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This is the blog of Ian Rosales Casocot. Filipino writer. Sometime academic. Former backpacker. Twink bait. Hamster lover.

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Thursday, March 20, 2008

entry arrow12:55 AM | Paul Scofield, 86

Death these days seem too much eager for harvest, isn't he? We were still reeling from the shock and taking stock of Anthony Minghella's passing (which made me seek out an old copy of The Talented Mr. Ripley...) and then Arthur C. Clarke (which made me reread some of his old short stories, including "Rescue Party," his first one, which also is a blueprint for most of the themes in his later works). And now, the actor Paul Scofield, too? (The New York Times story here.) Most of you will probably not know him since the classically-trained actor chose his roles very sparingly. His last two films were involvements of various sorts in documentaries, and his last acting role was in The Crucible from 1997. But those who managed to see Robert Redford's Quiz Show (from 1994) will remember him playing Ralph Fiennes' character's father, the intellectual Mark Van Doren. That scene when son and father tries to talk to each other in the light of the controversies the film chronicles is a masterclass in acting in miniature. CNN writes: "Actor Richard Burton, once regarded as the natural heir to Laurence Olivier and John Gielgud at the summit of British theater, said it was Scofield who deserved that place. 'Of the 10 greatest moments in the theater, eight are Scofield's,' he said." (More here.) Much too sad that we will never get to see more of that talent... I have yet to see Mr. Scofield in his Oscar-winning performance in A Man For All Seasons, where he plays Sir Thomas More. I have a DVD copy somewhere in the shelf where all my old movies are. This is going to be a strange Holy Week. All alone at home, catching up on reading and the movies, all to bid farewell to ghosts.


Dusted off my DVD copy of Fred Zinnemann's A Man for All Seasons this afternoon and watched it as day turned to dusk -- and you're right, Ichi, Paul Scofield was brilliant. The historical Sir Thomas More was a man of principle, but also of complex compulsions: we know he isn't entirely the saint that playwright Robert Bolt painted him to be (he is said to have taken "excessively delight in torturing Lutherans and other heretics," as this recent appraisal of Scofield's legacy in The New York Times asserts) -- but as embodied by Scofield, the character was towering even without really trying. In that final scene where Scofield as More faces the charges of high treason and gives his final word, the camera curiously chooses to film Scofield from afar, from the distance of the spectators in the balcony: even then, Scofield's performance was overpowering. He dominated the film entirely. His Oscar win as Best Actor for the role is well-earned.

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