Ladies and Gentlemen, after one day resting my posterior and drinking cheap beer on vacation, I return to my blog to talk about the actor that occupies the nineteenth position on my list of actors that most inspire and influence me. As you know I suggest their most important role (Greatest Performance), their most interesting performance ([Honourable Mention] based upon a different take upon their actoriness[ha!] that their best performance did not offer ) and finally their worst performance (which is self evident).
I know in my best ‘I ... am ...... talking.... to... a three.... year....old...” voice, check out number nineteen.
19- John Malkovich
Greatest Performance- Vicomte de Valmont (Dangerous Liaisons)
Honourable Mention - Lennie (Of Mice and Men)
Worst Performance- Athos (The Man in the Iron Mask)
I am going to type about something that I don’t believe is often associated with the Malkovich. I believe he is one of the most masculine actors currently working in film. Ok, I can now hear your cries, even where I am, of astonishment that I would suggest the most flamboyant and more commonly called ‘effeminate’ actor in film today is also the most masculine. John is definitely confident. The guys cannot be faulted for the confidence he exudes in every role he ever plays (sometimes too much). Yet with his confidence he also exudes vulnerability when needed. John is best when he is playing characters that have a need to be pruned and preened to achieve their manliness.
Historically the ‘real man’ has drifted back and forth from the feminine to the masculine. In our current historical period, twe mark masculinity by how close they are to the masculine ideal being a Lumberjack, or blue collar heroes. I always aspired to the preened beautiful witty man, hence the the Fop of the title. John performs this character the best. He is always in command of his appearance, while maintaining the window into the soul under the mask.
What I learned most from him is need for vulnerability in confidence. He discusses this in the commentary on the Dangerous Liaisons:
“I wouldn't describe myself as lacking in confidence, but I would just say that - the ghosts you chase you never catch.”
Confidence and arrogance is the mark of the truly vulnerable and this is the essence of manhood.
In my work on stage I have played many excessively strait men. Some so ruled by their lower brain that they go to excess and become dangerous. These men often regard women as meat. When I play these men I never play them as disgusting monsters that are wild, I play these predators as self indulgent and beautiful. They believe these women are an accessory, a thing of beauty, to be worn but not respected. This is a perspective on the predator I learned from John Malkovich. (With all the recent abuses against women I wish stress that this not an opinion I hold in real life. This is just perspective on how to deal with characters of this type on stage.) John’s adept abilities to deal with libido is best shown in in his best performance.
John Malkovich’s best performance has got to be the Vicomte de Valmont in that dastardly sexual battle royale Dangerous Liasons. In this fantastic period piece, John plays the vulnerably confident Vicomte that is both dastardly offensive and sympathetically adorable. I think in the scale of masculinity, edge and villainy, this character is in the top five all time. John in this film maintains a picture perfect balance between preened beauty and raw vulnerability. It is hard to pick one scene that encapsulates how raw and terrifying his performance is in this film so I thought I would share the scene where is armor is golden at the top and dissolves into nothing at the end. (Also clock Glenn Close, she’ll be on another list.)
After taking a look at the raw power of that last character you’d be surprised to see John playing a simple character with a lot of heart. Lennie in Of Mice and Men is a tough role, for how do you play a character that is so vulnerable but is cursed with a dark underture in what ever he loves, he loves to much? It is almost the exact opposite of the Vicomte, vulnerable with an underlying confidence. Every time I see this film I am left wordless by the fact that I feel so sorry fro Lennie when he finds that his love kills. I know I should feel terrible for the poor women who falls victim to Lennie’s love, yet your heart really reaches out to character. Unsettling to say the least.
John’s vulnerable confidence sometimes gets the better of him as seen in his extremely poor performance in a terrible film. This movie is pretty hard to watch, because of the scene munching that seems to be in every minute of the film from every actor but John’s Athos is probably the worst of it. I cracked earlier in this post that John sometimes delivers every line as if he were talking to a three year old. This film is the perfect example. John’s confidence is so strong in this film that he feels anachronistic. In every scene it feels like he is in a different film. Take a look at
You Have the Chance to be a King Scene from The Man in the Iron Mask Movie (1998) | MOVIECLIPS. Sorry I could not find a Youtube Clip, as it seems people don't like this film.