Welcome to Looking at the Floor!
Acting in cinema remains an exceptionally challenging thing to write about. The ways we are moved by an actor’s performance can seem almost impossible to describe. The little movements and changes in intonation are hard to write about without the use of superlatives and generalities. As I wrote in a recent piece on screen acting:
we imagine that the ridged hairs of a furrowed brow or the small cavities in pursed lips tell us something. We watch actors play people who live alongside one another in a way that is reminiscent of how people behave in our own world…[it is difficult to not resort] to a bank of adjectival modifiers…
This series takes up that challenge from a place of care, imagination, and sincere admiration.
This is a space for impressions filtered through my own fascination with complicated moments where actors reflect and reveal the haziness of ambiguity, the tender ambivalence of a decision, or something otherwise remarkable. Rather than trying to figure out what that remarkable thing is, rather than categorize and delimit performance in some attempt to demystify the whole artistic endeavor that is acting, I’ll narrate my own engagement with certain details. Literature scholars may call this a kind of “close reading” and film scholars may see it as a form of “close analysis.” Instead of focusing on shot construction, I’ll explore details of a performance and the many fractured rays of possibility such details offer.
Along the way I’ll include some biographical information on an actor, performance, or project. In some ways this is an extension of an article I wrote about Al Pacino’s career and how Pacino has always been working “to turn the inside out and the outside in.” What might that look like on screen? Looking at the Floor is about scenes where actors make a choice that overwhelms. These short pieces are, as the title suggests, about the choice of an actor to look at the floor rather than looking at another person.
Like many newsletters and blogs Looking at the Floor is driven by a kind of whimsy rather than a clear directive. What might come in what order is unknown — determined as much by what I choose to watch as by what I see in the company of those I care most about. This is a communal endeavor, even if it contains the particularities and peculiarities of my own interests. So please join in with suggestions; if you have any recommendations I’d be thrilled to hear them.
There should be at least two posts a month. If you find yourself moved by any of this and think someone else might, please share. It’d be a great privilege to hear your thoughts and it is a wonder to share mine with you.