Philip Seymour Hoffman & the telephone

3 Feb

“The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what you share with someone else when you’re uncool… Be honest and unmerciful.” (Philip Seymour Hoffman as Lester Bangs in Cameron Crowe’s Almost Famous)

Conventionally, it’s not considered visually interesting to shoot telephone scenes.  But like every great artist of their time, PSH takes the thing you shouldn’t do and makes it glorious.  He speaks into the phone with an intimacy that is disproportionate to his relationship with this teenager he barely knows and in that he is conveying that his character is desperately looking to speak the truth in every instance, regardless of who he’s speaking to –  the telephone is an opportunity to say something to another human being in this life.  He does it too in Magnolia, in a completely different way – he is less opinionated, more delicate, almost feminine and again he somehow visually ups the stakes of a telephone call so that it is riveting dramatic cinema.

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