Archives - Literature: Page 24
Author: Beverly Bennet (Wed Dec 07, 2005 1:55 pm)
"Sometimes you have to lose your mind to find your freedom": The Art of Melanie Griffith.
My discussion of Ms. Griffith's work is based on the following films, which are listed in chronological order. I will be especially concerned with the first of these films. To find these DVD's and videos, try Tower Records and Videos, Lincoln Center, New York or on-line. The "Director's Cut" is always recommended:
Something Wild (Orion Pictures 1986/GoodTimes Home Video Corp., 1995), R, $19.99 (Directed by Jonathan Demme).
Cherry 2000 (Orion Pictures 1987/ Orion Home Video 1988), PG-13, $19.99 (Directed by Steven De Jarnatt).
Working Girls (Twentieth Century Fox, 1988), R, $19.99 (Directed by Mike Nichols).
Crazy in Alabama (Columbia Tri-Star 1999), PG-13, $19.99 (Directed by Antonio Banderas).
Shadow of a Doubt (Largo Entertainment Inc., 1997/ Columbia Tristar Home Video, 2000), R, $14.99 (Directed by Randal Kleiser).
Along for the Ride (Millennium Films/ CineLulu Internationale, 2000/ Third Row Center Films 2003 Key DVD), R, $14.99 (Director & Writer, John Kaye).
Mark Childress, Crazy in Alabama (New York: Ballantine, 1993), $11.00.
How do we decide who is a great film actor?
Great actors bring a powerful authenticity to their work that makes a performance unforgettable. As with any form of art, courage is needed because one has to be willing to delve into subconscious fears and pains, in order to understand and depict the sufferings of others. Worst of all, one has to come face-to-face with evil, I believe, in order to fully understand a character like Iago or Lady Macbeth.
I have no way of knowing this, but I would not be surprised if Melanie Griffith has experienced an emotional crisis in her early life which informs her artistic work, making troubled and eccentric characters especially attractive to her. Like most American actors, she may be self-conscious about Shakespearean roles. This is unfortunate because she is well suited for screen versions of some of the great parts, such as Gertrude or Lady Macbeth, Rosalyn or even Portia, also seem like wonderful characters for her to play.
I admire Melanie Griffith's work because she has a fearlessness about portraying psychic pain, truthfully and compassionately, that few actors, male or female, possess. Consider the opening scenes of Along for the Ride: "Lulu" -- a film character -- is staring at a television set showing a movie that has personal meaning for the character, the expression of pain and wistful recollection in her eyes is almost unbearable for the viewer. I was deeply moved, as I saw that scene. Yet the scene screams at you that it is an illusion produced by art. It is a movie character's reaction to a movie within a movie. The only response to that sort of intense experience of being moved by a performance is wonder at an artist's ability to convey emotional truth, through illusion. (See "Is there a problem about fictional discourse?")
Physical beauty, especially the sort of iconic American blond beauty that Ms. Griffith possesses, distracts people from her real achievements. Being beautiful can be as much of an obstacle to a performance -- and to a performer -- as the opposite. Struggling against the assumption that one is stupid is not an unusual experience for women with her looks. Incidentally, she will always be beautiful. At ninety she will be beautiful. She does not have to worry about the sort of issues some idiotic reviewers like to raise. For instance, a recent New York Times reviewer's response to a television role played by Ms. Griffith focused on her appearance and the kind of blue jeans she wore, but had very little to say about her acting. I doubt that men with her level of acting experience are subjected to such insulting reactions to their work.
My guess is that Ms. Griffith has experienced such assumptions and reactions from people, and that she has probably been dismissed by stupid people as just a "dumb blonde" (or worse) in her life, probably by critics too. It has not prevented this wonderful artist from creating some unforgettable characters on celluloid. Melanie Griffith has only begun to develop her talent, which is not yet particularly appreciated by critics, but it will be. Among the roles that she may choose to place on film forever, a screen version of Anna Karenina (perhaps transferred to an American setting) would be fascinating.
