SARA MAYEUX is a student of 20th-century history and sometime writer who lives in Brooklyn.
The experience of watching a Quay Brothers film like Piano Tuner may be likened to dreaming, but it more closely approximates living in someone else’s dream. Like the character Felisberto (played by the wide-eyed Cesar Sarachu), you just have to get used to the confusion.
In Capote—last year’s filmic recreation of Truman Capote’s sojourn to Kansas to write what became In Cold Blood—the lisping diminutive man in fedora and furs wins over the skeptical middle Americans in khakis and crewcuts with the help of a childhood friend, the novelist Nelle Harper Lee. In Infamous, 2006’s recreation of Capote’s sojourn, Harper Lee comes along, but she isn’t much help.
In Shakespeare, devious plots take planning, but to win over the one you love a single scene will do—even if you don’t speak a word of her language (Henry V), or you’ve just had her husband murdered (Richard III). Plays can be schematic like that. Movies usually can’t. So it’s hard to make movies out of plays, especially Shakespeare. Criterion Collection’s new box set Olivier’s Shakespeare brings together the three films with which Laurence Olivier proved it could be done.
In the book of Hollywood how-to’s, prostheses and makeup are the standard solution for young actors playing a character into middle age. (Jake Gyllenhaal’s unfortunate mustache in Brokeback Mountain comes to mind.) In Mira Nair’s new film The Namesake, Kal Penn eschews the faux beer belly for a far more elegant, and remarkably effective, technique. He simply adjusts his posture.