Monday, May 25, 2009

Moments of Distinction

The Film – Nashville, dir Robert Altman

The Set-Up – Barbara Jean (Ronee Blakley) sings.

Pauline Kael once wrote about this scene:

“…When she stands on the stage of the Opry Belle and sings “Dues” with the words “It hurts so bad, it gets me down,” her fragility is so touching and her swaying movements are so seductively musical that, perhaps for the first time on the screen, one gets the sense of an artist’s being consumed by her gift.”

Exactly right.

Barbara Jean is a character I have loved since the first time I saw Nashville. Kael is astute when she touches on her “fragility.” Barbara Jean is supremely talented, but she is also sad and, as the clip demonstrates, damaged. My affection for her is not unlike that of the marine played by Scott Glenn – He thinks she needs to be protected. Here’s Kael again:

“The movies often try to do portraits of artists, but their artistry must be asserted for them. When we see an actor playing a painter, and then see the paintings, we don’t feel the relation.”

“Here, with Ronee Blakley as Barbara Jean, we perceive what goes into the art, and we experience what the unbalance of life and art can do to a person.”

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