Sunday, 30 November 2014

Designated mourner

I'm well aware that I'm not the only one upset by the passing of Mike Nichols.  However, when I look at the huge variety of films he directed, aside from The Graduate which is what seems to be the focus of the articles and obituaries, then I remember his work in front of the cameras and microphone, I feel the jolt again.  What a mind-boggling talent he was.

My favourite Nichols and May sketch is on my iPod with one of my favourite lines:  "Many think of Adler as a man who made mice neurotic.....", but seeing Elaine May and Mike Nichols in action adds a whole new dimension, as in this sketch (early 1960s, I think) which shows a move with cigarette smoke that made its way into The Graduate The first 17 seconds of the soundtrack are missing, but don't let that stop you:

However, about ten years ago, I was idly switching around channels on a Sunday afternoon, and stumbled upon The Designated Mourner, written by Wallace Shawn (the "inconceivable" villain in The Princess Bride, among other things).  Not knowing what it was, I watched in horrified fascination.  It's a "talking heads" play, only three actors describing, almost dispassionately, the horrors of being a doomed intelligentsia in some unnamed repressed regime.  You may not feel inclined to watch the whole thing -- I might, seeing as some wonderful soul has posted it on YouTube in memory of Nichols -- but try watching Nichol's performance in the last ten minutes of the movie (go to the 1 hour, 23 minute mark), as his character, who has survived the culling, describes how he learned what became of his ex-wife.