Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Watching for Devils

July 12

Attention pop culture lovers...I'm about to revive an old occupation with new players. It's called "Duende" and never mind that it was started on the old Merv Griffin show when he was doing daytime talk. It still can get you going.

Johnny Depp has it; Sean Penn doesn't. Meryl Streep has it; Glenn Close doesn't. Barbra Streisand has it; Celine Dion doesn't. Julia Roberts had it; Keira Knightly doesn't.

It's clear I'm not talking about talent. Nor good looks. Nor sex appeal. I'm talking about that certain something, a possession of "devils" that attract and hold an audience spellbound for no apparent reason. A guest on the old Griffin show, I don't remember who but some doctor of something, an erudite man of international fame, called the quality duende, the Italian word for devils. Talent and looks are part of it, but duende is the undefinable quality that goes beyond these things. It later became called charisma, but duende is a little different, or at least I like the word better because so many people have claimed charisma that it's become a cliché and duende never really caught on. I like the magical sound of it, like a supernatural haunting by the attractiveness gods visited on a person. It is that quality that compells the viewers' attention for no particular reason. It is the reason you will look at one single person in a crowd, even a crowd of two.

Dakota Fanning has it; Lindsay Lohan doesn't. Tiger Woods has it. Anderson Cooper has it.

Is this not totally subjective? Can I not be wrong in my choices? The answer is, I cannot be wrong because it is totally subjective. You will have your own list. It will be different from mine. In some cases it will be the opposite. However, I am right. If you think you are, then you are. There are a few absolutes, those possessed that everybody singles out, like it or not.

When asked what "star quality" was, Katharine Hepburn always said, "I don't know, but whatever it is, I have it." Duende was what she had.

7 comments:

Bert Bananas said...

This is my first reaction:

"Relativistically she's hit the nail square on the head! With a marshmellow!"

I don't mean that as criticism. I'm not asking that your every post solve a world calamity. I mean you served up a fluffy delight. Thank you.

Chew on this: Are there people whom you first dismiss as Duendeless, but whose Duende sneaks up on you and takes you prisoner?

Finding Fair Hope said...

Damn, and this time I thought I'd solved at least one world calamity.

As to the creeping duende, I think you've got a point. In rare cases one who had no duende gets transformed or one's own consciousness gets raised, I don't know which, and duende) arrives. Maybe it's that the devils take possesion. But I can't think of a case in which it's happened. Someone else?

Brian said...

Got it already...John Lithgow.

My "creeping duende" candidate would be Ed Norton.

I was late to the J Depp admirers after having first noticed him in Chocolate and later in a rather lacklustre tale entitled "The Ninth Gate". Depp's character was that of a chain smoking rare book dealer attempting to retrieve a collection of books that his client believed had been penned by none other than Lucifer himself. This film has the dubious distinction of boasting the most anticlimatic ending ever imaged into film (IMHO).

Perhaps Noah Taylor (Max 2001, Shine 1996) eventually. How about some help on "creeping duende" fems?

Brian said...

Correction that would be "Chocolat" not "Chocolate"!

Finding Fair Hope said...

Well, I've got one in reverse. After seeing Audrey Tatou in Amelie in 2002, I would have sworn she was drenched in duende. After The Da Vinci Code it was apparent the devils can leave as fast as they appeared.

Bert Bananas said...

So Duendes can creep up and they can fold their tents and disappear...

I'm a fan of the "we see what we want to see" school of thought and since we often change our minds, sometimes we see Duendes and sometimes we don't.

Do you see a Duende when you look in the mirror?

Finding Fair Hope said...

I was about to post a comment that real duende is absolute, you got it or you ain't, and if you don't see it the first time, it isn't there, and then I thought of someone who I never would have thought of having it, until all of a sudden he did: Pierce Brosnan.

BTW, I don't think anyone but Brian would ever describe Ed Norton as having a drop of it. Don't forget, we're not talking talent here, we're talking the whole package and something just outside it: We're talking magnetism and magic.