Monday, 31 July 2017

Alternate Best Actor 1954: Alec Guinness in The Detective

Alec Guinness did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Father Brown in The Detective.

The Detective is a rather enjoyable about a priest who is also an amateur sleuth attempting to stop a notorious thief.

The film itself lives and dies on the shoulders of Alec Guinness, and a bit on Peter Finch, as Father Brown. This is again Guinness, very notable within the time, going for a sort of chameleon style of performance. Not through overt makeup or anything, just through his performance. Now Guinness previously played a priest in Kind Hearts and Coronets, also directed by Robert Hamer, again in a bit of a disappearing act. Guinness though finds yet another unique characterization in his creation of Father Brown. Guinness begins with his alteration of his accent just ever so slightly, that just seems so fitting to a beloved sort of local priest. Guinness though continues in his physical manner that is all his own here, as even specific behavior, such as a moment of imagination, Guinness fashions something unique to his Father Brown. As typical for Guinness though he's both incredibly consistent in the mannerisms he grants to his character, and perhaps more importantly he makes this feel wholly natural to the role. It not only feels natural to the role, but it succeeds in amplifying it as you just feel you're with Father Brown after a few scenes with Guinness.

Guinness is especially important to making this character work as there are several elements that need to be made sense of. Guinness on the first aspect must be the sleuth of course for any good mystery, or crime film of this sort. Well, as he showed to an even further extent in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Guinness is a master of the incisive stare. Guinness though does this in a rather fascinating way here as there is a softness within this in a strange way that seems just right for the character. Guinness though provides sort of that detectives spark of intuition in his work so well through he sheer energy he brings as Brown goes about trying to solve case. Of course none of this is at the expense of his portrayal of Brown as a priest either though. Guinness in the moments where Brown must fulfill his role in a sermon or in providing guidance to a parishioner, Guinness offers that grace and dignity within his performance which does not at all seem at odds with the rest of his performance. Guinness rather shows very directly though that Brown is one man, but even he is technically aware that he is a professional priest, but not quite a professional detective.

Now the priest being a detective may seem a touch far out, but Guinness even makes this absolutely work through his approach. The idea is quite mad after all as shown in the opening scene where he arrested after returning stolen goods for one of his flock, and Guinness plays into this so effectively. Guinness does this by bringing a bit of madness into his performance, now not that he is psychotic or anything like that but Guinness brings the right eccentric kookiness to the role. Guinness makes this an essential motivation for his performance actually. In that he makes that sort of insanity a part of who Brown is and this is needed to partially make sense of the man. He is a bit off his rocker and Guinness uses this without compromising the character in the slightest. Again Guinness uses this to amplify him so well by creating an understanding in his viewpoint even if it is more than a little atypical to say the least. Guinness makes the whole central concept work by playing into that it is somewhat ridiculous but never making fun of it either. He instead makes Brown a man capable of being what he is which includes being not quite the most normal priest.

A major difference between Brown and most amateur sleuths though is his intentions. He intends to stop criminals, but that is not his primary intention as he first and foremost desires to save their souls. The central plot follows Brown as he wishes to stop the thief Flambeau (Finch) by not having him arrested, rather by trying to convince him to move towards a more righteous path. This is an element that Guinness properly offers a great deal gravity to and properly takes the most seriously. Guinness as he describes his purpose offers the strongest passion within his work, by creating such an honesty to Brown's words to help who he sees as a man lost. I would be remiss though not to also mention Finch who also gives a very effective performance and makes for a great scene partner with Guinness here. In that both together help to grant a certain reality to the idea of stopping the thief by convincing him that his life path is wrong, rather than sending him to prison. The two are great because both actually provide such an earnest conviction to their points of view. Finch bringing a proper cynicism which is so well counted by Guinness who manages to deliver Brown's speeches with grounded idealism. The certainty that Guinness brings not only is powerful but almost rather profound. Guinness makes an especially strong impact in their final confrontation as he delicately explains the way Flambeau has set up his own private prison. Guinness refuses any smugness yet rather brings this tender concern and warmth, showing Brown's attack on the man's life as an act of unconditional love.

