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A moment of eternal silence.
September 23, 2007 4:08 AM   Subscribe

Marcel Marceau has died. Although he may have single-handedly been responsible for every terrible white-faced mime who sought to emulate him, the man himself was a master.

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posted by essexjan (87 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
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posted by i_cola at 4:24 AM on September 23, 2007



posted by First Post at 4:25 AM on September 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


[moment of noise]
posted by FelliniBlank at 4:32 AM on September 23, 2007 [7 favorites]


When that 'master' clip gets to 2.16, Marceau appears to be miming a man carrying a roll of lino -- in his pants.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 4:35 AM on September 23, 2007




posted by crossoverman at 4:46 AM on September 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


I wish YouTube had a copy of his famous "Mask" skit. One of the funniest things I've ever seen. Marceau portrayed a mask-maker, trying on various "faces" ... then one particularly crazed face gets stuck. He keeps the same expression for something like ten minutes while he frantically tugs at it.
posted by RavinDave at 4:55 AM on September 23, 2007


anyone know what his last words were?
posted by pyramid termite at 4:59 AM on September 23, 2007 [7 favorites]


I always loved that Marceau had the single spoken line in Mel Brooks' Silent Movie
posted by jburka at 5:09 AM on September 23, 2007 [6 favorites]



posted by Poolio at 5:12 AM on September 23, 2007


I picture him in a big invisible casket carried by six white-faced pall bearers walking against the wind.
posted by RavinDave at 5:12 AM on September 23, 2007 [6 favorites]


I am fortunate to have been exposed to Marceau's performances on T.V. in the 50's, BEFORE snarking about mime's became the thing to do. We could actually enjoy it without feeling like we had to be cool and make fun of it.... (life was much simpler back then!).

His humor and performances were unique...

I'm sort of hoping that he can now spend some time working with Don Knotts in the development of a mime routine regarding a single bullet.... then we will have fully completed the development of humor for our species.
posted by HuronBob at 5:18 AM on September 23, 2007


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posted by timory at 5:25 AM on September 23, 2007


One of the few times I dorked out enough to ask for a celebrity's autograph was in 1977 in the Hague after seeing his performance at the Congressgebouw.

He signed the program "Bip". Of course, he didn't say a word.

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posted by trip and a half at 5:25 AM on September 23, 2007


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posted by bjgeiger at 5:28 AM on September 23, 2007


Is that the best video you can find of him? I'm watching it, and I don't see anything that leads me to the idea of "mastery". It just looks like a mime doing some cheesy miming; and even then, not very well. I've been mildly entertained by mimes before, and this guy doesn't really stand out. Maybe I'm missing something?
posted by tehloki at 5:29 AM on September 23, 2007


Well said Mr. Marceau, well said indeed.
posted by MapGuy at 5:30 AM on September 23, 2007 [2 favorites]


Know that skit where the mime is stuck in the box and can't get out? Well. . .
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 5:33 AM on September 23, 2007 [2 favorites]


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posted by DreamerFi at 5:36 AM on September 23, 2007


I never saw a (recorded) performance of Marceau - way before my time. But I saw Bernard Bragg talk at length about MM and his role in mentoring BB, who later became known as the Father of Deaf theater. I imagine he must've been a pretty neat dude.

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posted by spaceman_spiff at 5:37 AM on September 23, 2007


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I wanted to link to a scene in Mel Brooks' Silent Movie but couldn't find it... basically Marcel Marceau saying "No!" (Marceau had the only line in that movie. Mel Brooks is ironic, you see. Ha ha ha!)
posted by miss lynnster at 5:42 AM on September 23, 2007


RavinDave, I remember that skit.
posted by miss lynnster at 5:42 AM on September 23, 2007


"While in the French underground, Marceau used his artistic skill to change the identity cards of scores of children so they would appear to be too young to be sent to labor camps. He also posed as a Boy Scout leader, and under the pretense of hiking in the Alps, he led children to safety in neutral Switzerland.

