Perspectives on Pop Culture and the Arts

Sunday, April 09, 2006

The Strong Screwed-Up Silent Type

After positively devouring not insignificant chunks of film, television, and 'media' (do mobile phone soap operas count?), you'd think that my basic appetite for a good story with good characters would be sated, if not muted.

There are, however, two sorts of characters that always seem to grab me: the first type is the type that is of 'independent means' (they are wealthy through connivance or hard work before the film) and uses their wits and wiles to 'get away with it'. Here I'm thinking mainstream: i.e. Kevin Spacey in both Seven and The Usual Suspects: there's something basic and fulfilling about a person (good or bad) that came to the film with more than we can see, and leaves with a lifetime which we can only imagine.

In case this is all starting to sound a bit hollywood schmaltz-like, I still think its turgid when filmakers talk of the 'magic' of cinema. However, I can't help making some imaginative leaps about the lives of characters after their films have finished. For example, I've always wondered, whether The Talented Mr Ripley was the grandfather of Jason Bourne, and that there should be a Bourne prequel called The Bourne Dynasty, perhaps even with the Dynasty soundtrack to boot. Now that I consider it, 'Dynasty' as a title fits in rather well with 'Identity' and 'Supremacy'. But I'm getting off track...

The second type of character I'm always interested in is slightly different, but infinitely more compelling. This is what is commonly known as the 'strong silent type'. These characters are less paint-by-numbers (they haven't always got an immediate motive for not speaking much) and are available to view over a much broader range of cinema from across the globe. Amitabh Bachban in India does this type of acting pretty well, Anthony Hopkins in Remains of the Day, Lambs, and others did too, along with Holly Hunter in The Piano. However, if there was a world record for this type of acting, Takeshi Kitano would currently rank pretty damn high.


Some people would have you believe that Kitano has simply found the easiest, but most suggestive form of acting available: say nothing, and let your face do the talking (and what a face, scarred after a horrific motorbike crash). This isn't so much 'method' as methodology. However, I prefer this recent Sight and Sound explanation: 'the combination of his scarred face combined with his near-death experience has produced a torrent of post-modern, post-meaning existential angst which finds expression in the simplest of movements, if any at all'. Not the strong silent type then (Gary Cooper anyone?) but the Strong Screwed-Up Silent type..

How Bout dem apples? Maybe this explains why he seems to -scarily- enjoy the violence he unleashes in films like Battle Royale, Hana-Bi and Zatoichi...

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