Tuesday, December 06, 2005
just who the fuck(!) is james spader?
For the last two weeks or so I seem to have been watching films with an actor I had never been aware of. Not planned, maybe it was unconsciously. Every time I went to my new DVD library find on Dastur street I seemed always to come away with a film that somehow had this actor who was not center stage in the film but I couldn’t quite stop looking at him from the corner of my eye.
This 1960 Boston child is the American Hugh Grant. Spader may display less obvious charm of the sweet ladies man type in the cheesy romantic way but he possesses something in oodles Grant’s film persona never had which is why Grant as the villain in Bridget Jones’ Diaries is hard to believe. Spader has the dark forces on his side. He is perversion on the screen. The dark prince of sexual fantasies. At least in the two movies. Crash, the other week; and this week, The Secretary.
In Crash some but mostly in The Secretary, Spader is no ordinary horny leading man zipper impatient to get it on or some incredible 16 inch penis pornographic film super hero. He’s something more sinister. You can tell he is bad news just by the way he moves, gliding, stalking, more than walking around his office room with gleaming eyes that never leave his prey, a spider focused on a fly. This is no fluke of being the boss in his office, a master at home in his environment where his supremacy is unchallengeable. Cringing neurotic freak that he is, nevertheless even in the street there’s a space he achieves that no one dares intrude on not because the coarse plebeians he has to go through respect his privacy but because they animal instinctively sense that to get too close and fall in his radar would somehow be suicidal for themselves.
He does not Clive Owen want to marry her; nor Humphrey Bogart style bittersweet like her much. There is no Tom Cruise playfulness in him. He is not di Caprio a la Titanic interested in talking out her low self esteem beautiful inner woman. His attitude is the attitude of all men that men now don’t have the guts to utter: bend down and shut up.
Thomas Ian Nicholas in American Pie, teen movie though it is, is true when he turns away from Tara Reid after getting his blowjob and has to ejaculate; a cowering pitiful spectacle of man losing control and trying to find a hiding place from the curious and contemptuous woman. Whichever way it’s done, I was, until I watched Spader in The Secretary, convinced that a man in this situation could not but be shamefaced after. Not Spader. Soames Forsyte couldn’t have been straighter backed after!
Mickey Rourke used to have this gift. Battle scarred by life he’s gone onto something else. James Spader is his wide screen heir.
The Secretary though was another story (hahahahaha!). The Secretary with Maggie Gyllenhaal in the lead was more disturbing. I was not sure watching The Secretary whether for example it was morally right. Not only was this a film about a boss, a lawyer, (James Spader) sexually exploiting his employer by making her engage in unnatural sexual acts. The secretary herself, Maggie Gyllenhaal, welcomed the ends she was ordered to bend to.
This was more than just sex in the office on a slow afternoon with the sun filtering through the drawn blinds. This was a girl’s sexual appetites being tutored and turned from the normal ordinary missionary style—“bang, bang, can we now go to sleep”--- to elaborate pleasure seeking in sex where pain and pleasure are the same thing. Where humiliation is foreplay. Though softly spoken, “Bend over and pull up your skirt,” were simultaneously the most chilling and arousing words by James Spader’s lawyer character who hardly ever seemed able to construct a full sentence. I found myself angry and outraged that Gyllenhaal made this film, I was about to say, was forced to make this film. That’s how Secretary fires up one. I’m never one to rush to the aid of women but I found myself rather hating the filmmakers on Gyllenhaal’s part.
But The Secretary is trickier than that. The victim turns out to be the huntress before the end of the film. I won’t spoil for you how. But out of this hothouse office thing grows like a flower an odd love story. It is as this love is growing that you begin to wonder whether perhaps you have misunderstood The Secretary. Okay, daft me misunderstood The Secretary.
Spader and Gyllenhaal are not exactly damaged people in the movie cliché way. Sure he is neurotic in a later Howard Hughes way and she, well, she …what the fuck was wrong with her? You have to watch the movie yourself. (Scratch…scratch….) But there is something wrong with her. The way she stares and the things she thinks about, just not natural. They are two human beings who turn on other people but they themselves never feel the heat they force out of the eager mouths of their partners. Gyllenhaal in bed with her boyfriend is the nightmare of every man.
Then they meet. Gyllenhaal reads Spader’s looking for a secretary advert in the newspaper and applies.