Actors with flesh and blood make the story rise
Review of Another Day in Paradiseá(1998) movie, by Stefan Stenudd
James Woods repeatedly impresses me by participating in movies, which seem destined to devastate a movie star's career. He has a presence, a nerve, a rudeness free of compromises, making it impossible to separate the actor from the character - and that's exactly what naked acting is about.
The extremely gifted Melanie Griffith is doing the same, to at least the same degree. She has a nicer role to play in the movie, which is more difficult for an actor, and usually more boring, too. But she fills her character with so much, I feel like I've known her all my life. She can say her lines just right - and in between, her face, her eyes, say much more.
With his clothes on or off, Vincent Kartheiser has the same acting quality about him, although not as highly developed as with his seniors. Some scenes call for him to act out very basic emotions, and do it like a volcano. That's not easy, if doing it with more than heavy breathing and jumping about. He manages surprisingly well, even in a traumatic scene near the end of the movie, where he seems to be left to improvise, although there is so much turmoil inside his character, firm direction is really the only way out.
The director Larry Clark reassures us that he aims to stay in the borderland to what's taboo - maybe even cross it. I am glad. That's where art needs to be. Needs to.
Here, he sometimes uses a hand camera technique in half-chaotic shots, reminding of the Danish credo of film making called Dogma. It doesn't work that well here, though, because he has not stuck to it. The few scenes of Dogma style shooting, become little more than confusing.
On the other hand, he has told this story with compassion, with a commitment to the characters portrayed and a genuine care for their fate. In that way, he has also done his job naked.
He should be praised also, for daring to end the movie the way he did. I will not spoil it here, but I found the ending the only possible one - rising high above what conventional films of this kind would come up with.
10 January 2003
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I'm a Swedish author of fiction and non-fiction books in both Swedish and English. I'm also an artist, an historian of ideas and a 7 dan Aikikai Shihan aikido instructor. Click the header to read my full bio.