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True and False: Heresy and Common Sense for the Actor
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16 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on 7 November 2003
Mamet makes a fatal mistake when writing this book. It's his analogies. Let's just give one example. He uses the analogy of a Jazz musician, a saxophonist to be precise, and says that a good naturalistic actor should be like a saxophonist. When a saxophonist plays his sax, he just gets up, hits his notes on time and in the right key. There is no conveyance of genuine personal emotion channelled into the song. The actor, Mamet argues, is the same. He must get up, gesture correctly, get his blocking right, and speak in the right way just like how the writer has said he should.
Personally, as an actor, director and writer, I think that's utter tosh - the most flawed argument of the book. Surely the greatest Jazz musicians *do* incorporate genuine feelings and emotions when performing - have you ever seen any footage of Louis Armstrong during a performance? Tears often roll down his cheeks, his palms get sweaty, and we feel what he feels. Maybe he then doesn't hit his notes correctly, maybe his timing goes off a little, but what would you rather hear? The greatest saxophonist in the world pouring his heart in a song and a lump in your throat, or a young musician unemotionally plodding his way (accurately though), through 3 blind mice?
The same is true of actors - which performance would you rather see - some bloke from your local amateur dramatics society doing a 'paint by numbers what the writer says goes' performance, with his blocking immaculate, his diction perfect, his words EXACTLY as the playwright has written, (very 'David Mamet'), with no emotion; or would you rather witness Robert De Niro mumble his way through a monologue from 'Taxi Driver'? Plastic, well-manicured, cold Mamet-Acting or real, passionate and irrational Method?
The acting that Mamet is trying to promote is the sort of acting that used to be referred to as the 'British School', the acting that *is* acting. It's not being. It's not reality. Any art that leaves us feeling nothing isn't great. It's the exact opposite. A crude summary can be drawn by a fellow reviewer, who said something along the lines of 'according to Mamet, there are two types of ideological naturalistic actor. The ideology of the Marlon Brandos (who are wrong), and the ideology of the 'Joeys from the sitcom Friends' (who are right).
Surely it's not just me who finds this a fatal flaw in his argument?
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