Thursday, May 31, 2012

Turns of Phrase by David Mamet

Forgive me for stating the obvious, but he's got a way with words. I love the 'That's why they call it money' bit from 'Heist', written and directed by Mamet. Probably my favorite part of the movie. I like how Mamet had DeVito pause in the middle of a sentence to eat a pretzel.

I didn't care much for 'The Spanish Prisoner'. A tad overly crafted, or perhaps over indulgent would be more correct as Mamet directed his own script. Here's a clip, complete with several interruptions, repeated dialogue, pauses in the middle of sentences, stilted made-for-TV camera work, poor lighting, and crash and slash editing. All of which, however, is balanced out by some very elegant non-verbal writing at the end of the scene -- one of the perks of directing your own script: you keep everything you wrote whether it's excessive or not...and sometimes you get lucky.

This is from 'Wag the Dog', directed by Barry Levinson. Mamet shares writing credit with Larry Beinhart and Hilary Henkin. Scene has the Mamet touches. Here, though, the repeated dialogue carries more meaning. It's reiterated for emphasis, with growing emotional energy from Dustin Hoffman, and is the primary source of energy, the scene's backbone.

This is from 'Ronin'. JD Zeik wrote the script but Mamet got a pass. This scene has the same markers: repeated dialogue (amped by De Niro's performance -- he loves to repeat dialogue no matter who wrote the script, so I'm guessing we're getting repeats on repeats) and good non-verbal elements. The combination of styles yields re-emphasized dialogue that is practically weaponized, but it adds good depth of character. Visuals by John Frankenheimer.

Possibly the purest Mamet: 'Glengarry Glen Ross'.


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