Monday, 9 April 2012

Forgotten Characters 5.1

It’s probably counter-intuitive of me to say this, nonetheless, on this season of Forgotten Characters (let’s see if I can keep up, say, a ten week stretch) I’m trying to focus on big name actors in performances that have never really managed to become major parts in their oeuvre. For obvious reasons of course, like this one for example. It’s a one-two-three scene triple whammy, and only one of them has actual dialogue from him, but it’s stuck with me. For example, last year when I heard read Nick using the word “vigorous” it led me into an entire post on The Mask of Zorro, and for a long time whenever I heard the name Dwayne I’d think of

Christopher Walken in Annie Hall
as Dwayne

Remember when Christopher Walken was Annie Hall’s older brother? Random bit of trivia Walken was 1977’s Best Picture winner with this and then 1978’s Best Picture The Deer Hunter which he also picked up an Oscar for. Dwayne is one in a slew of peculiar characters peppering this film and it’s in Woody’s own style to make them as bizarre as possible without making them unrealistic. So, of course, Woody deserves a significant bit of credit for creating…but then, Christopher and his own eccentricity as a performer.
I love that look he’s giving Annie above. It’s where we first meet him at that dinner scene with Alvy and Annie’s family. Watching this film again it’s so strange how many standard bits of cinema are in it. For example, Woody isn’t the first to highlight the awkwardness of meeting a romantic relation’s family over a meal but I don’t think any film has done it as classically – not even Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner a decade earlier. But, that scene isn’t really Chris’, he just gobbles food.

It’s the scene immediately after where he has his only bit of dialogue, by way of monologue.

          Dwayne: “Can I confess something? I tell you this because an artist I think you’ll understand. Sometimes when I’m driving – on the road, at night – I see two headlights coming toward me. Fast. I have this sudden impulse to turn the wheel quickly head-on into the oncoming car. I can anticipate the explosion. The sound of shattering glass. The flames rising out of the foreign gasoline.”

Gun to head, this is THE weirdest part of the film, but I love this monologue. I know this is about the character as created by Walken, but I’d like to point out two excellent bits about this via Woody. On one hand, we can surmise that Dwayne is so delusional he thinks that this is artistic, which is he makes mention of Alvy being one. Conversely, though, he might me making a more subtle comment on what random people think of artistic – and knowing Woody, I think it’d be the latter. Walken is playing completely, and chillingly straight. And we know Walken from all the off-centre characters he plays, so we don’t doubt that Dwayne might be something of a lunatic, so it’s funny….but it’s odd, and it’s weird. But, you listen to his word – and the earnestness with which he plays with sticks with you.
So, when his final scene (also wordless) occurs and we see him driving Annie and Alvy to town, and he drives out of the film I still think Dwayne is existing somewhere unable to articulate just what he feels, but feeling passionately about it nonetheless. Evidence of great writing, yes, but fine acting too. Which is why I tend to remember him.

Do you recall Walken’s sliver of a role in Annie Hall?


Ryan T. said...

Consider I just saw the film a mere 6mo ago, I definitely remembered! His monologue really was something to behold though. I kept asking myself where the heck it came from! Good stuff.

Paolo said...

Rewatches always bring back Dwayne. He is the best out of a movie that has so many comic bells but they all ring right.

Nick Prigge said...

I really don't think there is anything I could even attempt to add to this.

I mean, Dwayne is......Dwayne.

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

ryan where the heck DID it come from? but so awesome.

paolo that's true, there are so many comic bells as you say but walken's focus is so memorable.

nick "dwayne is...dwayne." there is really nothing more to say.