The problem of Siddig el Fadil

  • Sep. 6th, 2010 at 2:04 PM
my_daroga: Tatsuya from "Touch" (cartoon)
This weekend, [personal profile] lettered and I went to see Cairo Time. It's a film about an American woman, played by Patricia Clarkson, who travels to Cairo to meet her husband, who is held up in Gaza doing UN work. She's befriended by his old friend and colleague, played by Siddig El Fadil (aka Alexander Siddig), who now owns a coffee shop.

This isn't really a review, because there isn't much to review. What follows is an update of the orientalist fantasy: white woman goes East, learns that Things Are Different Here and Exotic Men Are Hot, and in the bargain we don't really get a lot of action. Which is too bad, because most of what I took away from this film (other than that this was the same old thing, only a little more PC) was that El Fadil is STILL HOT.

According to IMDB, he said about this film: "It was a real treasure, a treat, to find a character, a role, that wasn't intent on trying to blow up the White House or hijack an airplane." Which, having seen no trailers, made me interested in seeing the film. But there's really nothing new here, and the fact he's not a bad guy is about all you can say about the role. This is ridiculous.

Walking out of the theater, it occurred to me that aside from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine I have never seen el Fadil play a role in which he is not meant to stand in for an entire country. None of which, it must be said, are his own (the Sudan or, actually, England). Granted, the things I have seen him in portray him as intelligent/good/interesting/etc, and not a terrorist. But he's always meant to stand in for "Arabia"/"Syriana"/Egypt. He cannot simply play a man. (Perhaps the question about whether it's any coincidence that DS9 is the only place I've not seen this happen is mitigated by the fact I've not seen all of his movies.)

This is nothing new to you, of course, and in fact I'm using him now to stand in for any actor of quality who is relegated to parts like this, even when the portrayal is more or less positive. The only good part Art Malik ever got was as an English-educated Indian man who doesn't fit in in either world, and thereafter he was an Arab terrorist. But even that one good part was about his being Indian, though of course he's really Pakistani. Few non-white actors seem have made the leap, though I'd argue Ben Kingsley and Denzel Washington are the first who come to mind.

Given the Avatar: the Last Airbender and Earthsea debacles, among others, it should be obvious that if we can't even hire actors of the appropriate ethnicity to play explicitly non-white characters, we should not hope to get non-white actors, even good and/or hot ones, in the roles of everyday people and romantic leads and everything else. But it's a waste of resources, along with being morally reprehensible.

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Wait. What?

  • Aug. 24th, 2010 at 4:17 PM
my_daroga: Orson Welles (orson)
Charles Foster Kane's mom is also Endora?

I'm so confused.

This is up there with the Major Strasser/Gwynplaine/Cesare thing.

I need to make a list of actors being in unexpected places. Like how Shatner's adorable wife on For the People is Lucille Bluth. I know I have more, I just can't remember right now.

What are yours? I mean, what actors, divided by time or makeup or genre or whatever, totally surprised you when you realized they were the same person?

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my_daroga: Orson Welles (orson)
Film/Music: Leonard Cohen: Live at the Isle of Wight 1970

Last weekend, I had the opportunity to see this concert documentary at the Northwest Film Forum at an 11 pm show. Sitting in the dark theater, the 16mm footage close up on a rumpled Leonard Cohen, I realized two things: Leonard Cohen was hot, and more importantly, sitting there was the closest I'd ever get to seeing him in concert. Looking at the sea of 600,000 cold, wet, hungry people at 4 in the morning, it was probably a preferable experience. Plus I wasn't born yet.

Read more... )
DJ Paco
Image unrelated. I have a conquistador lamp, and you don't.


Books/Film: The Emperor and the Wolf: The Lives and Films of Akira Kurosawa and Toshiro Mifune by Stuart Galbraith IV.

As you probably know, I've been watching a lot of Kurosawa and Mifune lately. Kurosawa is still probably the most recognized Japanese director in the Western world, and Mifune his most recognized muse. Mifune's samurai characters are iconic, and despite the fact that they parted ways artistically in the 60s, they were closely associated in the popular mind until their deaths and, in fact, beyond. It makes sense, then, that the only English-language biography I could find about either of them was an enormous joint biography that I finally finished the other day.

Read more... )

Wait

  • Aug. 3rd, 2009 at 10:27 AM
my_daroga: James T. Kirk (shatner)
I know you know I find them both unbearably pretty, but I hadn't really thought about this.

is this too much of a stretch? )

Not that it matters, but just a little bit?
my_daroga: Orson Welles (orson)
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, ORSON WELLES!

As most of you know, I've been obsessed with Orson Welles for some months, now. Today, he would have been 94 years old. And while I doubt he'd have lived this long under most circumstances, it's unfortunate that he died at 70, still working fruitlessly in post-golden boy "decline," ignored by the industry who came out in droves to shower his memory as soon as they could not longer materially help. At least he died at his typewriter. But he also died before the critical tide turned fully in his favor--though maybe that's how these things work.