Of course as much as Guinness excels in every facet of the character and making Father Brown a cohesive whole, it must also be said that this is just an incredibly entertaining performance to watch. Guinness is prime Guinness here which means it is just fun to watch him work, and he enlivens every scene with his mere presence. Whether it is trying out his various wrestling holds, or coming up with his own new plot to catch Flambeau Guinness is effortlessly engaging. Guinness is just an enjoyable detective and tha kind of would have been enough for this to be a very good performance, but he does go more than a few steps beyond that. As this is a brilliant realization of what is really a tricky character. It would have been easy to make him feel too sanctimonious, too bland or even annoying. Guinness not only avoids any such pitfalls he instead merges the threads of the character to make a single compelling figure for us to follow through his story. He is indeed the efficient detective, he is indeed the devoted priest, he even is just barmy enough to connect those two things, yet only makes the task of the man an absolutely endearing ideal. This is wonderful work from the always exceptional Guinness, and it's a bit of a shame that he never once returned to the role. 

37 comments:

Charles Heiston said...

A performance that's quite forgotten by a lot of people. I consider this one of his best work, didn't expect you to like him this much.

Louis: Where would this rank on your favorite performances from Guinness.

Michael McCarthy said...

I'm glad you loved him like I did. I'm wondering though Louis, those touches of insanity you mentioned that Guinness brings to Father Brown, do you think that may have been meant to be something more like autism? Because a lot of what he did in this role really reminded me of someone very close to me who's on the autism spectrum (who coincidentally is headed towards a religious vocation).

Calvin Law said...

Louis: your director and cast for a 2010s Marathon Man.

Anonymous said...

Louis: Your top 10 Joe pesci and Roberto de niro acting moments

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Your thoughts on 'Home' from Dunkirk.

Luke Higham said...

Louis: And your ratings and thoughts for the cast of The Best Of Youth.

Anonymous said...

Louis: Your top 10 Victor McLaglen, Walter Brennan and Lee J. Cobb acting moments.

Louis Morgan said...

Anonymous:

Wynn - 4(Wynn gives a rather moving performance by portraying one person who is not caught up with any superficial element, he's only has that genuine concern for his wife, and trying to get his wife to care at all. Wynn's performance is nicely one without any ego or even any ambition, just a man caught in his terrible grief.)

Black - 3.5(Typically effective to be sure portraying well seemingly an opposite to Blakley though as Black exudes a certain greater confidence within the performances, though still finds a different kind of desperation within her character.)

Gibson - 4(Gibson really wouldn't be the first person I'd imagine in the role as a country star, Duvall would've made more sense at an initial casting stage. Gibson however does pull it off in creating this very particular sort of man defined by his larger than life presence, but also personality and ego. He too is basically above any drama for much of the film and is quite effective in just realizing a man who insists on himself and doing things his way right down to his over the top delivery of his patriotic ballad. That is until the final scene where he is quite in portraying the man finally taken aback by something.)

Harris - 3.5(A rather charming performance from her as he she portrays so well the sheer joy in her moments of performance which she offsets well portraying the sheer distress in her scenes of her sort of escape from her old life.)

Garfield - 3.5(He's quite good in his scenes with Blakely as he manages to create a believable combination of both a certain cruelty and devoted concern in his performance. In that he shows the frustrations of the manager as he attempts to get her to pull things together, but also reveals the husband who does love his wife and reveals that in the pain he also portrays in watching her in her troubled state.)

Beatty - 3(Nice bit of sleaze on his part, always portraying the man interested in any woman other than his wife in such an obvious, yet not over the top way.)

Duvall - 3(Her work is simple but effective in portraying just this wannabe groupie depicting that singular mindset that is particularly shallow when compared sort of her companion performance of Wynn.)

Carradine - 3(He's good in portraying just the vapidness of his character even as he presents the charm sort of over it, making the man seem deeper than he is. Of course I will say Carradine's greatest contribution to the film overall is "I'm Easy".)

Glenn - 3(He's good but really his role is basically as this timid, yet technically strong, outsider who is just here as this witness until the very end. It's a simple role but Glenn handles it well.)

Murphy - 3(Like Beatty a nice bit of sleaze though her in a different way presenting instead that glossy sort of facade undercut by such a callous attitude.)

Doqui - 2(His performance felt like a bit of an outlier within the film to me as he feels a bit too over the top in his scenes, and feels very out of place most of the time.)

I think I covered Tomlin, Chaplin, and Blakely before.

Tahmeed:

Headey:

1. Story to Tommen
2. An attempt at comfort between Tyrion and Cersei
3. Shame
4. Joffrey's death
5. Her own poison kiss

Harington:

1. Ending of Hardhome
2. Executing the traitors
3. Ygritte's death
4. Revival
5. Rickon's death

Louis Morgan said...

