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Virtuoso: Film Performance and the Actor's Magic

Murray Pomerance (Independent scholar, Canada)



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Bloomsbury Academic USA
16 May 2019
Acting techniques; Individual actors & performers; Film theory & criticism
Elizabeth Taylor's electrifying performance in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? The milkshake scene in There Will be Blood. Leonardo DiCaprio's turn as Arnie in What's Eating Gilbert Grape? What makes these performances so special?

Eloquently written and engagingly laid out, Murray Pomerance answers the tough question as to what makes an exceptional, or virtuosic performance. Pomerance intensively explores virtuosic performance in film, ranging from classical works through to contemporary production, and gives serious consideration to structural problems of dramatization and production, actorial methods and tricks, and contingencies that befall performers giving stand-out moments.

Looking at more than 40 aspects of the virtuosic act, and using an approach based in careful meditation and discursion, Virtuoso moves through such themes as showing off, effacement, self-consciousness, performative collapse, spontaneity, acting as dream, acting and femininity, virtuosity and torture, secrecy, improvisation, virtuosic silence, and others; giving special attention to the labors of such figures as Fred Astaire, Johnny Depp, Marlene Dietrich, Basil Rathbone, Christopher Plummer, Leonardo DiCaprio, Alice Brady, Ethel Waters, James Mason, and dozens more. Numerous scenic virtuosities are examined in depth, from films as far-ranging as Singin' in the Rain and The Bridge on the River Kwai, and My Man Godfrey. As the first book about virtuosity in film performance, Virtuoso offers exciting new angles from which to view film both classical and contemporary.
By:   Murray Pomerance (Independent scholar Canada)
Imprint:   Bloomsbury Academic USA
Country of Publication:   United States
Dimensions:   Height: 229mm,  Width: 152mm, 
Weight:   568g
ISBN:   9781501350672
ISBN 10:   1501350676
Pages:   368
Publication Date:   16 May 2019
Audience:   College/higher education ,  Primary
Format:   Paperback
Publisher's Status:   Active
Acknowledgements Overture Chapter 1: A Brief History of the Virtuosic Moment Chapter 2: Showing Off Chapter 3: Effacement and Allure Chapter 4: Money Chapter 5: I Am Acting Chapter 6: I Am On Show Chapter 7: Charisma as Commodity Chapter 8: Outstanding Chapter 9: Virtuosity Superimposed Chapter 10: Spontaneity Chapter 11: In Dreams Awake Chapter 12: A Feminine Mystique Chapter 13: Tortures Chapter 14: Secret Virtuosity Chapter 15: (In)Credible Belief Chapter 16: Touched by the Camera Chapter 17: Improvise Chapter 18: Breathe Chapter 19: Director/Virtuoso Chapter 20: Heimlichkeit Chapter 21: Collapse Chapter 22: Bigger Than Life Chapter 23: The Spectacle of Things Falling Apart Chapter 24: Limping On Chapter 25: The Eternal Return Chapter 26: Borders Chapter 27: Facing Chapter 28: Louder Louder, Softer Softer Chapter 29: Virtuosity Classical Chapter 30: Near Misses Chapter 31: Discounts Chapter 32: Virtuosic Silence Chapter 33: Virtuosic Support Chapter 34: Control Chapter 35: Virtuosic Play-Within-Play Chapter 36: Upstairs Downstairs Chapter 37: Lost in the Stars Chapter 38: Virtuosity Pianissimo Virtuosity Forte Chapter 39: Virtuosity as Event Chapter 40: Indelibles Chapter 41: Virtuosity and The Virtuoso Chapter 42: Negative Virtuosity Chapter 43: Virtuosic Slippage Chapter 44: The End or End of Virtuosic Performance Coda: A Thought of Conclusion Bibliography Index

Murray Pomerance is an independent scholar living in Toronto, Canada. He is the editor of the Techniques of the Moving Image series and the Horizons of Cinema series, and co-editor, with Lester D. Friedman and Adrienne L. McLean respectively, of the Screen Decades and Star Decades series. Pomerance has written, edited and co-edited several books, including Cinema, If You Please (2018), Moment of Action (2016), Alfred Hitchcock's America (2013), The Horse who Drank the Sky: Film Experience beyond Narrative and Theory (2008), and two BFI Classics on Marnie (2014) and The Man Who Knew Too Much (2016).

Reviews for Virtuoso: Film Performance and the Actor's Magic

In this extraordinary volume, Murray Pomerance acts as something like a spirit guide to the mysteries of cinematic performance. The text conjures a pageant of gestures, voices, faces and moments that exemplify virtuosity, accompanied by critical reflection that is never less than compelling. Pomerance's prose is itself virtuosic: lucid, penetrating, brilliant. It asks questions we didn't know could be asked, and never resorts to easy answers. This makes the book essential reading, not just for scholars and students of film performance, but for anyone interested in the art and magic of the cinema. * Dr. Alex Clayton, Senior Lecturer in Film and Television, University of Bristol, UK * From detailed examinations of such singular talents like James Dean and Cary Grant, to the subtler, fleeting, performative moments by virtuosos as varied as John Barrymore and Kristen Stewart, Murray Pomerance offers a new way of approaching, as well as a language for addressing, the riddling qualities of great film acting. What magic the actors explored in this book do with gesture, expression and inflexion, Pomerance does here with incisive description, analysis, and an often delightful turn of phrase. * Dr. Daniel Varndell, Senior Lecturer in English Literature, University of Winchester, UK *

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