My current Top 5

My current Top 5

2/09/2010

Best Actress 1947: Joan Crawford in "Possessed"

Two years after her win for Mildred Pierce, Joan Crawford was back with what she considered the most difficult role of her career.

The movie starts with a very quiet scene. A woman is walking down a street in Los Angeles. It’s very dark and silent but there is something weird about this woman. The way she walks shows that she is either very tired or distracted. When we finally see the face of the woman, all these thoughts seem confirmed. The women seems exhausted, even a bit confused as if she doesn’t know what she is doing or where she is.

It’s an interesting beginning to an entertaining movie even though Joan Crawford already uses this first close-up to show that melodramatic acting style which she brought to perfection over the years. It’s obvious from the first moment that she doesn’t intend to show realism but Joan Crawford is able to use her theatrical acting style to give a compelling performance that carries an equally theatrical movie.

Joan does a nice job at the beginning of the movie when she is searching a mysterious David and sees him in every man she meets but Joan is never fully convincing when she is showing the weak or vulnerable sides of her character. She trusts too much on her ability to look hurt and speak with a broken voice but Joan is never able to disappear into these lonely souls.

So it’s no surprise that her performances improves after her character has been sent to a hospital where she slowly gains back her consciousness. In these scenes, Joan shows that she has a great talent for big eyes and a look of shock and fear. Her expressive face is masterful in showing these emotions.

Like Smash-Up: The Story of a Woman, Possessed shows a woman in hospital while flashback tell us her story. We learn that Louise, Joan’s character, had a relationship with a playboy called David but right at the beginning it’s clear that Louise has different expectations of this relationship than him. She wants commitment while he only wants to have fun and so he quits the relationship.

Joan is very good at showing right from the beginning that Louise is obsessed by her love for David. She is unwilling to let him go. It’s not told why she has such strong feelings for him and Joan also doesn’t explore this subject any deeper but instead turns Louise into an addicted character for whom more and more boundaries begin to fall. Her performance is a constant up and down of nice underplaying and mad overacting, mixed with her obligatory melodramatic acting that becomes dominant whenever any emotional scenes are involved.

The movie and the character of Louise are a weird of mix of all sorts of genres. Louise is not only obsessed with David but it seems that she is generally going crazy. She begins to see situations that don’t happen, hears things that aren’t there. Joan does all this with a memorable collection of nervous ticks that include the obligatory widened eyes, a shaking body and nervous hands. What’s a little disappointing is that she is not able to find any progression in her showing of Louise’s madness. Even though the script tells us that her problems become worse it doesn’t show in Joan’s acting since she seems already crazy from the first day.

Still, her scenes of despair, madness and hate are certainly impressive and fit Joan like a glove. She gives a highly stylized but nonetheless captivating performance that helps to make Possessed the entertaining movie that it is and she is believable for most of the time.

Overall, it’s an interesting and dramatic performance that gets

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