Luke:

Oil Derrick - (True mastery of cinema from PTA in this scene in every element is realized together from the thematic weight of Plainview's ambition and greed creating such powerful destruction, to every technical element all building within this from the all-time great shots realized by Robert Elswit, along with Greenwood's score that plays with this tandem of the sound, in creating such a gripping sequence though not merely a technical feat at any point. At the center there is Day-Lewis who realizes that always unsaid, yet realized, faint hint of humanity in the man as he saves H.W. though of course quickly acts to save perhaps his most precious thing.)

Oil Man Speech - (Perfect writing really and perfect delivery. You almost forget that the character has not been formally introduced, despite it being already several minutes in, and what an introduction it is. Day-Lewis rules the screen, but does far more than that as he grants the appeal and the insight into the man's particular power and desire.)

Interrogation - (Again a great piece of acting by Day-Lewis, O'Connor is quite good too actually. It's a terribly effective moment in the simplicity and intimacy of the moment, within the often grandiose drama. That moment it is only faces and there we see Plainview at perhaps his most emotional in realizing the intensity of his betrayal, that includes this certain loss of what he saw as one man who could see the world the way he does.)

Fear - (Ah yes, the messy film with a masterpiece trying to get out. Well that masterpiece can be found in this scene so brilliantly delivered, which almost does not need to be said when Day-Lewis is involved. However it is such a great scene that grants an deeper insight into the villain, a quiet moment where we see a certain desperation of his own beyond the bluster, but also find out the intensity of the emotion. It's funny that the scene, along with the opening creates a stronger rivalry between the priest and the butcher than was ever apparent in the main rivalry.)

I am your father - (Now I would like to know how the scene plays without knowing the twist, as I have to say that is something that I couldn't tell you when I learned it, it is almost something I feel like I always knew. Any way. It's a scene that works past the twist though given the emotional power is what so effectively underlies it amplified through the staging of the scene with that use of setting, with every frame seeming so iconic now from the way Vader holds his hand, to Luke's scream of despair, and of course the return of the Empire theme at that pivotal moment.)

Ballad in G Minor - (I mean on initial viewing it is actually sort of a terrifying scene as you have no idea who this man is or what he is, and there is such palatable tension. On re-watches though it becomes such a beautiful scene as we see the two men almost taken out of the horrors that they are currently living and surrounded by just for this brief moment where they both appreciate life in a way.)

Charles:

I wouldn't completely dismiss the idea in regards to Travolta.

Probably my fifth favorite of his.

Anonymous:

Irons is on point in that scene and it actually is kind of moving in the right direction, though they never move towards it that long, in creating a real believable motivation and conflict there. It's still problematic though as Batman's motivations are never quite there, and it just makes him seem really stupid more than anything else.

Michael:

Now that you mention it, I could certainly see that interpretation of his work.

Calvin:

Marathon Man Directed by Ben Affleck:

Babe: Casey Affleck
Doc: Ben Affleck
Szell: Rutger Hauer
Janeway: Colin Hanks

omar said...

Louis: what are your rating and thoughts on Gwen Welles in Nashville? Can't find them anywhere.

Calvin Law said...

I was thinking Klaus Maria Brandauer for Szell, but I love the casting of the Afflekcs and Hauer.

Calvin Law said...

Also, your thoughts on Rhea Seehorn in Better Call Saul? I've just finished the first season, I thought the whole storytelling structure/arc wasn't very well done, but one thing that certainly couldn't be faulted was the acting by the regulars. I'd ask about McKean and Mando but they seem like they'll have juicy arcs later one if I do continue watching (it's good, but dropped off considerably from a great start).

Anonymous said...

Luke: Could you do me an wonderful favour and tell me where Louis covered Lily Tomlin, Geraldine Chaplin and Ronee Blakleys performances in Nashville please?

Anonymous said...

Louis: Did you like the film version of Nashville, did you ever see the series?

Luke Higham said...

Blakley - 4.5(Very effective in portraying both the needed star style charisma for her popular singer, but as well keeping that underlying unease and anxiety suggesting to her problems which lie beneath)

Chaplin - 4.5(She's a delight in every scene she is in as she keeps the thin reporter facade in every scene, while being so enjoyably daffy in portraying that obviously she's not really a reporter for anything)

Tomlin - 3.5(I like her performance just fine for the part, but I don't like it as much as most. I think she was frankly a tad miscast as the some what somber housewife. She is good though, even if I don't think she ever quite feels perfect for the part)

Luke Higham said...

