' ' Cinema Romantico: In Memoriam: Ian Holm

Monday, June 22, 2020

In Memoriam: Ian Holm

Ian Holm, who died on Friday at the age of 88, had a rich, vast career, beginning on the stage in the Royal Shakespeare Company before eventually transitioning to film, starring in both pop classics like “Alien” and “Lord of the Rings” and beloved indies like Atom Egoyan’s “The Sweet Hereafter” and David Cronenberg’s “eXistenZ.” He appeared in plenty of Shakespeare adaptions for screen, too, earned an Academy Award nomination for “Chariots of Fire” and was knighted.

When you have as varied a career as Holm, however, you leave myriad fingerprints and it’s strange, sometimes, the impressions you might make. 1997’s “A Life Less Ordinary” is unlikely to appear in any of his obits. It is not considered one of Danny Boyle’s best. It might well be viewed as Danny Boyle’s worst. I, however, have always been fond of it and of Holm as the wealthy father of the spoiled rich girl (Cameron Diaz) who falls in love with Ewan McGregor’s hapless janitor. Most of Holm’s scenes are in his character’s place of work and he is frequently positioned in frames so that it seems like the place is bigger than him, sinking into his desk chair, as if the corner office makes the man, not the other way around.

In an early scene, after his daughter has made a mess of things, he explains she will be going to work, for him. “You’re going to learn the essence of business,” he says, “about money and how it flows relentlessly back towards he who owns it.” It’s a line and a line reading I think of all the time. In fact, if you read the preceding post on this blog, the one that’s not really even about movies, you might well notice where I paraphrased this line. That’s because in the gleeful way Holm says it, like he’s biting a head off a live chicken because he knows it’ll make him a few bucks, he, Sir Ian Holm, wickedly embodies every single ill of what the economists are fond of calling late capitalism.

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