Eh Joe

I had to copy something I wrote for an academic discussion I am having in a reading group devoted to film and theatre (because I always wished that I had gotten around to blogging about "Eh Joe"):

One aspect of cinematic grammar that I have always envied as a theatrical practitioner is access to shifts between close-ups, middle distance shots, and landscapes/panoramas/long distance views. A few years ago I saw a very interesting negotiation of the boundaries between film, television and theatre in Atom Egoyan's production of "Eh Joe," which Beckett wrote for the small screen. Egoyan balanced Michael Gambon's silent, live, embodied, theatrical performance of the only visible character with a (also live) projected close up of the protagonist's face on a scrim that lay between us (the audience) and Gambon. What struck me most forcibly was the incredible seduction of the close-up - even when I self-consciously tried to focus on Gambon-the-whole-man, unmediated-by-the-camera (which I had some strange impulse to consider a more "authentic" performance), I found my eyes irresistibly drawn back to the cinematic close-up. Finally I became convinced that Gambon was, in effect, giving two simultaneous performances: with his body he gave a theatrical, gestural performance appropriate to the scale of a midsize theatre, while with his face he gave a subdued, while infinitely nuanced, cinematic performance of micro-expression.

One Response so far.

  1. JW says:

    And you should also make sure that you see the now highly acclaimed "Frost/Nixon" in which the two eponymous characters are seated on stage doing their famous interviews, while the close-ups of their faces as they would be seen by the TV audience are projected (live) behind them. The two views convey such different impressions to the audience it's hard to know which to watch. It also tells us something about the "reality" of what we see on the small screen.

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