Tuesday, April 9, 2013

“The Interpreter” - the last masterpiece by a gifted director (Sydney Pollack)

“The Interpreter” - the last masterpiece by a gifted director (Sydney Pollack)

 Many years ago, In one of the longer flights from Los Angeles to Sydney, I casually tuned into a movie named “The way we were”, starring the debonair Robert Redford along with Barbara Streisand. It was a romantic film set during the early thirties, and explored the intricate yet tender relationship between a social activist waving a flag for every possible cause, and a talented writer, who will not take his talent seriously enough. In the hands of any other director, the film and the narrative would have stooped to mundane levels, but not so, in the hands of Sydney Pollack - the maverick genius; in whose direction, a story assumes a dimension and an inner depth that lesser mortals can only aspire to achieve. The performances of Ms Streisand were molded to perfection, and her innocent guile and beseeching looks linger long after in our memories as a tribute to the spirit of freedom and just causes. It is no surprise that under the able direction of Polack, twelve different actors were nominated for Oscars. He had a way of evoking the best out of artists.

Since then, I have watched every single movie directed and produced by Polack. Each one of them is a gem in its own right. He explored themes that were contemporary, and his treatment of the subject is often multilayered, making it absolutely necessary for audiences to be completely involved in his screen play. “The interpreter” is the last such directorial venture of Pollack before his demise in 2008, and again brings together two very gifted actors in Sean Penn and Nicole Kidman to play out a complex political drama within the august walls of the United Nations. Kidman essays the role of an African interpreter, who accidentally overhears a proposed assassination attempt on an African president, who is about to be tried in an International court of Justice for alleged war crimes of Genocide in his country. This triggers a complex cat and mouse game that takes us through the labyrinths of political genuflections and the dogged pursuit of the CIA (Sean Penn in the role of CIA officer) to uncover the plot. It is a fast paced narrative and doesn’t give the director or the audience enough time to develop or sink into the theme organically. The entire film rested on the performances of Nicole Kidman and Sean Penn. It is through their eyes that we become part of the story, and Pollack makes sure that every nuance and gesture from the two great actors rise to the occasion; and their portrayal reflects truthfully the moral conflict between their personal beliefs and nefarious political designs. All of us know the Sean Penn is a tremendous artist, but in the able hands of Pollack, Kidman evolves and matures into a passionate and intense actor. The movie marks the pinnacle of her acting career. Never after has she plumbed such depths of emotions, or, dug so deep into her inner emotional reservoirs, to pull out such a performance - as she did in this movie.

I have always believed that any story in the hands of a master craftsman can be transformed into something extraordinary. It is the vision of the director and his ability to live out the tale in his head that makes the difference. The Polacks, the Spielberg’s or the Kurosawa’s do not really need technical wizardry to prove a point, though such tools may help accentuate the power of the story telling. Their strength lies in the innate understanding of the medium and the ability to convey the passion to the actors and bring out, chisel their roles to a state of perfection.

Sydney Pollack will be remembered for such perfection, and we should be grateful that under his watchful eye so many young talented actors have realized their potential and gone on to enrich the screen with scintillating performances. The touch of the Master will always be felt……………………………..

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