After Paris was liberated, Marceau enlisted in the Free French Army, where he was appointed liaison officer to Gen. George S. Patton because of his fluency in English. Word of Marceau’s pantomime antics spread through the troops, and soon Marceau gave his first performance to Americans in an Army tent before 3,000 GIs."
posted by iviken at 5:43 AM on September 23, 2007 [19 favorites]


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posted by h00py at 5:49 AM on September 23, 2007


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posted by the_very_hungry_caterpillar at 5:50 AM on September 23, 2007


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posted by oddman at 6:06 AM on September 23, 2007


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posted by brujita at 6:10 AM on September 23, 2007


"Non."
posted by Eideteker at 6:16 AM on September 23, 2007


I picture him in a big invisible casket carried by six white-faced pall bearers walking against the wind.

... as he tries to get out of the box.
posted by essexjan at 6:26 AM on September 23, 2007


tehloki: "Is that the best video you can find of him? I'm watching it, and I don't see anything that leads me to the idea of "mastery". It just looks like a mime doing some cheesy miming; and even then, not very well. I've been mildly entertained by mimes before, and this guy doesn't really stand out. Maybe I'm missing something?"

Agreed. I'd rather remember him for being in the French underground. The clip was boring and pointless.
posted by who squared at 6:32 AM on September 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


I dunno... the guy didn't have a lot to say...

Then again, that's unusual for a Frenchman, non?

*ducks*

Well, anyway, Marcel Marceau, RIP.

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posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:37 AM on September 23, 2007


Funniest t-shirt ever: "Being a mime means never having to say you're sorry."

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posted by fourcheesemac at 6:38 AM on September 23, 2007


Reposez en paix, ô raconteur du silence.
posted by Pallas Athena at 6:53 AM on September 23, 2007


My apologies for not sourcing a video that meets the approval of the cognescenti.

Shoot me now.
posted by essexjan at 6:54 AM on September 23, 2007


tehloki writes "Maybe I'm missing something?"

I dunno. Maybe , just maybe one could best enjoy Marceau when one is out of the "tunnel" of needing to feel entertained, a s
ang by the italian singer caparezza, you need to be out of Tunnel del divertimento (italian, hiphop?)
posted by elpapacito at 6:56 AM on September 23, 2007


I used to have an LP record of a Marceau performance. It was two sides of silence, capped by three minutes of thunderous applause.

I'm not kidding either.
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:22 AM on September 23, 2007 [5 favorites]


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posted by The Great Big Mulp at 7:25 AM on September 23, 2007


I wish you could see his face better in this clip- he did the piece (or something like it) when I saw him perform in 2004, and it was really tremendous. He also did The Mask (which I wish I could find online) as well as some more modern, arty pieces (some of which are on Google Video- here and here.)

Like elpapacito says, I think you have to watch this more for the artistry and the detail (which sometimes does not come through in flash video, since so much of it is in the little details of the face) than for 'ooh, ahh, I'm entertained.'
posted by louie at 7:26 AM on September 23, 2007


I'm speechless.
posted by The Deej at 7:30 AM on September 23, 2007


Marcel Marceau on Wikipedia. "His father, a kosher butcher, was arrested by the Gestapo and murdered in Auschwitz concentration camp."

Marcel Marceau speaks about Michael Jackson.

Likeable article in Salon.

Strange there is such a lack of decent videos of him online. He really was marvelous.

In the mid-60's, when I was about 11 years old somebody took me to see Marcel Marceau at New York's City Center. It was intoxicating. Marceau was charming in his Charlie Chaplin kind of way but the show was electrifying, a sort of one man ballet and very sensual. Even the smell, a kind of powdery perfume. It made instant sense why he became an international phenomenon for decades, which is hard to justify now when so much contempt is heaped on his imitators.

The next time I saw him was one of those pivotal days of my teens in 1969. I was 15, a runaway in NYC and going to a quirky school for kids who worked in the entertainment biz (I didn't but the school admitted me anyway). My classmate had offered me a free ticket to see Marceau again at the City Center, which was right behind our school. That afternoon I was caught shoplifting, twice in an hour at two different stores and felt so appalled I resolved never to shoplift again.

