Friday, March 12, 2004

Artistry in Words
I really enjoy the films of David Mamet. The dialogue he writes for his movies is like a buzzsaw - sharp, cutting, and impossible to ignore. In fact, his style of dialogue made an impression on me even before I knew anything about its creator. Indeed, my introduction to Mamet began with the movie Glengarry Glen Ross - a film not soaked with action and special effects, but instead immersed with fantastic performances from Jack Lemmon, Al Pacino, and Alec Baldwin (who in one legendary scene hits the proverbial high note of excellence). I must admit that at the time I saw this movie I wasn't interested in the finer points of screenwriting. And certainly the lack of "action" made me think less of the movie. But years later I could still remember the dialogue and certainly the impression that it left on me (pretty much due to that one scene with Alec Baldwin which anyone who has ever seen the movie almost unanimously agrees is brilliant). But given that first impression, I still wouldn't have been able to identify Mamet as the brains behind this and would not have recognized his name had anyone said it.

I will say though that with The Spanish Prisoner, I became cognizant of Mamet's name and signature style. This movie was a real surprise, lead by a great performance from Steve Martin. The Spanish Prisoner is actually the name of a particular confidence game that requires particular elements be followed. I will not give away those points, but needless to say the way Mamet stages this deception is brilliant. Indeed, one of Mamet's ongoing interests is the universe of deception through con artistry, and he has a number of other movies, House of Games, Things Change, Wag the Dog (which he helped write), and Heist. Some of these movies may be familiar though perhaps the name Mamet may be unfamiliar. However, I do recommend taking a look at his work, paying attention to the dialogue he constructs because there is really nothing like it in any other movie currently made.


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