No. 118 (essentialsaltes) wrote,
No. 118

out of place/out of time in film & Kiernan's Threshold

Maybe some of you film/acting types can help me out with something I've been pondering. In historical films, some actors/characters just seem to melt into the history, while others stick out like extremely sore thumbs. In some cases, no doubt it's just the difference between good acting and bad acting, say if we look at some of the most egregious examples that come to mind: Elizabeth Berridge as Frau Mozart in Amadeus, or Theodore Logan Esquire as Jonathan Harker in FFC's BS's Dracula.
Or is it a matter of accent? I'd hate to think I'm so shallow that I think, "Hey... that guy doesn't have a British accent! He can't possibly be a Roman emperor!" But I think it's more complicated than that. What brings this to mind a recent viewing of Ridley Scott's first feature film, the Duellists, set in the Napoleonic Era. Surrounded by a host of English actors, Keith Carradine and Harvey Keitel play the titular duellists. Apart from a few aggressively Fronch grunts, Keitel sounds basically American to me. Rather, he sounds like Harvey Keitel. Nevertheless, despite the hint of Brooklyn, I bought him as an early 19th century Frenchmen. Carradine sounds equally American, but somehow I just didn't buy him as belonging to the time and place. Is it maybe (I hypothesize) that Carradine is too Californian, and I place him as a fellow native and contemporary? Is that part of Keanu's problem as well?
So, peanut gallery, what do actors use to alter their chronology? Does it come down to acting coaches, dialogue coaches, or a more indefinable magic acting skill? If those questions are too big, who are some other sore thumbs that give you the pip?

I finished Caitlín Kiernan's Threshold. I had heard it praised for its 'Lovecraftian' tendencies. I'm starting to come around to the opinion that that poor abused adjective has almost ceased to be useful. It is often applied to slavish name-dropping pastiche, or to anything featuring tentacles. It is also applied to fiction that relates to some of HPL's greater themes, or cosmicism. Fortunately, Threshold is closer to the latter kind of Lovecraftian, because the former is almost invariably crap.
Happily, Threshold is not crap. I liked the set-up, and the mystery, and the build-up of fear. But somewhere along the way, as things got set in motion, I felt the story (and my attention) wandering. Nonetheless, I enjoyed it, and elements of the resolution redeemed some of that wandering.
I had two particular annoyances that don't affect the story much, but I am compelled to share. Kiernan experiments with coinages by smooshing adjectives together -- "skinnytall" and "icywet" appear in the first sentence -- and while some may consider this edgynovel, I found it irritatingsilly, particularly when obtrusivefrequent. And then there is math FAIL. Kiernan apparently confuses the fact that a regular heptagon cannot be constructed (i.e. with straightedge and compass) with the idea that a regular heptagon cannot exist in a sane and rational world. [Curiously, the regular 17-gon can be constructed, as Gauss proved, showing up all the Greek geometers while still in his teens.]
Tags: book, film, lovecraft, math

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