". . . But the past does not exist independently from the present. Indeed, the past is only past because there is a present, just as I can point to something over there only because I am here. But nothing is inherently over there or here. In that sense, the past has no content. The past -- or more accurately, pastness -- is a position. Thus, in no way can we identify the past as past." p. 15

". . . But we may want to keep in mind that deeds and words are not as distinguishable as often we presume. History does not belong only to its narrators, professional or amateur. While some of us debate what history is or was, others take it into their own hands." p. 153

Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (1995) by Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Twelve Years A Slave - Parades End - Curiosity Killed the Cat Benedict Cumberbatch

Cumberbatch effortlessly inhabited his character, William Ford, the Baptist minister - slave plantation owner in Twelve Years a Slave.

He's a good man who is untroubled by slavery as a practice and institution, and who, like so many 'good' masters, when push comes to shove, for their personal financial well being sells away their most liked and valued slaves.

But in Parade's End (2012), Cumberbatch is more fascinating than in his William Ford role.  As Christopher Tietjens, an old school Victorian gentleman who, at the end of the Long Peace's inexorably slide to the Great War, he falls in love with a young suffragette while married to the classic Edwardian lady beauty-bitch, who has done him wrong more than once in more than one way.

I'm only three episodes through the BBC miniseries (also on HBO), but the series seems to me to be a portrait of a difficult marriage, in which neither partner can let go of the other.  So far, it's brilliant.  Most reviews stated it was too slow, and the reviewers' vision could not penetrate their presentism to find any value, much less sense, in a man refusing to be unfaithful to his wife even when she has committed infidelity -- and when he finally gives in to his love, fate intervenes and keeps his gentleman's honor intact. Christopher Tietjens is far more challenging role for an actor than that of William Ford, one that demands many more subtle shifts of projection, while keeping these shifts almost entirely under strict physical control.

Anyone who has been paying attention at all in the last couple of years has noticed that there are mobs of lusting fans of Cumberbatch the Sherlock of the BBC's series Sherlock, that premiered back in 2010.

My question is are these fans watching Cumberbatch in his projects that are not Sherlock, The Hobbit (as Smaug the Terrible), Khan in Star Trek Into Darkness,
and probably Julian Assange in The Fifth Estate?*

Or is the fan lust directed solely at the Cumberbatch roles that are what might consider as natural extensions of the Sherlock character as the actor plays him?

For the record, with the exception of the actor impersonating Moriarty, I admire almost all the actors in Sherlock (though not all the episodes / writing -- which is probably why the characters of Moriarty and Margaret Adler failed so largely). But he's far more interesting as an actor in Twelve Years a Slave** and Parade's End.


*  Cumberbatch has the distinction of being present in two of the biggest films opening in NYC, tomorrow, October 18th: Twelve Years a Slave and The Fifth Estate. I've seen Twelve Years at a special screening, but I haven't seen The Fifth Estate (or the Star Trek flick).

**  The New York Times official review of Twelve Years a Slave went up today.  It was highly favorable.  For me, the most striking thing contained in the review is something I've been thinking for a very long time when it comes to television and movies:
It’s on Epps’s plantation that “12 Years a Slave” deepens, and then hardens. It’s also where the existential reality of what it meant to be enslaved, hour after hour, decade after decade, generation after generation, is laid bare, at times on the flayed backs of Epps’s human property, including that of his brutalized favorite, Patsey (Lupita Nyong’o). Mr. Fassbender, skittish and weirdly spiderlike, grabs your attention with curdled intensity. He’s so arresting that at first it seems as if the performance will soon slip out of Mr. McQueen’s control, and that the character will become just another irresistibly watchable, flamboyant heavy. Movie villainy is so easy, partly because it allows actors to showboat, but also because a lot of filmmakers can’t resist siding with power.
Looking you, Mr. T.

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