The actor's gift: when words are unnecessary

We rented sex, lies, & videotape and watched it last night; Jeff for the first time, me for the second time. (See my commentary from when we rented it.)

As I suspected, I came away from the movie with a very different perspective than from the first time. The Graham character appeared less predatory and more helpless; the Ann character more petulant but more human, and Ann's husband far more of an ass than he did a few years ago.Surprisingly for me, this re-viewing gave me new respect for James Spader. The rest of his body of work really hasn't lived up to the promise shown in this movie; he's fabulous, absolutely fabulous, in his performance of Graham.

I popped the tape back in for a second (partial) viewing today to try to grasp what it was that made the performance as incredible as it was. It took the replaying of a particular scene to bring the totality of the performance home to me, though. It was something so simple and unremarked-upon that I didn't catch it the first time I viewed.

His character is outwardly despicable, strange, and very discomfiting. Sometimes even prickly. But there's a moment—a reaction—about 3/4 of the way through the movie that is incredibly understated, yet makes the audience understand that every bit of his outward demeanor is the emotional self-armoring of a very lonely and very troubled man.

For various reasons, when the character of Ann reaches out from behind to touch Graham's shoulder, he says nothing—but his face says everything. Earlier in the film it was stated that he had been alone for nearly a decade, but the expression of joy and pleasure (both emotional and sexual) as that decade ends itself is palpable. His expression

When words are unnecessary, and expression and gesture can imply it all, that's not happenstance, or luck. That's a natural gift, honed and trained into an art, and it's staggeringly beautiful to watch. I rewound the tape again just to watch the scene again.

To make an unlikable character into a sympathized-with character is impressive indeed. To do it with seemingly no effort is extraordinarily impressive.

Reviews indicate that the commentary track for the DVD is exceptional. Since none of the movie stores in town carry sl&v on DVD, I've added it to my Amazon wish list.

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