FilmsFolded

Essays on cinematic narrative. The focus is a set of dynamics collected under the concept of folding, a related system of techniques to model agency and causality.

Australian Actresses

Published: 15 Mar 2014

The notion here is that while a film can be folded in one of several ways, so can acting within a film. I’ve collected instances of this under the rubric of Australian Actresses, because that is where I observe it. I believe it is a core skill taught there at the National Academy of Dramatic Arts and apparently nowhere else.

I suppose it is the influence of a single teacher, unknown to me.

The actor usually has a single job, or thinks she does: conveying the being of her character. But a folded actress conveys two or more characters at the same time.

The simplest example of this is Bruce Willis in the original Die Hard film. He plays a character in a very serious situation, one with resilience. But what makes the movie work — the first summer action blockbuster — is that he is also playing a puckish Bruce Willis who from time to time relates to us outside of the film. He conspires with us to have fun.

This is a different sort of thing, I believe, from one of the Marx brothers addressing the audience, as they would have done with their stage show because the two characters are integrated. Willis (and Burt Reynolds before him) aren’t the best or most useful examples of this, because a simple conspiratorial connection with the audience won’t get us very far.

A little more sophisticated is Woody Allen in Annie Hall, where he plays a character, his real world persona (on which the script is based), and something in between that he used to tend as his public persona. This is only a slightly better example because he only differs these in degree of anxious comedy.

I have seen folded acting from Sean Penn, Johnny Depp, Robert Downey Jr and Philip Seymour Hoffman but the more reliable occurrences are with women from Australia.

About NIDA

This could be the source of the folded acting technique.

The National Institute of Dramatic Art is based in Sydney, affiliated with the University of New South Wales.

It is internationally regarded. Graduates include: Cate Blanchett, Toni Collette, Judy Davis, Mel Gibson, Baz Luhrmann, Miranda Otto, Susie Porter, Richard Roxburgh, Hugo Weaving and Sam Worthington. All of these have shown signs in one form or another of the notion of folded acting.

Because this technique, at least in women, is so prevalent in Australian actresses and few other places, I suppose that the ideas can be traced to a single acting coach at NIDA. But this is only supposition, and none of the notable folded male acting comes from here.

Nicole Kidman

Is aware of folded acting and tries hard.

Nicole is a tough case because she straddles the line between being a celebrity and being a fine actress in the Australian tradition.

She was not trained at Sydney’s National Institute of Dramatic Art. My impression is that when she chooses a project that requires serious acting, she uses techniques from her Australian colleagues.

She does folded acting in Eyes Wide Shut (1999), Kubrick’s last film and one in which he experimented with the form of imposed dream reality.

Shortly thereafter, she carried the lead in Baz Luhmann’s profoundly folded and native Australian film Moulin Rouge (2001).

Her next project had her as a ghost that doesn’t know it in The Others (2001).

She was awarded an Oscar for her portrayal in The Hours (2002) of author Virginia Wolf, alongside Meryl Streep and folded acting by Julianne Moore.

She then was in a serious but non-folded Lars von Trier project. By then she was divorced from scientologist Tom Cruise and seemed to lose interest in serious acting. She is now with a country singer and is a mom. Around this time, she had some work done on her face and it allegedly affected her abilities as she sees them.

Born in 1967.

Kylie Minogue

Has a single folded experience, not her design.

This actress is not formally trained, and indeed is primarily a pop singer. She is on the list because of her brief role in one film, Moulin Rouge. Her character was the green fairy of absinthe. That drug plays a central role in the movie, being the agent that creates the folds.

Based on all else in her career, I suspect that she had no idea of the folded character of what she was doing in that film. She was probably included because Baz Luhrmann prefers Australian actresses when available.

Born in 1968.

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© copyright Ted Goranson, 2014