The Talented Mr. Minghella
by Alex Carnevale
Anthony Minghella died of a brain hemorrhage yesterday. He was 54.
My first Minghella experience involved the young woman next to me groaning during every scene in The Talented Mr. Ripley except when Philip Seymour Hoffman said, “Don’t you want to fuck every woman just once?”
Agreed, PST. Somehow, that was a good way of describing Minghella’s signature directing style. He rushed nothing, predicating resolutions on slow builds to lost utterances, the musings of even more lost characters.
His disastrous script for Breaking and Entering fell into the hands of a genius director: himself. Minghella was a talented writer of dialogue, but his scripts were cursed with a desire to follow his characters everywhere, knowing that Minghella the director could redeem it. Nothing can really redeem Breaking And Entering, not even fine performances from Jude Law (he always got the best out of Jude) and a gorgeous Robin Wright Penn.
A Minghellian slow build is terrific when it builds to something magnificent. When it didn’t it was torturous, even more so when you conceived of the energy these films required from their director.
“Modern Mystery” – Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin (mp3)
nicole kidman as a civil war bride…i don’t know how he did it
His adaptation of Charles Frazier’s tedious Civil War novel, Cold Mountain, was seemingly doomed by a terrible conceit for a love story- the two lovers spent the entire film apart. At last reunited near the end of the film, the sex is as imaginative as the world Minghella realizes. You can almost excuse Nicole Kidman trying to play a hottie when she looked like she was in her mid-fifties. If you haven’t seen Cold Mountain, it’s an amazing film with the worst casting of all time. It’s also best to watch it in two sittings.
For me, Minghella was almost singularly responsible for Jude Law’s career. The most serious director out there took the man no one could take seriously, and did the impossible. Jude’s tendency to overact, or appear in films that didn’t suit his talents, like Alfie, is obliterated by Minghella’s sympathy for him. Even someone so beautiful, Minghella seemed to say, is one of us.
His trip through the ugly world of The Talented Mr. Ripley amounted to nothing more than a tour-de-force. Patricia Highsmith’s anti-semitic mystery was turned into the highest of art. He debuted Matt Damon as a substantial acting talent, and then complimented it with a Jude Law-Gwyneth Paltrow union that chilled you to your core. The boat trip in the film’s middle-end is one of the most frightening moments in all of film. The movie realizes an anger from envy that had its only previous hearing in Hitchcock.
“Never Met a German” – Brazilian Girls (mp3)
mingella and some other directors
Minghella’s debut was called the British Ghost. Truly, Madly, Deeply starred Alan Rickman as a poltergeist in love and was also enjoyably referred to a Ghost for people who can do crosswords by Hislop.
It’s a mixed effort to be sure, but making a brilliant film out of this source material might have been a greater achievement than adapting Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient, a glorious book that I never thought it would make much of a film until Minghella did the impossible.
Anthony had wrapped up his adaptation of Rhodesian author Alexander McCall’s wonderful series of detective novels, The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, which will air in the U.S. on HBO. This venture into source material that was actually interesting was a new move for Minghella, and I’m still looking forward to it. It’s a shame we’ll never get to see his planned adaptation of The Ninth Life of Louis Drax. RIP.
Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.
“Everybody Cheer Up Song” – Dosh (mp3)
PREVIOUSLY ON THIS RECORDING
Casey Kait reported from Paris for us.
Becky went to Berlin.
Competitiveness got the best of us.
cold jewish mountain