Unless there's a supporting lineup coming up, I assume we'll be having 1992 next, what with Louis in the middle of Twin Peaks: The Return and having already watched Fire Walk With Me.

My Lead '92 suggestions
Russell Crowe - Romper Stomper
Brad Pitt - A River Runs Through It
Jeremy Irons - Damage
Daniel Day-Lewis - The Last Of The Mohicans

RatedRStar said...

For supporting 1992 might as well just say, do the cast of Fire Walk With Me and thats it, easy peesy =D.

RatedRStar said...

Maybe someone from Peter's Friends...maybeeee.

Luke Higham said...

And Eric Stoltz in The Waterdance

For Supporting
Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me Cast
and Graham Greene in Thunderheart

Anonymous said...

Luke: Thank you

RatedRStar said...

Luke: Graham Greene in Thunderheart...ummm very interesting.

Luke Higham said...

RatedRStar: Do you have any suggestions that I haven't mentioned yet for Lead.

omar said...

Luke: I'd like to see a review of Peter Coyote in Bitter Moon or Daniel Auteuil in A Heart in Winter.

omar said...

Luke: Have you seen Bitter Moon? Coyote and Seigner are very good in it.

Luke Higham said...

Omar: No, I haven't. I'll check it out.

Luke Higham said...

I really want Crowe, Day-Lewis and Irons though. I don't think Louis has seen Last Of The Mohicans in a long time and his ranking's a bit iffy to me.

RatedRStar said...

Luke: For 1992? you mentioned four of them lol

Louis Morgan said...

Anonymous:

Pesci:

1. Get your Shinebox - Goodfellas
2. Only wanted to be a priest - JFK
3. "Oh no" - Goodfellas
4. Attempted Apology - Raging Bull
5. Funny how? - Goodfellas
6. Initial interview - JFK
7. Visiting his mother - Goodfellas
8. Punching Jake - Raging Bull
9. Killing Spider - Goodfellas
10. Explaining the suit - My Cousin Vinny

De Niro:

1. More bullets - The Deer Hunter
2. The Phone Booth - Goodfellas
3. Final Performance - The King Comedy
4. Trying to apologize - Raging Bull
5. Seeing Secretary Bailey Son - Once Upon a Time in America
6. Smoking at the bar - Goodfellas
7. Final game of Russian Roulette - The Deer Hunter
8. Revenge - The Godfather Part II
9. Refusing to pay the debt - Mean Streets
10. Wasted shot - The Deer Hunter


Luke:

Lo Cascio - 4(Did not just watch this by the way, just had forgotten to include it before. A very moving portrayal through the film bringing the right enthusiasm and optimism that is a consistent factor within the character. He does well to make the natural state of the man a hopeful one that is even consistent in his most traumatic times. His performance is quite moving though in portraying the moments of trauma he does go through as he manages to portray both the attempt to stay above sorrow, that becomes particularly haunting as so many sorrows surround him. Of course also importantly he gives just an engaging and endearing performance that manages to carry you through the film's considerable running time.)

Boni - 4(He is given less of a focus as the two leads though I did find his performance was effective in creating this less modest path of sorts. As he portrays well this way of slowly losing himself in a way from each segment as starting in this carefree way and slowly revealing the greater emotionally disturbed nature as the story continues. He's actually quite good in doing this in a very nuanced way in just portraying this growth in depression in the man that only seems to worsen over time, showing this lack of comfort in almost everything as he quietly falls apart as a man.)

Trinca - 4(Although her purpose within the story ended up being smaller than I expected I rather liked her portrayal of the character's mental state. In that she showed that she was mentally unwell though kept this as a underlying constant within her portrayal, but built on top of that whatever she was going through and who she was. She was particularly effective in creating two distinct yet very genuine relationships between the brothers both intimate in their own ways that alluded to who each were even beyond their interactions with her.)

Louis Morgan said...

