Saturday, November 13, 2010

Jessica Lange in Music Box

Jessica Lange received her fifth Oscar nomination for playing Ann Talbot, a woman defending her father accused of war crimes in the movie of Costa-Gavras, Music Box. I can imagine that Lange was most likely forth (or maybe third) in the voting proccess. I don't know if it was that way, but it's so great to speculate. Anyway, Lange was really on the top of her game in the eighties and was indeed very acclaimed.

Music Box is not the best movie ever. Being Hungarian, I might be a bit more sensitive about it. It's a bit too black-and-white and even offensive sometimes as Hungarians there are either nazis or communists. Thanks. The acting is quite good actually, but nothing brilliant really. Armin Mueller-Stahl is quite good as the father though I think he sometimes goes too over-the-top. I might be biased but I loved Hungary's probably greatest living actress, Mari Törőcsik the most in her very small role as Magda Zoldan. I could listen to her voice forever and let me tell you that had she got a better role, (with all respect to Jessica Lange), she would have blew Jessica Lange away in a minute as she's 100 times more talented.

Jessica Lange plays Ann, a woman desperately trying to defend her father's reputation and also his citizenship. Lange does a great job at developing the character of Ann. First she's in total denial, and she so stubbornly believes her father, that the truth hit her really hard and causes a minor breakdown for her. She carefully follows Ann on her journey and shows the faces of this woman.

Lange's acting here is surprisingly subtle: she shows the emotions of Ann with little nervous ticks, which are impressive for a while, but after all you get used to it and then it becomes nothing special. The subtelty also applies for her speeches in the courtroom scenes, where she's firm and cold, free of emotions. We don't get obvious courtroom Oscar clips and huge monologues and that's probably what I like the most. It's quite realistic and natural.

Her reactions to the accusations seem quite natural, but sometimes her acting seems to be too undercooked and it lacks a very strong and effective screen presence. I love subtle performances, but they should also be substantial in my opinion, and Lange did not satisfy me that much.

Ann's anger is excellently shown by Lange, however. She really caught the Hungarian stubbornness and character. I never had a doubt for a moment that she wasn't of Hungarian heritage. I know that this sounds a bit awkward, but actually that's the way things are. Ann is a very strong female character, which is very much appreciated and I think that this is the aspect of her performance, which most people admire. Ann sticks to her beliefs and she only believes something when there's a proof.

Probably the best parts of her performance take place in Budapest, when she takes a walk on the river bank and watches the Danube. I really loved the quiet emotional weight of that short sequence. You could really feel the guilt inside her, (BTW, those who saw the movie, how did you like the pictures of Budapest?) and this slow walk becomes some kind of an atonement for the sins in WWII. There's a whole scene where she should speak Hungarian and Lange was able to speak this very complicated language very well (it requires very much effort to learn it as well as she did).

There comes another memorable moment when she opens the music box and the truth becomes clear to her. Her scream and tears are so real, and you can see how shocking it was to Ann to find out that the person she loved all her life was lying to her all the time. After that, the confrontation scene between her and Armin Mueller-Stahl is also excellent and Lange's acting is very strong there.

So to sum up, this is a great performance, which is extremely subtle, but there is some silent strength in it. It could have been more emotional as this way it's a bit underplayed, but I cannot argue that Lange was able to show the emotions and the guilt of this confused character, who wants nothing, but the truth. Good job.

So what do you think? It's time for your last predictions! :)


Sage Slowdive said...

I kinda felt the same way, but I thought she was good enough for a higher grade.

Louis Morgan said...

I'll predict

1. Pfeiffer
2. Tandy
3. Collins
4. Lange
5. Adjani