By the time I saw the show I was emotionally exhausted and it was less magic than it had been 4 years before but still very likeable. When the show ended, Becky, my classmate, and I headed toward the exit door. All of a sudden she got the impulse to see Marceau backstage but we were prevented by the theater staff, so she convinced me to jump into the orchestra pit and find our way backstage that way, which we did.

We arrived just in time, as Marceau had taken off his make-up and was heading out of the theater. That was a shock seeing him like that, unmasked. We shook his hand and he in turn kissed us both on the cheek.

Since then I've always associated Marcel Marceau with a mixture of guilt, remorse, nostalgia and delight.

Rest in peace seems inappropriate for him somehow. Flowers and thanks.
posted by nickyskye at 7:32 AM on September 23, 2007 [12 favorites]


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posted by cerebus19 at 7:37 AM on September 23, 2007


I remember how he had the only line of dialogue in Mel Brooks's Silent Movie. "Non!"

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posted by jonp72 at 7:43 AM on September 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


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Yes, tehloki, you are missing something.
posted by motty at 7:52 AM on September 23, 2007


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posted by SageLeVoid at 7:53 AM on September 23, 2007


Let's get John Cage to play his funeral!
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:00 AM on September 23, 2007 [2 favorites]


:X
posted by Eekacat at 8:16 AM on September 23, 2007


Marcel Marceau rhymes with little ho.

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posted by Sailormom at 8:27 AM on September 23, 2007


I never saw Raymond Devos (worth learn French just to laugh at his great puns) and now I'll never see MM :(
posted by zouhair at 8:39 AM on September 23, 2007


He was a profoundly gifted artist, and a brave and good human being.

And I enjoy a good bit of snark in obit threads when it's deserved, but come on, folks. And essexjan found the best clip available. Sheesh.
posted by jokeefe at 9:39 AM on September 23, 2007


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posted by Busithoth at 9:43 AM on September 23, 2007


I saw the Mask thing too. I was quite young, and what i remember most about it was that somewhere along the line i stopped laughing and got very scared and started crying because he couldn't get it off!

I had nightmares for a long time after.

I hope more of his work turns up on the net. There've got to be some video clips out there that are clear enough for people to see his artistry.
posted by merelyglib at 9:47 AM on September 23, 2007


Regarding mimes IN GENERAL, I'll say it again.

BUT. Marcel Marceau was in a class by himself, and may he rest in peace.
posted by exlotuseater at 10:02 AM on September 23, 2007


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posted by killy willy at 10:08 AM on September 23, 2007


Hm, I didn't take tehloki's comment as a snark, really. I have to admit that I didn't know much about Marceau before this post, but I don't think there's anything wrong with wondering if maybe there's another, better video of him out there that would help to show his talent.
posted by the other side at 10:19 AM on September 23, 2007


Here's a pretty good clip of Marceau as a rather chicken-hearted lion tamer.
posted by wsg at 10:25 AM on September 23, 2007


I had no idea of all his work with the French underground. What a cool person he must have been. He was an outstanding performer, one who has never been matched by his imitators.
posted by Peecabu at 10:27 AM on September 23, 2007


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posted by porn in the woods at 10:39 AM on September 23, 2007


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posted by Skygazer at 10:40 AM on September 23, 2007


It should be noted that Marceau was an inspiration for a lot of performance art and dance beyond just miming including the puppetry of Jim and Brian Henson.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 10:44 AM on September 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


Some video (not nearly enough, alas) involving his teacher Etienne Decroux (who was himself a student of Jacques Copeau - but let's stop while we're ahead).
posted by IndigoJones at 10:56 AM on September 23, 2007


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posted by JHarris at 12:04 PM on September 23, 2007


(Dammit, it worked in preview. Ah well.)
posted by JHarris at 12:05 PM on September 23, 2007


It would be ironic for him to wake up in his coffin and to that "trapped in a box" routine one more time.

Just kiddin".

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posted by ranchocalamari at 12:25 PM on September 23, 2007


I had the pleasure of seeing Marceau live just a few years back. he performed out here and led a workshop with my students.

He had a strong, lovely voice. He came across as kind, gifted and committed to artistic excellence. He made a huge impact on all of us and completely changed my impression of mime as an art form.

Even in his 80's, his mime work was sublime. He performed to several hundred people out here and it was breathtaking.

