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ImageMy first memory of Howard Pinter was sitting next to Sandy Mandel in a London theater and watching her head bounce up and down on her long neck during the Birthday Party. It was the same head that struggled to stay erect in front of the Trevi Fountain and at the opera at the Baths of Caracalla. We were young, it was our first trip to Europe and we hadn’t gotten much rest. And Pinter was probably way too sophisticated for our backpacking sensibilities. A few years later, I was living in London in a flat with a guy who was great friends with the actress Vivian Merchant and was regaled with gruesome stories about her difficult marriage to Pinter. But I still wasn’t tackling his material. In fact, it took me a long time to appreciate his nuanced style and even then I had to get over the fact…

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Written by nancykoan

November 11, 2012 at 5:53 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Pinter by Sands by nancy cohen-koan

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ImageMy first memory of Howard Pinter was sitting next to Sandy Mandel in a London theater and watching her head bounce up and down on her long neck during the Birthday Party. It was the same head that struggled to stay erect in front of the Trevi Fountain and at the opera at the Baths of Caracalla. We were young, it was our first trip to Europe and we hadn’t gotten much rest. And Pinter was probably way too sophisticated for our backpacking sensibilities. A few years later, I was living in London in a flat with a guy who was great friends with the actress Vivian Merchant and was regaled with gruesome stories about her difficult marriage to Pinter. But I still wasn’t tackling his material. In fact, it took me a long time to appreciate his nuanced style and even then I had to get over the fact that  I read  he hated Americans  — for the government’s policies…unfair, considering  how Thatcher’s actions in Grenada, had little effect on my lifelong Anglophilia.

But a few years back I participated in a workshop at Cuny with Harry Burton that dealt with Pinter’s work with actors and my respect and admiration was deepened. And It was revived last night at a one man show at The Irish Rep called a Celebration of Harold Pinter, directed by John Malkovich and starring Julian Sands. Sands  is truly a romantic actor… I loved him in Impromptu and A Room With A View, and have assiduously avoided seeing him in things like Warshlock . My gut feeling is that his comedic skills have yet to be exploited, though in this show, his improvisatory moments are very funny as well as his vulnerability.

Clearly Sands loves Pinter’s poetry and does it proud. When he is Pinter, his voice lowers to a gruffy basso and brings the outspoken man right back to life. Celebration covers many aspects of Pinter’s career, personality, politics and his very committed relationship to author Lady Antonia Fraser.  Sands  is so tight with Pinter that he was asked to read at the funeral ceremony in 2008, after Pinter succumbed to cancer. It is this kind of intimacy, both with the man and the material,  that Mr. Sands brings to this show. Death is ever present in this show and Sands begins with a short poem that is equally cool and warm in its scope. Pinter emotionally takes no prisoners…his  bold, raw style wouldn’t support Broadway, but had its birth in a country where art has been traditionally more supported.  It is such a pleasure to have a better understanding on “the curse of the Pinter pauses” and beats in his writing… I would like a sequel…. Perhaps with even more silence to fully take in everything that he says.  Generously, Mr. Sands mentioned that Rufus Sewell will be playing Pinter in the West End next year.  Hopefully, Mr. Sands will carry on with this show as he has done since 2011.

Written by nancykoan

November 11, 2012 at 5:45 pm

SKYFALL

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As a writer who refuses to give too much away, I will only say that Skyfall should be seen in the same theater as I saw it tonite… a huge 42nd street screen, large enough to encompass aa barrage of action, stunts and scenery…enough to satisfy even the most cynical viewer. With Roger Deakins on camera, the visuals almost feel 3D; I found myself  ducking and tilting at the oncoming cars and cycles. The beginning credit art is sensational and dreamy, a nice counter point to the opening action scene. Daniel Craig is taut, and in better shape than any previous Bond. Javier Bardem has already proved his excellence in weird villainry in No Country For Old Men and does so again in this film, with the help of a blonde mop and piano teeth. A lot of the film is Judi Dench as M, a character that usually only gets a sidebar, but here is a real part of the central theme. Psychological issues are drawn – the abandoning mother, the orphan with a professional deathwish and the businesswoman who marries a poet. But mostly it’s fun… more corny than dry, though just enough humor to reduce the effect of the violence.  There are no swarthy evil guys but there is an understanding that evil is different now and that terrorism is cyber thanks to Ben Whishaw’s Q, though mostly guys end up shooting at each other.

As for tradition, 007 gets his martini, bu the  doesn’t criticize the barwoman for shaking not stirring. Is he softening? That ‘s what it seems like when he doesn’t pass his talent tests, but his real vulnerability only comes later with M.  Though Albert Finney is gorgeous with a big beard, he seemed to have left his Scottish brogue back in London…still it’s nice to be in the Highlands and find out that James Bond actually had a childhood. Adele sings her heart out in the new theme written with Paul Epworth and I still get a thrill when Monty Norman’s original tune peeks in and out through the film.

All in all, what Danny Boyle did for the Olympics, Sam Mendes has done for Bond. Long live Brittania!

Written by nancykoan

November 6, 2012 at 5:18 am