Marilyn Monroe was also dismissed, as an actress, even trivialized as a "blomb bombshell." Yet directors, such as Josh Logan, have described her work on screen as "brilliant." I am sure that, eventually, more critics will recognize the achievements of Ms. Griffith, in both comedy and drama. Geoge Steiner writes:
"Interpretative response under pressure of enactment I shall, using a dated word, call 'answerability.' The authentic experience of understanding, when we are spoken to by another human being or by a poem, is one of responding responsibility. We are answerable to the text, to the work of art, to the musical offering, in a very specific sense, at once moral, spiritual and psychological. It is the task of this study to spell out the implications of this threefold accountability. The immediate point is this: in respect of meaning and of valuation in the arts, our master intelligencers are the performers." Real Presences, page 9.
To have been given a performance like "Lulu/Audrey" in Something Wild, is to feel indebted to a gifted artist (or artists), to the "master intelligencers," for the enrichment of one's psyche, so that one gives back in return what one is able to give. In my case, this is only an essay meant to serve as a public acknowledgment of gratitude and appreciation. It is also an invitation to others to open this cinematic treasure chest, to see those films containing beauties and meanings that I hope only to describe here.
Aristotle was right about the cathartic value of art. These performances by Ms. Griffith may be life-saving for you, if you have actually experienced some of what her characters suffer. They will certainly be helpful to you, especially if you have survived clinical depression or even milder forms of mental pain. At a minimum, they will be suggestive of the torments of others if you have been fortunate enough not to have endured such experiences at all.
Marilyn Monroe may well have been more deeply wounded by that struggle against sexist assumptions and stupidity than has Melanie Griffith. Ms. Monroe also had some serious early pain to contend with (perhaps Ms. Griffith does too), so that the burden became progressively greater in her life. There came a point, I suspect, when Marilyn Monroe no longer had the energy to fight off the nay-sayers or those who wished to reduce her to something less than human, a sort of pastry to be admired in a shop window.
Ms. Griffith also has a few advantages: She is very intelligent, as was Marilyn Monroe; she lives in an era which is slightly more enlightened about the equality of men and women, though not much more; and she has been fortunate enough to find some of the right answers, spiritually and personally, probably all of the right answers. Her more recent work reflects the new-found strength of a woman who has come to know and accept herself. Her life's misfortunes and the constraints against which she must define herself are now clearly visible to her, as are the sources of strength that she has found and earned. She has a genuine and unconditional love from and for her partner; she has a talent that cannot be denied, and she has artistic courage.
Ms. Griffith knows that she has an unusual artistic intuition and that she is capable of doing great things with it. Sadly, she realizes that, in American cinema, the window of opportunity for a woman to create a body of work is brief, even for someone with her genius. In Hollywood, a man in her profession would be reaching his most productive years in his early forties, finally having a good idea of what to do before the camera, as the opportunities to play action heros and detectives begin to fall into his lap. Women suddenly become "character actors" at age 40.
I recommend all of the films listed above, but I wish to focus on just two of these movies Something Wild and Crazy in Alabama. Both are better than very good films. Both are works of art by anyone's definition of art. I think that Ms. Griffith's performance in Something Wild is one of the most unforgettable and powerful screen performances that I have ever seen. I have seen the film many times since it appeared. I discover subtle nuances and new aspects of what she was able to place on screen with every viewing. Each of the other actors in this film also delivers an Oscar-worthy performance. Like a great jazz ensemble, each contributes to the other's work. It is also true that you cannot have great acting without a great part. There is no doubt in my mind that Lulu/Audrey is one hell of great part.
I will summarize the plot of each film; then indicate what are the themes that each seeks to examine; and I will offer some commentary on key aspects of Ms. Griffith's performance that, I believe, are especially beautiful or poignant. I don't wish to get ahead of myself, but I should acknowledge that from Lulu's first appearance in Something Wild, her distinctive attire, her stance (hands on hip, agressive and yet inviting), black dress, with touches of color, signaling a relationship to Africa (source of passion and the primal in all of us), Louise Brooks haircut -- which is an hommage to William Pabst's classic Lulu, and also to Wedekind's and Berg's "Lulu," which was inspired by Lou Andreas Salome, enchantress of both Nietzsche and Freud -- the images of that alluring screen character will stay with me for as long as I live.
There is no other woman that I have seen on screen with the erotic energy of Griffith's "Lulu," standing outside that diner and saying "hello" to Charley. She is fully clothed in that scene, there is nothing overtly sexual about it, though it is highly erotic. No other film comes close for me, with the exception of Marilyn Monroe's heart-wrenching display of concern for a wild stallion about to be "broken" in Arthur Miller's The Misfits.
