RARA-AVIS: Voice-overs

Martha Pennigar (msmartha@earthlink.net)
Fri, 24 Dec 1999 09:30:22 -0500

In my viewing experience, voice-overs in films fall into 2 categories: either they're succinct and dimensional footnotes that explain or illuminate an important part of the story, or they're necessary because the movie would be unintelligible without them. Blade Runner, for me, falls into this latter category. Sunset Boulevard is a perfect example of the former, as is Double Indemnity. A few years ago, following this same discussion, some friends and I watched Sunset B with the sound turned off. Try it sometime. It's all still there, the story, the nuances and motivations and feelings, clear as glass. We wound up amazed that it played like a silent movie and we didn't even need the dialogue. Swanson was, of course, perfectly readable, as was Von Stroheim, but the real surprise was Holden, who gives a great performance through his facial expressions and body language. Nancy Olson is great, too, and their scenes together are real acting lessons. We were also struck by how Wilder tells the story through other elements, particularly light and shadow, and how the daylight scenes give way to a permanent night as the tone of the story darkens. The scene of Holden being fished out in the early dawn was so visually shocking, as was the sequence when Norma goes to the studio and the sunlight breaks through the murky daydream quality of her life. Perhaps Norma Desmond was right--they had faces then and didn't need words. And, also, directors like Wilder, who were in full command of all the elements of story-telling.

Neil, I second the emotion on Don Winslow. Great writer, and his Neal Carey mysteries are wonderful, too.

Happy holidays, everyone!


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This archive was generated by hypermail 2.0b3 on Fri 24 Dec 1999 - 09:24:57 EST