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Greenberg and Other Character Studies

Posted March 08, 2010 to photo album "Greenberg and Other Character Studies"

Noah Baumbach’s comedy Greenberg probes the psyche of a man in search of himself. We consider other films that study character.

Slide 1: Introduction
Slide 2: Citizen Kane - Character as perception
Slide 3: Sunset Boulevard - Character as reflection
Slide 4: The Searchers - Character as manifest destiny
Slide 5: Taxi Driver - character as psychosis
Slide 6: The Entertainer - Character as characters
Slide 7: The Motorcycle Diaries - Character as destiny
Slide 8: Le Samouraï - Character as style
Slide 9: Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles - Character as surface
Slide 10: The Ice Storm - Character as cultural confusion
Slide 11: All That Jazz - Character study as musical
Slide 12: The Graduate - Character as ambivalence
Slide 13: Sweet Smell of Success - Character as calculation
Slide 14: What is yours?
Slide 3: Sunset Boulevard - Character as reflection

Slide 3: Sunset Boulevard - Character as reflection

The psyche of the movie star is undoubtedly one of the most slippery forms of character study that a filmmaker can tackle. For one, any study of an actor will undoubtedly suggest a real one. But more, actors by definition play characters, and so it is always hard to divine where the real ends and make believe begins. As such Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard still remains one of the most mesmerizing and terrifying studies of character.  Early on, Wilder explained his interest in the story: “We weren’t particular interested in doing a Hollywood story. What appealed to us was the comeback story—which is much more moving that the success story—plus the tragedy of the aging woman.” The mix of hope and death, of fantasy and fatality, gives the film its Grand Guignol atmosphere. As aspiring screenwriter William Holden moves deeper into the world of Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson), the more he is enveloped by her insanity. As a faded screen goddess living in the glory of her stardom, Desmond has erased the difference between the present and the past, the real and the fantasy. A police arrest with flashing press cameras and crowds pressing in to catch a peek becomes in the mind the same as an opening night premiere.