Something Wild is about a wild animal that is not to be tamed, but to be liberated (Lulu), in order to be returned to a natural and peaceful condition (Audrey); it is also about an animal, who is something more, in need of acquiring or coming to terms with the wildness in him: Ray is in need of understanding and recognition, but his failure to see himself results in destruction; whereas both Lulu and Charley grow into "the persons they are" by means of the love that they discover for one another, a love that surprises them, in fact, in their shared journey, which is a movement both backwards (a return to high school) and forwards (to adult responsibility and selfhood), in time.
Irene is the eternal rival, whose real concern and unconscious fascination is with Lulu, not Ray. Ray is the shadow side of Charley, which he must come to terms with; while Lulu is the shadow of Audrey, both are transcended, as I say, through mutual love.
To his surprise, Charley discovers that he is the "animus" of Lulu/Audrey, in Jungian terms, and that she is his "anima" figure. At the conclusion of the film, Charley's clothing has become more fashionable and he sports dark glasses, like those with which Lulu began their relationship. He has quit his job, probably to become an artist; whereas Lulu becomes a new Audrey, fashionable, elegant, but still eccentric and unique, yet much more like Charley. Significantly, they drive away in a station wagon, although a funky one.
In terms of the icons being invoked in the finale of this film, Ms. Griffith's "Audrey" conjures any number of screen associations -- from Grace Kelly and Tippi Hedren (Ms. Griffith's mother), to Kim Novak and Marilyn Monroe -- all might have worn that elegant hat and the perfect dress matching in colors and shades, light and dark, white and black with the clothes worn by the transformed "Charley" created by Mr. Daniels. Each of them has retained a bit of the "shadow self" (Jung) as pure erotic energy and emotional intelligence, each remains a creative outsider while coming to terms with normality, each becomes a mirror-image of the other. Although the film is silent on this subject, my guess is that when those two drove away from the curb at the end of the film, they found a place to make love.
Something Wild manages to be about personal identity, the social nature of the self, normality and abnormality, persona and shadow, love and romance, art and imagination, eros and caritas, America's flirtation with violence and darkness amidst fantasies of an impossible normality (Audrey's mother), which is also a kind of blindness -- her mother sees and yet does not see Audrey, whose vital intensity is beyond her mother's grasp -- and much more besides. I rarely use the word "masterpiece." I try to avoid repeating a descriptive word in a paragraph. I will now make an exception to both of these personal rules: This movie is a masterpiece. You should see it because it will stay with you and it may be helpful to you in your life.
Plots and Performances.
Crazy in Alabama is, among other things, a struggle with some of the themes of Hamlet. By the way, Melanie Griffith also would make a great "Hamlet." As you can tell, I am a fan. The film is an ambitious attempt to weave together the private and public, in terms of a conflict within the psyche of the protagonist, "Lucille" (played by Griffith), to come to terms with morality, conscience and one's own capacity for evil, even as the entire society is engulfed in the civil rights revolution, illustrating the same themes on a social level.
A fine script by Mark Childress based on his novel of the same title helps, but it is really an impressive achievement for first-time director Antonio Banderas to have created a film like this. The film takes its place in a Southern Gothic tradition that includes Carson McCullers and Truman Capote in American literature, and films like To Kill a Mockingbird and In the Heat of the Night.
Although Mr. Banderas is a fine actor, I think that his gifts as a director may be even greater. For one thing, his ability to select and express the full meaning of material such as this says a lot about his artistic judgment. This has nothing to do with his physical appearance or talents before the camera. This is simply artistic intelligence and intuition in action.
Studying Edgar Allan Poe will seem very attractive as you learn English. Spain's highly romantic and tragic themes in twentieth century literature and art -- civil war, transition from an agricultural to a highly modern technological society, struggle against authoritarian traditions -- are close to the southern experience in the United States, especially in the period after the civil war through the civil rights struggle.
Crazy in Alabama tells us a great deal about the nature of the bond between Mr. Banderas and his lead actor, Ms. Griffith. In addition to their love, each has a great artistic admiration and trust in the other. Otherwise, this film could not have been made. Imagine that someone you love is a circus performer, spinning in the air, and it is up to you to catch her as she falls. It takes some confidence on the part of each of you for the tricks to work. Crazy in Alabama is an impressive tripple spin in the air by Ms. Griffith, but an equally impressive catch by Mr. Banderas.
