Franco, Portman and Douglas Put to Test in Silent Film Project
By John Mitchell Posted Dec 8th 2010 04:36PM
The New York Times Magazine always goes all out for its year-end Hollywood Issue, but the magazine has outdone itself this year, producing a gorgeous video spectacle, entitled 'Fourteen Actors Acting: A Video Gallery of Classic Screen Types,' to accompany its annual portfolio of the year's best actors and actresses.
As directed by Solve Sundsbo, who also shot the accompanying black-and-white portraits for the magazine's "The Scene Makers: Actors Who Defined Cinema in 2010" feature, the actors -- Javier Bardem, James Franco, Natalie Portman, Jesse Eisenberg, Chloe Moretz, Matt Damon, Michael Douglas, Jennifer Lawrence, Noomi Repace, Vincent Cassel, Anthony Mackie, Robert Duvall, Lesley Manville and Tilda Swinton -- attempt to, according to the Times, "portray not only the art, but also the joy and vigor of performance."
For the project, each performer was given approximately one minute to portray through movement and expression -- but without words -- varied cinematic archetypes. The videos were then set to music composed by Owen Pallett and performed by the Czech Symphony Strings.
"Music can steer what people see in a picture," Kathy Ryan, the NYT Magazine's photo editor, told Lens, the Times' photography blog. "It can drastically re-chart the direction the picture was taking the person. A lively scene can turn menacing in just a few beats. And a visually suspenseful image can be made comical by just one chord."
"You're going from making iconic images to creating narratives," Sundsbo, a high fashion photographer who has shot campaigns for Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent and Dolce & Gabbana, told Lens. "But there is less of a narrative capacity in 60 seconds, so you need to create something like a poem that can lead your imagination."
While each clip is awe-inspiring in its stark beauty, of particular note are the transformations of Portman into a Veronica Lake-like screen siren and 13-year-old Moretz, her blonde locks covered by a black wig, into a tortured, angry teen and the participation of a gaunt Douglas, who sits contemplatively before glancing at the camera.
The clip is Douglas' first creative endeavor in front of a camera since completing treatment for throat cancer in October.
While a majority of the clips are marked by powerful raw emotion -- Swinton's "agonized Joan of Arc" chief among them -- there are a few moments of levity. Franco spends his clip enraptured with himself in what the Times deemed an act of "suave self-seduction," while a seemingly frustrated Damon yells profanely at the camera before walking away and Cassel -- darkly seductive as the company director in 'Black Swan' -- dances enthusiastically in front of a series of mirrors.
The clips really have to be seen to be believed. To view them, visit the New York Times Magazine.
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