Monday, August 20, 2007


Ever since I first saw him in a British TV movie about Quentin Crisp (one of the first, or at least most notorious gay Englishman to totally "come out”) called something like THE NAKED CIVIL SERVANT, and then in one of my all time favorite movies about the Irish, THE FIELD, let alone as THE ELEPHANT MAN, John Hurt has been one of the film actors I admire most.

Just to see the three entirely different characters he plays in the films mentioned above is enough to mark him as extraordinary. And he keeps going.

I was reminded of that when my friend “K” (from the jimsonweed blog) and more recently Doug Lang (douglangsdcpoetryblog) recommended the Australian “Western” THE PROPOSITION. Hurt has a secondary role in the flick, and totally kicks ass in it as an aging, Irish-hating Brit bounty hunter in the outback.

His performance is mesmerizing. He completely rivets your attention, or at least he did mine, every second he was on screen—this little mousey looking guy with the high raspy voice uses his size and physical qualities to invest the weaselyness of his character with a disarming kind of reverse charm that totally works.

You can Google him for his other credits, but the films mentioned here, especially if seen back to back over a period of successive days, will convince anyone, I think, of John Hurt’s prowess as a screen actor.

And THE PROPOSITION is worth seeing for itself, as well. If you can surrender to the slow rhythm of the film, as well as its stark style, you will be rewarded. And like I said, it’s worth it just for Hurt’s small role in it. (Guy Pearce, Ray Whitstone, Danny Huston and Emily Watson are no slouches in it either.)


AlamedaTom said...

Dang Lal. I just realized that I left my John Hurt comment on the wrong post -- see the Summer of Love now appearing before this post. Duh.

~ T.

Anonymous said...

Lal--Thanks for the tribute to John Hurt, one of my favorite actors too. So I'd add his roles in "Crime and Punishment" and "1984" to your list of great performances, and I'd give special nod to his portrayal of the slimily ambitious Richard Rich in "A Man For All Seasons." Bob Berner

John L said...

He made an absolutely evil Caligula in PBS's "I Claudius"

douglang said...

I agree also, with all that's been said. John Hurt has enlivened many a film just by his mere presence, but also with his perfect choices as an actor. The Proposition didn't need any enlivening, but Hurt certainly did take over when he was on the screen.

During the early 1960's in the UK, young film lovers like myself were always on the lookout for young British actors who would somehow become our versions of the post-Garfield-Brando-Clift=Dean ethos. Alan Bates started out as a promising candidate, and, of course, Albert Finney was amazing, esp. in Saturday Night and Sunday Morning. Then, in 1962, there was a film called The Wild and the Willing, with several young actors. The only known one was Virginia Maskell, an excellent actress who would commit suicide in her early thirties after suffering post-partum depression and a nervous breakdown. She was in the lead, supported by Ian MacShane (his debut) and John Hurt. They were all terrific, as I recall, and I've always enjoyed the work of both both Hurt and MacShane as the years have gone by. I didn't get to see Love and Death on Long Island, in which he was reported to have been really outstanding. One film I watched on DVD recently was Heaven's Gate, a problematical but undeservedly despised movie, in which Hurt was, once again, awesome.

Lally said...

Yeah I love both McShane and Hurt. I worked with McShane on DEADWOOD, and I not only dug his acting, but he kept calling me "kid" which, since I was already in my sixties, put a smile in my heart.

Anonymous said...

you forgot the genious of Nick Cave who wrote and obviously selected Mr Hurt based on his sheer brilliance