i recently watched this documentary, french beauty, on the sundance channel about the long line of french ingenues since the nouvelle vague because, well frankly, i am a pretty big sucker for the gorgeous ladies of the continent and will gladly give up time to radiate in their impressive glow. while this documentary supplies little else other than exactly that, there was one thought presented in the film that has stuck with me. unlikely beauty jeanne moreau, when questioned about her unique look, talks about this idea that film acting is nothing more than a relationship to the camera. beauty, talent, emotive instinct all take a back seat to presence, a vibe between the actor and the camera and to a greater extension, the audience which creates sex symbols and award winners alike from the unlikeliest of places. she went on to talk of many beautiful girls whose beauty did not translate to the screen, as well as many talented theater performers whose talent also failed to translate in a cinematic way. hinting at the unattainability of this aura through the learning process, finally, she bluntly posited, "you either have it, or you don't."
and the weird thing is, when she said it, all i could think about was jason statham.
now, let's just go ahead and address the rather large elephant in the room here and say for one that jason statham is not what is typically known as a good actor. a "good actor" needs the ability to convey a range of emotions. jason statham doesn't really do...emotions, per se. the only thing jason statham is interested in doing is kicking ass and delivering sly one liners and looking cool while doing it. mission accomplished brother. he doesn't need to cry when his buddy gets killed, he doesn't need to flip out in an overly verbose manner when his chick gets kidnapped...jason statham doesn't roll like that.
but don't be fooled, viewer, into thinking that the fire is not there. because jason statham doesn't do semantics. he's not into emotional hystrionics, but that doesn't mean he is devoid of emotion. no, actually far from it. jason statham is one of those guys that swallows bitter pills, then he swallows another one. and another. and another. until he can't swallow any more, and the fuel that sustains and enlarges his inner fire explodes in a fit of rage and he turns into the ultimate johnny rebel badass.
and it is then that you understand that it has been there all along. perceptive statham-ites will note the diamond hard glare and its barometric qualities as it charts subtle shifts further and further down the wormhole. it is there that connects statham to the old time badass performances like robert mitchum in out of the past or glenn ford in the big heat. noir heroes, rugged men caught in a peril so great that they will scratch and claw and fight everything to get out, yet not let you see them break a sweat while doing it. it's the slow burn, the fact that the rather stoic, almost flippant, nature of our hero allows us to see the ignition of the long fuse that will eventually lead to fireworks.
jason statham is so good that he lets us see the process, the methodology of his acting style even as he is performing it. it is the fact that he makes this simmering cauldron seem so effortless, so droll, that leads people to dismiss him as a major acting talent, which he is.