Film Actors Discuss Their Craft
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The most underappreciated element of film as an art form (at least in academic film criticism) may well be acting; this collection, by four scholars (three at the University of Michigan, one at the University of Southern California), attempts to redress that imbalance by drawing on the words of those who practice the craft. According to Ronald Gottesman, this volume has been 25 years in the making, no doubt because so few actors of earlier generations have been inclined to intellectualize their profession. Indeed, it may well be that actors are by temperament and inclination not the best people to hold forth on how they do what they do. Certainly, a great deal in this volume suggests as much. The book consists of 42 pieces spanning nearly all of film history, from a reminiscence of acting in a 1912 silent by obscure British actor Charles Graham, to lengthy dialogues with the likes of Jack Nicholson and Robert DeNiro. These contributions are linked together, sometimes rather awkwardly, by Leigh Woods, who attempts to supply historical context for them. Some themes are sounded repeatedly: the difference between stage and screen; the difficulties inherent in working in bits and pieces, as one does in film; the relationship between personality and persona; keeping a perspective on craft after stardom rears its head. Many of the entries contain nuggets of interesting observation. Laurence Olivier offers an intriguing note on how film acting taught him to use his eyes more effectively onstage. Hume Cronyn contributes a useful checklist for building a part. Jack Lemmon compares acting to undergoing psychoanalysis. But much of the volume is tedious, repetitive, or outdated. Acting is about commanding the attention of the audience. This book will lead readers— attention to stray.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-300-06983-9
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Yale Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 1998


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