Even now, Welles maintains a strange position in film studies and biography. The sensationalists in us like to hold him up as a self-destructive contradiction, a selfish genius who never fulfilled his promise and "ate himself to death," a man who caused all his own difficulties--or, on the other side, was eternally the victim. Of course neither, I think, is true: Welles had his share of faults, but he wasn't treated very well by those he relied upon when he chose a field so dependent on money and cooperation as filmmaking. He made compromises, and they weren't Hollywood's, and maybe that was a mistake. We'll never know. What I do know is that I can't read most of the biographies about him when so many of them seem to have nothing nice to say--Simon Callow has a very thorough several-volume set, but I've never heard him be anything but coyly dismissive of Welles in interviews. I also know, through my google alert (set so as not to miss any new films uncovered, etc), that fully 1/3 of references to Welles on a daily basis are reposts of that Paul Masson commercial outtake where he's blotto and ridiculous. Which, yes, is funny. But it pains me to see it as his "legacy" for the internet crowd.

Welles is one of those artists whose work I enjoy more for knowing more about him. As an ouvre. Which is not to say that I sit around making explicit connections between them, because I don't think he worked that way. But I enjoy enjoying him as a person, as an actor/writer/director in total, and it makes even the minor stuff entertaining because I'm bringing his body of work to it. As one does with any figure in whom one's interest transcends the single work. Their imperfections become interesting, or meaningful, or perhaps just proof of their humanity.

This is one reason it's hard for me to post, in tribute, a clip, or mention my favorite Welles film. I don't know that I have one. I think I'm more interested in the canon, the combination, and the artistic flexibility/tenacity of the man than any one film.

I started out hoping I'd end up saying something, when really, I don't know that I have anything to say that's not been said better, elsewhere. Perhaps by me. But Happy Birthday, Mr. Welles. I'd have liked to have known you. But not dated you.

some quotes )

Why Julian Sands is Awesome

  • May. 1st, 2009 at 1:28 PM
my_daroga: Mucha's "Dance" (iconic)
This post is brought to you by the re-revelation (I knew this, then forgot it) that Anne Rice once wanted Julian Sands to play Lestat.

You can't know how much that delights me. Mostly because Julian Sands MAKES NO SENSE and this, to me, makes him perfect. It's not that I necessarily see him as Lestat. It's not so much that I care about Lestat. But Julian Sands? as Lestat?

WHAT COULD POSSIBLY BE BETTER?

I can't think of a single thing that would have contributed more to my worldly happiness than this. Just the fact it was a possibility, if even a narrow one, fills me with glee. (Let's ignore the fact she supposedly later vouched for Leonardo diCaprio.) I don't really have any explanation as to why this is, unless the following serves to make it clear:
possibly very minor spoilers )

Casting in my mind

  • Jan. 23rd, 2009 at 2:16 PM
my_daroga: Mucha's "Dance" (rochester)
I think I've found my Draco. I wasn't looking for one. And I think he's an older version of the writer-formerly-known-as-mistful's Draco, which is more or less irrelevant to anything. (ETA: Not that mistful's Draco is irrelevant--the pairing-him-up-with-a-face-that's-too-old-anyway sort of is.)

He's Alec Guinness in David Lean's Great Expectations.

Draco )

I don't actually "cast" fiction--my own or others'--very often. I'm not terribly visual, and I don't generally find a need to "know" what people look like. The verbal descriptions, the cipher, is enough. I don't picture the players in my mind's eye. But every once in awhile, when I'm not looking for them, I'll realize that someone fits the unspoken template residing in my head. Which is why Siddig el Fadil is now my Persian.

The Persian )

And oddly, Tilda Swinton is my Silver from Tanith's Lee's The Silver Metal Lover (with a little help from Photoshop):

S.I.L.V.E.R. )

It's happened with my own characters, too, such as the time I watched Whale Rider and realized Keisha Castle-Hughes was the main character of a story I'd spent months writing. At that age, anyway--not so much anymore.

So what about you? I'm sure other people do this, and many of you probably more often than I do. We all have trouble, sometimes, ridding our minds of actors' faces who have actually played the roles (does anyone see anyone other than Vivien Leigh when they read Gone With the Wind? Not that I mind--and maybe that's another post. See icon.). But what about the ones who suddenly seem to fit a character you love? I guess that's what dream casting is all about, but in the above instances I wasn't trying to find anyone who fit. I'm interested in those characters (yours or other peoples') who have suddenly attained a face for you, and who they are, and if that's changed anything for you. Have you ever cast anyone so strongly that, when the film gets made, you just can't accept whoever they chose? Has it affected how you see that character?

Oh yeah--photos welcome!

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