Beyond the Sea (2004)

Keyser’s Desire

Like it or not, watching film is an accretive process: each film provides a context and more for the next.

One of those threads of continuity is the unfortunate fact that we see the same faces in many presumably different roles, as if there weren’t as many talented actors as there are roles. Well, maybe that’s not so bad in this era of “folded” acting. That’s where the actor conveys the character and also a message from the actor himself.

Some few do it well. But if the actor is not a smart person, their insights and even themselves are boring. That’s why projects like this are sought by all intelligent actors — and why it is important for us to see them. These are projects that grow out of what an actor really _wants_ to do, what he feels is basic to his craft. This is material we can take with us the next time we see him work.

A problem is that we just don’t care about these unimportant and uninteresting people. And it is something of an aimless film: I’m convinced that it is nearly impossible to both direct and act well. There’s just too much divergence of interest. But how Spacey has chosen to structure the thing shows how serious he is about this fashion of folded acting.

Darin exists in two bodies, that of Spacey and a mugging child (who keeps the original name). The person of Darin dies, but the person of the child remains in his body. That now dead Darin is producing a film biography of his life, and the film within the film is where we come in. The _that_ film features him and his wife as actors. How’s that for folding?

I’ve become a student of folded film and have developed a law that always holds. Ted’s Law holds that the level of abstraction between the real world and the film is precisely the same as that of the film within. This project tests that law because the layers of folding (like the similar George Clooney project: “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind“) are so many and so intermingled. But do pay attention to Spacey acting the character (in the layer anchored by Kate) that acts as Darin who plays the part in “Captain Newman.” See how each is more abstract, even corny than the last?

Spacey sings all the tunes, and there are a lot of them. He does well enough if you don’t know the originals. Darin was a folded singer: he could sing “Mack the Knife” and convey all the elements of the three penny original, and at the same time provide all sorts of extra annotations outside the body of the song. These were unexpected, energetic outbursts. He was the Buddy Rich, the Toshiro Mifune of night club singers. Yes, a step above Sinatra who could only color within the lines. Spacey cannot touch this energy.

Posted in 2004

Ted’s Evaluation — 2 of 3: Has some interesting elements.


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