I know a lot will be said about Peter Falk, who passed away today in Los Angeles. I probably wouldn’t have said anything were it not for the fact that, when I saw the news, I flashed back to several early films by John Cassavetes.
A gutsy experimenter and improviser like Cassavetes was bound to leave an uneven body of work, but one thing he did do was create settings in which extraordinary actors could perfect their craft and do some of their best work.
Falk did mesmerizing work as part of the Cassavetes Rep. Company, along with Gena Rowlands, John Marley, Seymour Cassel, and Val Avery. And if a film like “Husbands,” with Falk’s extraordinary turn as Archie Black, never quite came together into a coherent whole, it was definitely both a daring experiment and a master class with Falk and several remarkable film actors.
Dim the lights.
If you have seen There Will Be Blood, there is no way you could have forgotten Paul Dano’s brilliant performance as Eli Sunday. This was creepiness as high art. Whether his acting went over the top is certainly a fair question, yet this very well have been a film in which his lapse into hyper-lunacy was an absolutely integral part of the narrative.
A performance this unusual and idiosyncratic by a newcomer has had me wondering: Does he have range? Can he do “super-subtle?” Or even regular old subtle? What else does he have?
Watch Paul. If he can also be playful and versatile, and if he takes his craft seriously, he very well might contend for a spot in the male pantheon with Penn and Depp.
By all means, if you somehow missed There Will Be Blood, see it. Daniel Day-Lewis is also remarkable, and it was great to see him in a role that needed every bit of his bombast.
We lost one of the great character actors this week.
Val Avery did menace and sleaze as well as anyone, and was a memorable presence in many of the films of John Cassavetes.