Tuesday, October 1, 2013

JAVIER BARDEM A GIFT FROM SPAIN

Spanish ranks among the most common global languages.  It stands to reason they might have cultural elements that spread to the rest of us.  For example, Don Quixote, Picasso, tortillas, flamenco, paella,   Another example is Javier Bardem.

The first time I watched Javier was in "No Country for Old Men"  He played a cold blooded murderer with an unusual way of executing his victims.  Before seeing the movie I watched him at the Academy Awards where he had been nominated (and won) Best Actor in a Supporting role. Instead of a glamorous spouse or girl friend he went with his mother.  A big contrast to the image the movie gave him.

Born in 1969 in the Canary Islands to a show business family.  Starting at age 5 he started appearing in tv series.  His first movie was in  1990.  He developed a strong reputation in Spain before attracting wider attention..

"Love in the Time of Cholera", my second Bardem movie displayed a comic touch in a romantic role.  Set in Colombia and written by a famous Latin author it was screened for an American audience.  I enjoyed it.

"Vicky Cristina Barcelona" was another vehicle for Javier in the American market.  Directed by the venerable Woody Allen and starring Rebecca Hall and  Scarlett Johanson with Javier creating a love triangle that expanded beyond.  Real life wife, Penelope Cruz won the Academy Award for best supporting actress..  A strange movie in many ways, allowing Javier to demonstrate his comic talents.

"Eat, Pray Love" with Julia Roberts.  He represented the Love part helping to conclude the movie.  He made a late appearance, but took over when he did.

At about this point I was so enjoying Javier's English performances that the next step was to check out his Spanish performances.  He looked so comfortable in a variety of English speaking roles, but most of us are at our best in our own environment.

"The Sea Within" demonstrated a versatility I wasn't expecting.   An excellent movie from conception to execution.  About a real Spaniard who was paralyzed and campaigned to legalize euthanasia.,   Despite my description Javier displayed a comic touch and surprisingly romantic. Directed by a favorite director Alejandro Amenabar.  My favorite of all Javier's movies.

"Before Night Falls" was brutal, and fairly explicit.  Here he played an historical Cuban gay and dealt with discrimination and AIDS   He received an Oscar nomination  which was rare for foreign language performance.

He received yet another Oscar nomination for "Biutiful" another brutal story highlighting his dramatic skills.  Difficult to watch all the suffering.

With "The Dancer Upstairs" another movie set in South American (unnamed, but seemed to be modeled on politics of Peru) he played a married man attracted to a woman who turned out to be a revolutionary;  a youthful talented Italian actress Laura Morante who happened to be in her mid 40's.   Most of the actors were Spanish actors, but English was the main language.  He played a gentle character during a radical underground troubles.  John Malkovitch directed.

Having done all this watching I decided to add "Skyfall".  I was an early James Bond fan, but got bored with the formula.  This most recent Bond movie was enjoyable from a lot of good acting (Daniel Craig, Judy Dench and of course Javier), music (especially Adele) and action.   Some commentators said Javier was the greatest Bond villain.  I thought he was fairly unique and enjoyable, not sure if I would make the same claim.  

Movie watchers tend to fantasize about their favorites and I admit I was pleased Javied married another of my favorites, Penelope Cruz and they now have two children.  Actors appear to want to be good at both comedy and tragedy.  Javier Bardem actually is.

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