Peter O’Toole (1932-2013)

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The “last of the hard-drinking hellraisers” is dead, as was written December 14 by The Telegraph writer Robbie Collin.  Richard Burton, Richard Harris, Oliver Reed and others defined a generation of British actors hailing from Wales, Ireland, Scotland and England with their mix of imposing acting dexterity and their hell-raising personal lives.  Besides Richard Harris—perhaps—the most significant of these British hell-raisers was Peter O’Toole.  His significance was not born merely of his controversial life off the stage and away from the screen, but because he, above all others, was the greatest on that stage, and on that screen.  No actor in history has matched his volatility as a character actor, nor have they ever been able to meet him in his potent monologues.  There was something about his diction, a perfect blend of Irishman and Shakespearean reciter, that complimented his intensity of gaze, his angular expressions, and his physical simplicity.  His roles were a true masks of self, yet, somehow, reflections of that bombastic and flamboyant personality were found in each one of those roles.  For O’Toole, his own self was an integral part of every character he portrayed.  Perhaps this is best shown in own appraisal of his performance in Lord Jim—a role many considered a failure: “I was so wrong for the picture,” he said. “When I play reflective types, I tend to reflect myself right off the screen.” Continue reading

The Conversation (1974)

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Coppola’s most celebrated films are the first two Godfather movies.  The first came out in 1972, and the second came out at the end of 1974.  In between them, there was The Conversation.  The Conversation has lost much of his reputation and prestige over the last two generations or so, and that is a great misfortune for such a quality film, which played quality role in Coppola’s complete compendium.  The reason for this importance is simple: it is Coppola’s most personal, introverted film, in other words, it his most revealing auteur picture.  Understanding the context of auteurism improves the overall viewing experience of The Conversation. Continue reading