Both Mr. Banderas and Ms. Griffith have an instinct for truth in drama and the locus of humor in comedy, both have a feel for tragedy and (this may surprise you) highly moral sensibilities. In the case of Mr. Banderas, there is a sharp political intelligence and concern with issues of public justice that must have autobiographical roots. Ms. Griffith has a equally good mind, but seems more philosophical, that is, metaphysical and spiritual in her intellectual interests. Mr. Banderas was raised in Franco's Spain, and displays a visceral opposition to Fascism. He is a superb artist, but also (I believe) a man of deep social commitments. I look forward to his future work, as a director even more than as an actor. I will be happy to see any film that he makes. Yet Crazy in Alabama will be a difficult act to follow.
The opening sequence in the film takes us to artsy, downtown Manhattan. We are in a seedy diner where a lunch time crown is gathered. By the way, the sound track in this film is great, featuring David Byrne of the "Talking Heads." The rendition of "Wild Thing" accompanying the closing credits alone is worth the price of the DVD. A business-suited Charley is first seen by "wild" Lulu, then approached outside the diner and accused (accurately) of being a "rebel." Charley is captivated by Lulu's overwhelming sexual energy when she invites him to go for a ride. From the outset in this film, it is Lulu who has the erotic power and is in control of her relationship with Charley, if not always of her own feelings.
At a key moment, Charley says: "Maybe I don't want to be free ..." Lulu responds: "Maybe you're not." The symbol of a set of handcuffs is amenable to several interpretations. Charley is definitely not free without Lulu/Audrey. He can only be free, paradoxically, when she places those cuffs on him and throws away the key. Worse, the same is true for her. Each of them can only "be" with, and through, the other.
This ride turns into a journey back to Lulu's childhood haunts, high school reunion, meeting with family members, but also into the "night side" of the American mind, crime, violence, danger, evil, and a confrontation with Lulu's ex-boyfriend-husband "Ray," and her high school rival "Irene," then a return to the daylight world of suburbia and normality, after a struggle which results in the death of Ray and in Lulu's recovery of her identity as Audrey. Charley is the sort of "good guy" her mother always wanted for Lulu/Audrey, but (I suspect) not the sort of guy that she would have looked at twice, normally. The process of discovery for these characters is mutual.
Charley and Audrey are separated, then re-united in the final scenes, as more fully integrated versions of themselves, who have earned their love for one another and chance for happiness. The journey in the film is into the subconscious of both characters. Lulu spells it out for Charley, explaining that she has shown him, "the other side of you." Arguably, he has done the same for her, by coming to terms with his feminine side, yet remaining strong and protective of Lulu/Audrey and paying a great price for her love. This revelation of character, or self, is something that, usually, only one person in our lives is able to do for us or to help us to accomplish for ourselves.
The metaphor of the journey through geographical space and also through psychic space, outward and inward, individually and socially, creates a relationship betwen this film and many other chronicles of such journeys, from the great "Picaresque" tales -- such as Don Quixote or Tom Jones -- to the beats, i.e., Jack Kerouac's On the Road.
This movie also says something important about the contradiction between America's fascination with crime and violence (Ray), and desire for a prudish and earnest normality (Charley). Those two characters are obviously one person, where Ray is the "shadow" of Charley; whereas Lulu (as the shadow of Audrey) provides the link between the two worlds, a common task for the feminine principle in mythology. Significantly, Lulu/Audrey is always dual, ambiguous, variable, a mystery even to herself.
Notice that director Jonathan Demme has shown the audience "the other side" of themselves. The film maker plays "Lulu" to the audience's "Charley." Mr. Demme, like most good directors, has a powerful feminine side and he is making an important point: the same people who condemn pornography, for example, make ____ a ten billion dollar a year industry; they wage a war on drugs, while providing the demand for those same substances; they insist on great art while denigrating and dismissing the importance of artists. America (like all of us), in Jonathan Demme's vision, is a bundle of contradictions, a duality, in which the best and the worst characterizations are always true at the same time.
Mr. Demme takes up the Shakespearean challenge in this film by holding the mirror not up to nature, but before his country and fellow citizens. He is pointing the camera at the audience as a way of asking: "Who are we really?"
Something Wild may be seen as both a character study of identity within the dialectic of a powerful romance; a profound social commentary; and a very funny satire of human nature and sexuality. A source for this film is the 1939 classic, It Happened One Night, but also In Cold Blood.
