Sunday, July 27, 2008

On- and Off-Stage

From Maureen Ryan’s Chicago Tribune article about tonight’s second-season premier of Mad Men:

[P]art of what makes Mad Men special is its affinity for the slow burn. There are secrets and contemplative moments. Some of its most evocative scenes show characters sitting and thinking. “You get to see what you don’t get to see on most TV shows,” [series creator Matthew] Weiner said. “You get to see them with [their public] faces and then finally, you get to see them alone.”
I like both aspects mentioned here. First, the slow burn -- which also draws me to Lost (its first season, especially) -- that the camera stays on a character for a long minute while the story deepens and then moves forward solely through an evolving expression.

And second, that this slow burn leaves air for the private moments that clarify character. It reminds me of an early passage in Uncle Tom's Cabin, where a senator votes to pass the Fugitive Slave Law, prohibiting assistance to runaway slaves even in northern states. Not many pages later, he personally gives money and transportation to an escaping slave couple. A simple question is: are people’s truer characters revealed by what they do when others are watching ... or by what they do when no one is looking? The complex answer: you need to see some of each to even suppose.

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