An infrequently updated dumping ground for one culture junkie's thoughts on film and whatever else

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

There's a new axiom in town.

Seems everyone's going crazy over Jason Statham these days. It started with a blog post by Patton Oswalt titled GAY-THAM FOR STATHAM. Patton recognized that Statham is a force of authentic, exciting, hardworking badassery who transcends the sometimes-questionable quality of his films. Everyone, including me, is rather giddily looking forward to this weekend's release of Crank: High Voltage. (I caught up with the original Crank on DVD a couple weeks ago; it's everything a dumb action movie should be, and then some.)

So all this Statham love reminded me of something. Back in the sixties, French critic Michel Mourlet made what Dave Kehr calls "the single most notorious pronouncement in the history of film criticism" about Charlton Heston, referring to the actor as "an axiom of the cinema." Rereading the full quotation, it struck me that one could easily substitute Jason Statham's name in for Heston's and the result would be totally resonant for the growing cult of Statham-worshippers. So here is the full, doctored-up passage, courtesy Kehr's transcription:

“[Jason Statham] is an axiom. He constitutes a tragedy in himself, his presence in any film being enough to instill beauty. The pent-up violence expressed by the somber phosphorescence of his eyes, his eagle’s profile, the imperious arch of his eyebrows, the hard, bitter curve of his lips, the stupendous strength of his torso - this is what he has been given, and what not even the worst of directors can debase. It is in this sense that one can say that [Jason Statham], by his very existence and regardless of the film he is in, provides a more accurate definition of the cinema than films like Hiroshima Mon Amour or Citizen Kane, films whose aesthetic either ignores or repudiates [Jason Statham]. Through him, mise en scène can confront the most intense of conflicts and settle them with the contempt of a god imprisoned, quivering with muted rage.”

I am reminded of Armond White's similarly rapturous gushing over Transporter 3 (Armond is an axiom himself, really). A bit of Mourlet's homoerotic longing: "No star runs in character better than Statham," Armond swoons, "whose agile body is superbly sculpted while his voice remains tender—despite gruff edges." And just as Mourlet threw Citizen Kane and Hiroshima Mon Amour under the bus for either ignoring or repudiating Chuck Heston's glistening, quivering tragedy, so too does Armond dismiss the fall awards-season fare for not recognizing the Statham: "Nothing in cinema this week is more important than Transporter 3," begins his review. Call it hyperbole if you must, but once an actor has earned axiom status—and if Statham hasn't yet, he's well on his way—no words are too strong to describe our new "god imprisoned." Have you accepted Jason Statham as your personal lord and savior?

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