Melanie Griffith delivers one the greatest performances by an actor on screen ever, undergoing an astonishing transformation from Lulu to Audrey. She experiences nothing less than a psychological odyssey, travelling from pure eros to innocence and child-like vulnerability, which is the opposite of the usual trajectory, then to maturity and moral responsibility.
There are also unforgettable performances from each of the other leads. Jeff Daniels is funny and compelling as Charley, falling in love while discovering his values and courage, yet still retaining his essential goodness. Ray Liotta is frightening and intense, on a par with the best of Brando, Pacino or De Niro, in his first screen performance as psychopathic ex-husband, Ray. Margaret Colin is excellent, in a small part (much of which is not on the page), as "Irene" -- the woman whose rivalry with Lulu is more important than the relationships with the men that she uses to compete, in her quest for queen bee status.
The viewer senses that Irene has always been concerned to out-do Lulu/Audrey, not necessarily consciously, as the only rival she could have had throughout her life in a small town (Irene says, "... we're old friends"), so that Irene's interest in both Ray and Charley only exists because her rival is concerned with those two men. This is a classic "mirror, mirror on the wall" performance that is perceptive about the conflicts between women that men rarely see, let alone understand.
If you have not figured it out yet, let me be clear: see this movie today.
Crazy in Alabama.
Lucille is a beautiful, troubled woman living in rural Alabama in 1965. She kills her abusive husband and embarks on a journey to Hollywood to make her dreams of artistic success (freedom) a reality, even as she engages in a dialogue and attempt at self-justification with her husband's talkative severed head, which she carries in a Tupperware container. The tag line for this movie serves as my title: "Sometimes you have to lose your mind to find your freedom."
The husband's head represents conscience, the subconscious or id, the dialogue between them is clearly an internal one for Lucille, but the husband's view of America and values are akin to the Old South's "ways" being challenged in the civil rights movement serving as a backdrop to this story. As Lucille rejects those values, so will the nation. Lucille's troubles may be seen as an allegory of the necessary personal and social conflict with evil.
Comparisons with Lulu's journey in Something Wild are obvious. My guess is that Ms. Griffith's best work will always be about freedom and love by way of the metaphor of the journey. Her concerns, as an artist, are with personal liberation and the ever-present threat of madness, sensitivity and rebellion (both of which are present in her screen persona), eros as power and as expression, and also with the search for spiritual love and understanding within a community that provides acceptance.
There is the focusing perspective in this film provided by the archetypal "wise child" -- and glimpses of a waiflike quality in Lucille are visible at key points in this story (also in Lulu/Audrey), suggesting early trauma for the character(s) -- but also in the form of her young nephew "Peejoe" (Lucas Black), narrator and conscience of the work.
Peejoe witnesses the killing of an African-American boy and elects to do the right thing, as does Lucille in the end. Both cinematic narratives in this film warn of the dangers of repressing freedom, of the linkage between freedom and responsiblity, equality and justice, among women and men as well as among races in society. The wisdom of this film is captured in one line: "You can bury freedom, but you can't kill it."
There are great performances in small parts from Rod Steiger (In the Heat of the Night is a recurring reference), by Meat Loaf, as a racist Southern sheriff who is, wisely, not played as a stereotype, and by Robert Wagner as Lucille's Hollywood agent. The movie has some fun with the t.v. show "Bewitched," which features in the fantasy lives of most Latino men of my generation, including Mr. Banderas.
African-American actors elevate this work to a higher level of poignancy and meaning. Whoope Goldberg, especially, is superb and the ensemble is deeply respectful of the African-American experience during the civil rights struggle, which is established as universal and inspirational for oppressed people all over the world. (See "Race and the Challenge of Community.")
This is a great movie rental that the studios simply did not understand or market very well when it first appeared. It can actually be a disadvantage to create a film that is unique and a work of art, since it is not the standard commercial product that studio marketing people and advertising agencies are used to packaging for a mass audience.
Rent it or buy it, but see Crazy in Alabama.
Why Melanie Griffith is a great artist.
I spoke of "fearlessness" when I began this essay, and this is the quality I associate most with great acting. A fearlessness about displaying one's own pain in the service of the play or film, even more so on film, where the effect is timeless. In writing, also, I believe that the greatest challenge is to set aside fear of embarassment or stupidity, so as to take that leap towards the other in the effort to communicate. I will say what I intend and risk the reader's disagreement or unflattering conclusion, by going for the truth as I understand it, in my prose. Ms. Griffith seems to do the same in her acting, at a much higher artistic level than I can hope to achieve.
