburg is the result of that colossal screw-up.He now tracks terrorist money through the backchannels of Germany,understaffed and underfunded,with skeptical bureaucrats second-guessing his every move. Into Bachmann's crosshairs comes a wild card in the form of a half-Chechen,half-Russian Muslim named Issa Karpov (Grigoriy Dobrygin).Issa has a checkered history and he arrives in Hamburg looking every bit the part of the religious fanatic.When Issa is set to collect a massive inheritance waiting for him at a German bank,Bachmann sees him as the perfect bait to lure a big money funder of terrorism out into the open.But is Issa really as dangerous as he appears,or does his thousand-yard stare reveal him to be a harmless shell of a man?More to the point,is it worth the risk of leaving him on the street long enough to find out?

A Most Wanted Manmanaged to engross me in these questions without ever stirring my spirit.Corbijn lays out his plot points like a surgeon laying out his instruments,each one cold and polished and precise.We are too detached from the emotional undercurrents to be moved,and the intrigues are too slow-burning to thrill.There is nothing to match,say,the white-knuckle sequence in Alfredson's recent take on le Carré'sTinker Tailor Soldier Spywhere Benedict Cumberbatch has to boost the documents from the heart of British intelligence.Even a chase scene where Bachmann comes perilously close to losing his quarry is curiously sedate.It's like the film is mimicking the technique of its spy surveillance teams,diligently noting down the details without getting too worked up over them.

Out of this dispassionate atmosphere the film turns into a showcase for Hoffman more or less by default.The supporting characters fail to register much outside their function to the plot,despite a cast stocked with ringers like Willem Dafoe,Daniel Brühl and Robin Wright.Even the crucial relationship between Issa and Rachel McAdams as the naïve,do-gooder attorney who takes up his cause is a dud.Their relationship should be the beating heart of the film,with her growing close to him,despite the risk involved,but the pairing never sparks to life.The screenplay carries on as if they are generating a palpable sexual tension but their chemistry is closer to that of a child therapist caring for a traumatized patient.

Flaws aside,Corbijn deserves points for crafting a story that absorbed me.I respect the way he doesn't gild the lily.He lays it out straight and clean and makes sure to give the whole thing an atmosphere that you can feel in your bones,even when the nuts and bolts of the plot aren't reaching you.And ifA Most Wanted Manonly approaches greatness in Hoffman's performance we should be eternally grateful that the great actor was given the opportunity to exit at the top of his form.B-

previous reviews

Tuesday
Jul 30 2013

Goodbye Peacock.And Other Links

Los Angeles TimesAMPAS elects their first African American president in Cheryl Boone Isaacs
IndieWire
on how newcomer Annie McNamara landed a supporting role in the otherwise starry cast ofBlue Jasmine
FilmonicJohn Williams will score the newStar Warstrilogy
Maps to the Starson the Cronenberg exhibit at TIFF this year
Fashionistathinks Claire Danes has lost a leg in this photoshoot
IndieWireon the 25th anniversary of Midnight Madness at TIFF this year

Empireanother big get for rising star David Oyelowo who was so good inMiddle of Nowhereand also eye-catching inThe Paperboy- he joins the increasingly crowdedInsterstellarfor Christopher Nolan
The Backloton HBO's new gay series starring Jonathan Groff.Is it "special"?
In ContentionA Most Wanted Mancould put Philip Seymour Hoffman back in the Oscar race
/Filmoh dear god.they can't leave well enough alone.Dextermight get a spin-off series after 8 looooong seasons
SalonBeforeFruitvale Stationthere wasBoyz n the Hood
Cinema Blendnew teaser poster forGravity

Finally,you have undoubtedly heard that the fine comic actressEileen Brennanpassed away earier today at 80 years of age.I have to admit a weird unfamiliarity with the most acclaimed turn in her filmography (unlike me I know!) as I never saw her Oscar-nominated work inPrivate Benjamin.I remember people beingreallyinto it when I was a kid but it was rated R and I somehow never caught up with it when I was old enough.I'll personally remember her most fondly as Peacock inCluewith her frazzled manner,soup sipping,and ungainly hat.Others will cherish her work inThe StingorThe Last Picture Showor any number of TV appearances including time onLaugh-Inwith her futureBenjaminco-star Goldie Hawn.What will you remember her for?RIP Mrs Peacock.