Monday, February 08, 2010

Monologue - White Lies

Jose here with the Monday Monologue.

James Dean would've turned 79 today.
The iconic actor left way too early, only showing glimpses of his immense talent in his three legendary performances.

As with all people who die young, the shock of the tragedy creates a conflicting image that sometimes benefits or hurts their legacy.

With someone like Dean we're left wondering if the three weren't just a lucky streak and his next movie would've been mediocre or showed his range was limited (allegedly it would've been none, considering he was going to quit acting and become a director).

For others, the performances are proof that perfection can be achieved by an actor in every movie they make.

Whichever your view of Dean is, the truth is that his films did define a generation, particularly in Rebel Without a Cause where the young actor epitomized the existentialist dramas of adolescence.

He might have been a few years older than Jim Stark-the character he plays-but dressed in jeans, white t-shirts and that look on his face, he encompassed the sort of lost youth he'd be forever associated with.

In one of the film's most stunning scenes, Jim confronts his parents (Jim Backus and Ann Doran) about a clandestine car race that has mortal consequences.
The scene might not be a monologue per se, but I dare you to notice the two other actors who appear with him (nothing against them, it's just Dean's power that overcomes them).

It was a matter of honor.
They called me chicken.
You know...chicken?
I had to go...

If I didn't I'd never be able to face those kids again

He explains.
Notice how he delivers the lines without a single sign of thespian self-consciousness. Whatever guilt is revealed through his words comes from his fear of having to own up such grave actions before he's due.

I don't wanna drag you into this but I can't help it he laments, I don't see how I can get out of that by pretending it didn't happen.

His parents watch in horror as they remember things they've endured in the past and in the scene's key moment Jim turns the tables on them.
Dad you told me, you said you want me to tell the truth, didn't you say that?
You can't turn it off.

Watching this scene again reminded me of how much this movie marked every teenage angst film to come. This last part especially made me recall a scene in An Education where Carey Mulligan's character confronts Emma Thompson's headmistress and asks her what's the purpose of life "It's not enough to educate us anymore, you've got to tell us why you're doing it" she says.

The headmistress looks in awe, thrown completely off base by the remark. Out of convention she might be forced to say "you'll learn when you're older kid" but the look in her face reveals she's still as lost as any teenager.

Likewise James Dean's performance might not contain the answers to all this but it's a heartbreaking, worthy reminder that someone else might want to know the point of it all one day.


Anonymous said...

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James Dean Glossy Eyes said...

Best thing about James Dean was that he took it in the ass! Wish he was here to show the world a movie start CAN be gay.

Jim T said...

I haven't seen the movie so I stopped the clip at some point. I don't want it to spoil the experience for me.

Recalling the "An Education" scene you mentioned, I think Mulligan has the same accuracy that Linney has. They don't like to overact but sometimes it seems a bit too cold. I guess that opinion has become a little passé :p

Jude said...

James Dean and Carey Mulligan all in one post? This must be my lucky day!

Rick said...

An Education does not in any way have the power that "RWAC" did... I was and am a huge Dean fan... I was 12 yr. old when the movie came out and I became a REBEL. I feel he would NOT have maintained his power as an actor.. in "Giant" he was way overboard. He filled a huge need for the young kids in the 50"s because we were all so programed to be agreeable with anything we were told. I do not feel he could have been a Brando or a Clift. But then again who knows?

Stephanie SeRine Photography said...

I haven't seen An Education yet, but it looks like something I could relate to. I have seen Rebel once and really liked it. Nice contemplation about other performances he may have pulled off if he had survived.

Dimitra said...

I've only seen James Dean in East Of Eden and to be honest, I think he overdid it in some parts. But I'm dying to see RWAC and he looks great in it.

Tallsonofagun said...

I think I would have used the clip from East Of Eden where he tries to get his dad to take the money. I thought that was really his greatest performance. It rips my heart out every time.