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02.06.08

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1992 DC Comics
CAPED FEARSOME: Michael Keaton twice played Batman for director Tim Burton.

Tricksters

Mavericks Danny Glover and Michael Keaton come to San Jose for Cinequest

By Richard von Busack


THE ROAD to Cinequest continues with the announcement of two more Maverick Spirit Award winners who are coming into town to address festival audiences. Recipient Danny Glover's mixture of gravity and levity has kept him onscreen since 1979. Locals with a long memory will recall the time Glover came to Santa Clara University to read Langston Hughes' poetry at the mission. Personally, I haven't read Hughes since without imaging Glover's voice. Recently, Glover has appeared in films by Lars von Trier (Manderlay), Wes Anderson (The Royal Tenenbaums) and Michel Gondry (in the upcoming Be Kind Rewind).

Glover also turned up as the frayed policeman in what was then an avant-garde movie, the original Saw. He excels at cops and detectives, having played them in everything from Witness to Predator. The effortless comedy relief Glover provided in four Lethal Weapon movies was essential to the series. But there is something in him that resists typecasting; that something might be seen in Glover's weary handsomeness in the DVD of Beloved, released this week. There's more than enough going on in that troubled 1998 Jonathan Demme picture to suggest a revisit—Thandie Newton, for instance, as the ghost "with a baby's venom," whispering and gurgling as she emerges from a river, surrounded by clouds of sulfur-colored butterflies. Eighteen years ago, Glover did his best work, the role of Harry in Charle (Killer of Sheep) Burnett's To Sleep With Anger. With old shoes, a back-dated suit and gray-powdered hair, Glover plays a man some 20 or 30 years older than he was at the time. The devilish Harry is a soulful down-home mooch with a forked tongue, a hidden and perhaps supernatural agenda and a delight in chaos.

Speaking of trickster figures, I would love to rewatch To Sleep With Anger on a double bill with Beetlejuice. The dry, salty humor in Burnett's movie is often overlooked by people who believe that every movie set in South Central L.A. ought to make you cry. To Sleep With Anger would harmonize with Tim Burton's comedic fantasia, since it is similarly about a nice trusting couple betrayed by a crossroads-dweller with an agenda of his own. As the snazzy, unsavory Beetlejuice, a poltergeist bioexorcist who chases the living, Cinequest Maverick Spirit honoree Michael Keaton never failed.

I remember the fan-boy fuss over the casting of Keaton as Batman in 1979. There were practically suicides over the matter, but director Burton insisted that Keaton had something in him that would work in both sides of the masquerade. Burton was absolutely right. While the grubby poltergeist in his prison stripes was mad, bad and dangerous to know, Keaton brought a Peter Lorre pathos to the later role of a man compelled to dress as a bat. And in the sequel Batman Returns, Keaton brought out a silkiness powerful enough to seduce even Michelle Pfeiffer. Common actors are heavy or light. The uncommon ones can suggest the tensile strength in gentleness, and this quality links both Keaton and Glover.

I remember the fan-boy fuss over the casting of Keaton as Batman in 1979. There were practically suicides over the matter, but director Burton insisted that Keaton had something in him that would work in both sides of the masquerade. Burton was absolutely right. While the grubby poltergeist in his prison stripes was mad, bad and dangerous to know, Keaton brought a Peter Lorre pathos to the later role of a man compelled to dress as a bat. And in the sequel Batman Returns, Keaton brought out a silkiness powerful enough to seduce even Michelle Pfeiffer. Common actors are heavy or light. The uncommon ones can suggest the tensile strength in gentleness, and this quality links both Keaton and Glover.

MICHAEL KEATON will appear March 1 at 5pm at the California Theatre in San Jose; he will be interviewed by actress Jennifer Siebel. DANNY GLOVER will appear March 8 at 5pm at the California Theatre. Cinequest runs Feb. 27–March 9 in San Jose. For details, see www.metroactive.com and www.cinequest.org. (FULL DISCLOSURE: Metro is the official print-media sponsor of the festival.)


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