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Tag Archives: Willem Dafoe
Sitting down to talk with Willem Dafoe about “John Carter,” the familiar face is right there — the long planes, the angular cheekbones, the winter pallor. But in Andrew Stanton’s “John Carter,” Dafoe is heard, and not seen — playing the alien Thark named Tars Tarkas, all nine feet of height and four arms, all created through performance capture. We spoke with Dafoe in Arizona about playing the alien, and which classic adventure “John Carter” nods to with his role …
MSN Movies: Your character, Tars Tarkas, is one of the central characters in this story, this hundred-year-old fantasy epic … but it’s kind of you and not you. It’s a performance capture piece. Now you’ve done animation before, for Mr. Stanton, for Wes Anderson. What makes performance capture different?
Willem Dafoe: I don’t know. It’s the first time I did it. In this case we’re performing the scenes. So you do the scenes, we film them, and then of course they’re changed and rendered and sweetened afterwards. But the nice thing about Andrew is he really believes the animators have to work from a base. The scene has to be realized in the shooting. In a funny way, even though I’ve got all these kinds of attachments and tools and technical obligations, the way I approach the scenes is pretty straightforward. I mean, as I would normally.
“”Antichrist” came next (a poor choice of words, considering its second most graphic image), and it’s true that the film gave audiences plenty to talk about, from the explicit sex to the graphic violence to the chocolate-and-peanut-butter combo of the two von Trier crafts. Opening with a black-and-white, slow-motion sequence in which Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg make love while their young son inches closer and closer to an open, upper-story window, you think from the outset, “This can’t possibly be leading anywhere good.” And it doesn’t. The better question is if it goes anywhere at all. As Dafoe and Gainsbourg retreat to the wilderness to lick their wounds (and start to love the taste of them), we briefly get the von Trier riff on the classic “cabin in the woods” horror tale, before events turn into an extended sequence of violence, brutality and self-mutilation on a truly grim scale. The craft here is majestically present in every frame; the need for that level of craft is miserably absent.
So, yes, von Trier’s pushing a lot of buttons here (the contrast between civilization and nature, the struggle between Dafoe’s so-rational-it’s-mad therapy-speak and Gainsbourg’s so-insane-it-makes-sense grief), but you don’t feel like he’s pushing them in any kind of sequence toward an intended aim, just smacking every hot button in sight. Sex? Check! Violence? Check! Witchy-woman-wiccan craziness? Check! A talking, disemboweled fox that growls, “Chaos reigns,” as we slump into madness? Check!
The film’s gorgeously shot (by “Slumdog Millionaire” Oscar winner Anthony Dod Mantle), but any empathy it crafts in its first half is evaporated by the barrage of baroque excesses in the second. Von Trier’s films recently have been at just enough of an emotional remove that they feel like a variation on the old “I’m not touching you!” grade-school annoyance (although, really, it’s more like, “I’m not touching your bourgeois sensibilities!”), and “Antichrist” is more of the same. Serious cineastes will take up “Antichrist” like a crooked cross to hold aloft — This kind of rule-breaking, this kind of risk-taking, is what Cannes is for! — but to me, von Trier’s going over the top with such zest doesn’t make up for the feeling he wasn’t aiming for an actual target in the first place. The only difference between “Antichrist” and less high-minded “torture porn” cheapies is that, in “Antichrist,” nobody gets off. One critic walked out of “Antichrist” vibrating, saying, “Palme d’Or, baby!,” suggesting von Trier’s film was a natural for the fest’s highest honor. If that happens, I’m going to come home, pick out a favorite contestant on “Survivor” to root for, start watching NASCAR and reading nothing but Dan Brown books, because that will be a clear sign that, in the words of Christian Bale, high art and I are done, professionally.”
– from the second part of my MSN MOVIES Cannes Diary