Monday, April 8, 2013

Captain Jack Sparrow

A brief meditation on Captain Jack Sparrow (mostly from the first movie):

So, this picture is being posted apropos of nothing other than it's bloody striking and it's bloody Jack Sparrow and it makes one want to jump through computer screens and onto the bounding maine...but it also makes me think a few other (slightly deeper) thoughts. Things that make me go "Hmmm."

When I first saw the "Pirates" movie, it was fine - it was better than some other recent fare (
Geena Davis, I'm looking at you) - the costumes were good, the actors were decent, the bit with dropping the sconce was an acceptable meet-cute...and then:


CAPTAIN JACK SPARROW.

The most remarkable thing about his appearance to me (besides the genius of his entrance which showed us pretty much *everything* we needed to know about his character, and which to me is still probably the Best Entrance/Introduction of a Character Evah) was that as soon as I saw him, Captain Jack Sparrow HAD ALWAYS EXISTED.

Cole Porter and Mozart have this quality. One can hear their songs for the first time, and be sure that they've always been singing in your bones. Shakespeare's characters are so indelible that while there are a plurality of people who have played Hamlet, there can never be another Hamlet - not really. It's also fun to be able to say, "Oh, I was playing Ophelia," or "Lady Bracknell" last week and not to have to explain who she is or from what play...the way one must do if one is playing, say, "Betty." And then explain, "From 'Sure Thing.' By David Ives. 'All in the Timing?' It's a really great play. It's about two people meeting at a cafe? And they keep starting over. There's a bell? Nevermind. But you should totally read it."

The opposite of this effect, however, is that the Archetype of Jack Sparrow is so strong that the writers (and to some extent Johnny Depp himself) forgot the most HUMAN part of Captain Jack - which aren't his catchphrases or his quirks - but his real LONGING, LOVING of the freedom of a ship and the open sea. Which this early picture captures.

So it is when we're writing/acting/directing new work: there's the thrill of finding the unexpected human contradictions that make great characters great. And there's the danger of falling into "either/or," archetypical or caricature when we return to that work again and again and again.

For me, I'd love to see Captain Jack Sparrow return with a bit of his secret soulfulness intact. For now, I'm content to watch him here, dreaming forever after of that horizon.