Monday, March 31, 2008

Christopher Walken: genetically predisposed to imbalance?

Christopher Walken has this condition called heterochromia iridis. His screen presence is typically described as unbalanced: does this uneven distribution of pigment in the irises, resulting in his two different coloured eyes, one blue, one hazel, hold the key to his uncanny, singular abilities with convincingly embodying unbalanced characters? 

I think through my mental catalogue of images of Walken on screen, and he's never grounded, never standing evenly and calmly on both feet. He bounces and sways. He's a compulsive dancer. His speech patterns are never what you could describe as evenly measured. He likes to throw in a little surprise emphasis or spike the end of a sentence. He's a master of catching you off guard, and when combined with a sense of vulnerability and tenderness, such as in the scene where he tells Isabelle Huppert about his wallpaper (one of my all time favourites) shortly before his violent death, or when he utters his final words to Brooke Adams after Geza Kovacs plugs him full of lead, the outcome is unusually touching, always odd, and arguably unlike anything else in movies. 

Walken turns 65 today. He looks fit, agile like a man half his age, still plowing indiscriminently through several dubious projects. I understand he's supposed to play Ozzy Osbourne in some movie about Mötley Crüe. He seems like he could go on like this forever. I'm confident that there are still great roles ahead, but either way he's still so enjoyable in the lousy ones.

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