Jul 3, 2015

Charles Boyer, Gaslight


By now, I've watched more films starring Charles Boyer than I have ever expected to. I haven't really understood the fuss over him; with his handsome good looks and a European suaveness, his appeal has seemed to me more based on the exoticism he brings. But it is here as the evil, conniving Gregory in Gaslight, where Boyer finally breaks through the nobility/sexy foreign love interest packaging Hollywood had presented him in.

For once, Boyer isn't playing some foreign nobleman, and he's not a hero/love interest who happens to have a heavy French accent. There's no traditional leading-man criteria here; he just plays a straight-up awful person. Whereas I typically didn't care about any of Boyer's prior roles, I found myself invested in what Gregory was up to due to this unconventionality. Boyer's peppering of raging paranoia, the way he flares up and spews viciousness towards Paula quietly and loudly, contrasted by Bergman's fragility makes a viewer completely dislike Gregory. But beyond this, there's other moments, such as the looks he throws when he runs off into the fog late at night, the perverse way he lights up when he sees jewels, the twisted and ever-so-slightly mental emotion he brings in the last act of the film, contributes so well to an already immersive movie experience. I do get the feeling that any actor in this role would have excelled, and that Boyer, as good as he is, didn't quite make it his own such that it can be vividly differentiated against other movie villains, but for someone like me who had found him to be so underwhelming for so long, this was definitely a solid and refreshing change of scenery.

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