Her "method" is another source of admiration. Melanie Griffith studied, as did Marilyn Monroe, at the Actor's Studio, in New York. Both women's screen work reveals a sound discipline and technique for drawing upon memory to portray extraordinary human experiences and emotions distant (or not so distant) from their own, and they are highly professional. What looks effortless or easy to the viewer is far from it. Ms. Griffith's performances are no accident and her achievement is not a matter of intuition alone. She is a consumate actor and knows very well what she is doing.
Unsurprisingly, in her film work and in photographs which can be seen on her web page, Melanie Griffith gestures in the direction of her great predecessor Marilyn Monroe. http://www.melaniegriffith.com/
There is also wisdom and psychological insight in Ms. Griffith's work, empathy, a willingness to perceive fully and forgive the characters that she plays. This is a quality that will only get better with the passage of time. A person who can depict on screen extreme human experiences and emotions must be capable of understanding them, especially when it comes to mental suffering -- and to understand is often to forgive. This is true even of the most heinous actions. Every great actor is a also a superb psychologist. Perhaps the same can be said of all great artists.
Nothing is more difficult to portray with truthfulness for an actor than madness or severe depression, and yet those who know of these experiences, from their own lives, will attest to Ms. Griffith's uncanny perceptiveness about such psychological states. She knows what it is like to suffer in such ways. I believe that Kate Winslet reveals a powerful understanding of, and a brave identification with, such extreme states also. Hence, my suggestion that Hamlet or Ophelia, Lady Macbeth or Blanche Du Bois are great parts that are simply made for Ms. Griffith's talents, even if they are somewhat risky for her own peace of mind.
In commenting on Shakespeare's motives for writing his immortal Sonnets, Oscar Wilde provides a crucial insight into acting, which will also serve as my summary of Melanie Griffith's achievement, especially in Something Wild, a film that demands more than one actor's willingness to depict the full gamut of emotions and a complete transformation in character during the course of the unfolding of the plot:
"But to Shakespeare, the actor was a deliberate and self-conscious fellow worker who gave form and substance to a poet's fancy, and brought into Drama the elements of a noble realism. His silence could be as eloquent as words, and his gesture as expressive, and in those terrible moments of Titan agony or of god-like pain, when thought outstrips utterance, when the soul sick with excess of anguish stammers or is dumb, and the very raiment of speech is rent and torn by passion in its storm, then the actor could become, though it were but for a moment, a [great] creative artist, and touch by his [or her] mere presence and personality those springs of terror and pity to which tragedy appeals." The Critic as Artist: The Critical Writings of Oscar Wilde, p. 180.
Melanie Griffith has "touched those springs of terror and pity to which tragedy appeals."
During an interview, Shelly Winters spoke of sitting next to Robert De Niro as he was about to receive an award for his performance in Raging Bull. She noticed that Mr. De Niro was nervous about accepting the award and speaking to a large group of people. We tend to forget that actors are often shy and nervous people, often in need of the "mask of a character" to communicate with others and, paradoxically, very hungry for affection. As he was about to go on stage, Ms. Winters whispered in his ear: "Do it as Jake La Motta, Bobby, go up there and say what he would say." Mr. De Niro's acceptance speech after that "prompt" was easy-going, marred only by a thick accent and large gestures that seemed unusual for the actor, but he was not visibly nervous at all.
Recently, I saw a red carpet interview on television with Antonio Banderas and Melanie Griffith, where Ms. Griffith smiled, nervously, was pleasant but measured and somewhat abrupt in her responses. I realized that she was shy (and cautious) about appearing on camera that day. I was touched by her vulnerability on display to the world. I wish I could have said to her: "Answer these questions as Lulu would." My guess is that her hands would have been on her hips instantly, and she would be tossing off one-liners easily.
Terror and pity, laughter and tears, the theatrical masks of alternative extremes of emotion in tragedy and comedy are in Melanie Griffith's tool-kit. She can be a child of twelve, an erotically powerful adult, even altering before your eyes to become a sophisticated and powerful attorney, a socialite, or a hardened criminal. There is no actor, male or female, on stage or screen, who has thrilled me more. Enjoy her work and learn from it.