08
Jul
09

“a thoroughly insecure investment”

james-mason

i’ve gained respect for him over the years, or more respect, i should say — his wry, distanced glare was as transfixing as it was offputting, and who could forget him in lolita or north by northwest or journey to the center of the earth, for that matter. inexplicably i have yet to see odd man out, the role lauded in christopher sandford’s bright lights film journal piece, which i thought was delightful

He has a quiet and emphatic presence here, made all the more compelling by Peter Sellers’ characteristically over-the-top turn as Quilty: it’s like watching Calvin Coolidge interact with Jim Carrey, if such a billing could ever be brought off. I know at least one elderly Englishwoman of irreproachable probity who would literally sag at the knees at the sound of Mason’s voice, that rich, full-bodied instrument that always gave one the impression that he took it out and let it marinate in a cask of port in between films. Pulling off this kind of eye-of-the-storm performance isn’t as easy as it sounds. The obvious trap would be to make Mason’s character in Lolita a sort of winking, in-on-the-joke letch like Michael Caine’s Alfie. Instead, we get someone who’s as much a victim as, in her own way, the 12-year-old jailbait is. You feel for him as much as you do for her: more so, quite possibly, toward the end. The scenes between Mason and Sue Lyon, 37 years his junior, are warm and skillful — offhand, I can’t think of another actor, not excluding Jeremy Irons in the remake, who could have pulled it off.

and if you get a chance to see a touch of larceny, do so.

never knew he was a counscientious objector in WWII.

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1 Response to ““a thoroughly insecure investment””


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