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‘I'm just a character in your film’: acting and performance from autism to Zissou

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This paper examines the role of the actor in the Anderson frame and considers the function of performance as a theme and strategy as a way of reading Anderson's films. Considering the relationship between mise-en-scène, the camera and the actor, I establish the actor's agency in the construction of character and narrative. Anderson's films construct other ‘frames’ through which to read performance, including performance-within-performance framing devices and the ensemble. Such techniques call attention to performance as performance, self-consciously foregrounding film and performance as a constructed image that is then echoed by a number of Anderson's narratives. The paper goes on to examine the distinctiveness of acting in Anderson's films, particularly via a ‘deadpan’ style that is exhibited facially and vocally. Finally, these areas are brought together via a discussion of performance in relation to the enactment of male social roles in order to argue that what we witness in Anderson's films is less a ‘blankness’ than an autistic performance of emotion.
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Keywords: Wes Anderson; acting; fatherhood; performance; social roles

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Faculty of the Creative Industries & Society,Southampton Solent University, Southampton,SO14 0YN, UK

Publication date: March 1, 2012

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