Monday, February 3, 2014

Vale Philip Seymour Hoffman

Even John C. Reilly's character in Boogie Nights got to be funny but Philip Seymour Hoffmann's Scotty, a self-loathing gay man in the porn industry, walked through a world so constantly hostile he could barely breathe in it. In that film so heavy with strong acting his was the name I looked for in the credits. Mainly, I never thought I'd see it again. Then, a few years later, I saw him again in Todd Solondz' Happiness, as the phone rapist. His performance rivalled that of Dylan Baker as the nice guy/paedophilic predator in a film even heavier with strong acting and more troubling questions. Then before I could sigh, "typecasting" there he was, quietly comforting as the nurse in Magnolia, Wellesian and exuberant as Lester Bangs in Almost Famous, pathetic and dependant in Love Liza, sinister and threatening in Punch Drunk Love, the only good thing in the woeful Talented Mr Ripley, and so on.

His name in a cast list became a signifier of the must-see and however disappointing some of the films might have been (I'm not a fan of Synecdoche, New York and Ripley is mostly an embarrassment) he pretty much owned the lot of them. He could use that XXL heft for meekness and defeat or intimidating authority. If nothing else he was resourceful in a profession whose fulfillment demands punishing self-knowledge. I'm not one to eulogise actors but I suppose I'm doing it now as I was witness to his emergence and triumph to an extent that I wasn't for many other fine players.

So, Phil, Master and owner of American screen acting from the late nineties to these early teens and you pissed it away on a shot of heroin. I can't pretend to know why, I'm just sad that you did.

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