Monday, March 17, 2008


"Venus" (Roger Michell, 2006) Peter O'Toole, in an interview in the special features section of the "Venus" DVD sums it up as a story between "a dirty old man and a slutty young woman." Exactly, and if it had been sold like that it would have made much more money at the box-office. As it is, the film has to stand on its own merits, which are considerable. Hanif Kureishi's script is literate but low-down, full of humanity in all its frailties, both young and old, well-played by a stellar cast. And that's where the elements of specialness occur:

1) O'Toole--he plays an elderly thespian who, these days, "specializies in corpses," who has lived an impulsive romantic life, and in the winter of his discontent, still does. O'Toole makes the most of the words, but, more than any other actor, knows what to do between the lines. O'Toole is frail, but not THIS frail, and his tremulousness is a stunning act of craft over pride. He's not alone.

2) Playing the ex-wife he abandoned with three kids ("under six," she reminds him) is Vanessa Redgrave, the greatest actress extant, who does the part sans make-up, unglamourously and brilliantly. To see O'Toole and Redgrave play a scene together for the first time is a great event, and should be required viewing for all aspiring actors. These two actors, once coltish and prancing, now old and playing broken down is heart-breaking, but exciting (I'm starting to sound like bloody James Lipton!)

3) Jamie Alexander, in a seemingly artless way, matches them. That is not an insignificant thing. Picked, no doubt, because she resembles the young Vanessa Redgrave, one waits for the scene where the two meet. the viewer is not disappointed.

4) A scene where O'Toole, humiliated, goes for a walk and finds himself at a small, humble proscenium--the benches covered and strewn with leaves and garbage, as the soundtrack becomes awash with O'Toole's voice from past performances of different eras and different fidelities that's as fine as any piece of film I've ever seen

5) A waitess at the old actor's favorite eating hole sees a picture of the young actor in the paper. "Gawd, he was GO-geous, wasn't he?" Someone should make another starrer for O'Toole and call it "Give The Man The Friggin' Oscar He So Richly Deserves, Already" and be done with it.

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