Anonymous:

McLaglen:

1. The Trial - The Informer
2. Begging for Forgiveness - The Informer
3. Wedding Reception - The Quiet Man
4. Finding the bounty poster - The Informer
5. The Fight - The Quiet Man
6. Dinner with the Wanted Man - The Informer
7. Giving up - The Lost Patrol
8. Bidding - The Quiet Man
9. Fish and Chips - The Informer
10. Bar confrontation - The Quiet Man

Brennan:

1. The judge's justice - The Westerner
2. Just before the hanging - Along the Great Divide
3. Trying to help - Bad Day At Black Rock
4. Meeting Lillie - The Westerner
5. The Colonel's Views - Meet John Doe
6. Unfriendly parting - The Westerner
7. Asking for the medal - Bad Day At Black Rock
8. The Racetrack - Kentucky
9. "He was hanging around here somewhere" - The Westerner
10. Explaining Barney's departure - Come and Get It

Cobb:

1. Confronting Terry - On the Waterfront
2. Coming up with a solution - On the Waterfront
3. Final breakdown - 12 Angry Men
4. Short money - On the Waterfront
5. Falling crate - On the Waterfront
6. Before the Fight - Golden Boy
7. The knife - 12 Angry Men
8. "It's For Me" - The Exorcist
9. Dozous's findings - The Song of Bernadette
10. Hearing - On the Waterfront

Omar:

Welles - 4(The performance that is not all about the singing. Welles is quite heartbreaking her performance as she brings such a palatable desire in her wish to find any acceptance as a singer, or even a presenter that her work makes sense of her strip scene. In that moment though she is incredibly moving though because she shows how intense her desperation is for approval, but during that scene reveals that loss of any joy in the act once she continues for a more than a moment.)

Anonymous:

Love Nashville, I've never seen the series.

Anonymous said...

You love Nashville, at some point can you post in the film thoughts section why you love it?

Anonymous said...

Louis: Your top 10 jeff goldblum and christopher walken acting moments

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Do you think a BAFTA win is incredibly likely for Christopher Nolan.

94dfk1 said...

Louis: Thoughts on the scene in Silence where Rodrigues and Ferreira finally reunite? I have it as my favorite scene of the movie and I've seen that scene plenty of times now. Oh and thoughts on Garfield in the scene where they find the amulet on Kichijiro, despite him not having a line of dialogue in said scene.

Silence might end up making it higher on my Best of 2016 list than I had previously thought haha.

94dfk1 said...

To whoever was talking about Never Let Me Go in a recent post:

I think you could also make the argument that Mulligan overshadows both Knightley AND Garfield, since I don't remember anything about Garfield from the movie apart from his breakdown towards the end of the film.

Robert MacFarlane said...

Louis: Have you seen Atomic Blonde yet?

Louis Morgan said...

Anonymous:

Sure.

Anonymous:

Goldblum:

1. "I'm Scared" - The Fly
2. Life Finds a way - Jurassic Park
3. Testing it himself - The Fly
4. Audition - Next Stop Greenwich Village
5. Looking for investors - The Big Chill
6. Arm Wrestling - The Fly
7. Chaos Theory - Jurassic Park
8. Running from the crowd - Invasion of the Body Snatchers
9. "Changing the world" - The Fly
10. Recruit ideas - The Right Stuff

Walken:

1. More bullets - The Deer Hunter
2. Seeing his wife - Seven Psychopaths
3. What's your name - The Deer Hunter
4. "Where you going Frank? Someplace Exotic?" - Catch Me if You Can
5. Door ringer - The Dead Zone
6. A Cravat - Seven Psychopaths
7. "You knew" - The Dead Zone
8. Final game - The Deer Hunter
9. "I'd never give up my son" - Catch Me If You Can
10. It was all grey - Seven Psychopaths

HM: Dancing Pimp from Pennies From Heaven, Watch Story from Pulp Fiction, and Driving at Night from Annie Hall.

Luke:

Back in the 80/90's I'd say he'd already have it in the bag, now, he's got a great chance, but there's still potential for something else to be a sweeper.

94dk1:

The reuniting is a brilliant scene that I think is particularly notable in the subversion of Neeson as the powerful mentor sort. Instead we see this broken man struggling to fulfill his duties in the eyes of his tormentor, and there is such a brutality in this represented so well in Garfield's portrayal of Rodrigues's inability to really even look at him. I love the scene further though in it does challenge their mission through Ferreira's words. Of course this intense drama between the old teacher and student is undercut, in a great way, by the interpreter still basically trolling Rodrigues the whole time.

Garfield's great there as he is in every single scene he's in the film though as he subtly alludes to who Rodrigues still is, even though he presents forward just apparently being indifferent in the eyes of his captors.

Louis Morgan said...

Robert:

Not yet.