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Customer Review

16 of 29 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A Fatal Mistake; One of Many..., 7 Nov. 2003
This review is from: True and False: Heresy and Common Sense for the Actor (Paperback)
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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Showing 1-4 of 4 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 12 Nov 2007 14:46:50 GMT
I think the review here doesn't really 'get' it, but they've very much made up their mind. Mamet never says don't be emotional, he confesses he doesn't like emotional performances, they have the tinge of the self indulgent, self pleasuring about them. Emotion is a by-product, not an end result. Louis Armstrong was moved by the 'doing', he wasn't aiming to produce emotion in himself and then share it with others, Mamet doesn't require a lack of emotion or passion, just the removal of the idiocy that has made acting mystical. I find nothing plastic and rational about Felicity Huffmann's performances, yet she is a leading exponent of the technique in the USA. As a fine lover of Jazz, I think the analogy is perfect, the fact that the reviewer took a perspective on the analogy is due to their ignorance (and I don't say that as an insult), their lack of knowledge regarding the topic. Let's face it, Mamet is aiming to upset the apple cart and he does it well, and people who made their living for years following the nonsense techniques and exercises are bound to feel red faced, it exposes them. This book is one of few books that I would bother to insist that others should read. Take everything at face value? No.

In reply to an earlier post on 6 Jan 2011 23:59:56 GMT
Hear hear! ...or is it here here! ?
Very well said Andy J - and I won't be buying this book on the strength of your review - thank you for taking the time to advise a like minded individual. The book "may" work for some, but every actor has their own opinion and technique... I suppose it's what ever works. This doesn't sound like my kind of way. I find Uta Hagen works wonders for me....and you end up with a realistic, multi-dimensional character/performance... but again - thats my personal opinion.

In reply to an earlier post on 8 Feb 2012 07:29:39 GMT
Hagen it is!

In reply to an earlier post on 8 Feb 2012 07:36:10 GMT
Mamet is a bit of hypocrite. He slags off Konstantin and then in his own "method" uses K's tools. I find that bizarre. K. never wanted his method to become gospel - every method/system is ever evolving through the practitioners who use.
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