Anyhow, RIP Monsieur Bip.
posted by Joey Michaels at 12:40 PM on September 23, 2007


[.]
posted by Deathalicious at 1:02 PM on September 23, 2007


It's not an invisible box he's trapped in now... its so sad when fantasy becomes reality.
posted by fatcatslimslim at 1:35 PM on September 23, 2007


4'33"
posted by ZachsMind at 1:44 PM on September 23, 2007


O.....[].....O
posted by dov3 at 2:28 PM on September 23, 2007


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A mime is a terrible thing to waste.
posted by Soliloquy at 2:52 PM on September 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


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What? It's a single dot walking against the wind.
posted by Elsa at 2:59 PM on September 23, 2007 [4 favorites]


:-(
posted by bwg at 3:48 PM on September 23, 2007


Finally, I can now have the chance to be the world's greatest living mime.
posted by bystander at 4:35 PM on September 23, 2007


I also never knew about the WWII and French Resistance stuff. While Mummenschantz was Nightmare Fuel for me, I do appreciate the sort of "elemental acting" that is mime.

I am fortunate to have been exposed to Marceau's performances on T.V. in the 50's, BEFORE snarking about mime's became the thing to do. We could actually enjoy it without feeling like we had to be cool and make fun of it

Anyone have a sense of the origin of the anti-mime meme?
posted by Rock Steady at 5:38 PM on September 23, 2007


o_.___,

Kickstart70's links and cute ascii.
posted by nickyskye at 6:02 PM on September 23, 2007


thanks nickyskye
posted by Kickstart70 at 7:12 PM on September 23, 2007


.00.
 +
~
posted by rougy at 7:33 PM on September 23, 2007


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posted by moonbird at 8:54 PM on September 23, 2007


RIP
posted by CitizenD at 9:10 PM on September 23, 2007


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posted by davelog at 7:09 AM on September 24, 2007


Several people mention that Marceau was the only one who spoke in "Silent Movie". No one mentions that he actually dubbed it in later.
posted by RavinDave at 8:22 AM on September 24, 2007


a silent
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posted by MythMaker at 12:00 PM on September 24, 2007


Here's a youtube clip of the Marceau performance in Silent Movie.

And:

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posted by ooga_booga at 6:35 PM on September 24, 2007


That "Silent Movie" clip brought back a lot of memories. In the clip above, in answer to the definitive "No!", Sid Caesar asks Mel Brooks: "What did he say?" And Mel says: "I don't know. I don't speak French." Originally, the answer was supposed to be: "He said he'd think about it."

I recall reading the script. There were a lot of inside jokes inserted that no one would ever see except for the production crew. It had stuff like:

INT. PARIS -- DAY

French curtains on the French window are blowing in the French breeze.
posted by RavinDave at 8:23 PM on September 24, 2007


WAIT A MINUTE, how is it that I did a zillion youtube searches using every possible combination that might include words like "Silent Movie" Marcel Marceau, Mel Brooks, etc... and that never showed up?!???

*pouts. then pretends to be trapped in a box.*
posted by miss lynnster at 8:56 PM on September 24, 2007


Here's another clip of Marceau which shows Marceau's influence on Michael Jackson and how Marceau was quite proud of the association and if you saw Marceau's "walking against the wind" performance, you can see the genesis of Jackson's moonwalk.
This clip is in French with Marceau speaking of a scene (I'm assuming in Jackson's Moonwalker) in which Michael's uses a simple hand gesture to evoke great violence and calmness at once (although my french is rusty and I couldn't make out exactly what he said at that point). There's also mention of how Jackson proposed some sort of concert in collaboration with Marceau which was to take place in '95 but which had to be cancelled due to health reasons on Jacko's part.
posted by ooga_booga at 9:02 PM on September 24, 2007


Damn - missed the errant apostrophe in preview.

Ms. Lynnster - I think you didn't find this clip specifically because it was just added in the past day, so it wasn't a result of a faulty search. You just can't find what isn't there.
posted by ooga_booga at 9:06 PM on September 24, 2007


ooga_booga said: You just can't find what isn't there.

Oh. but you're wrong. She can, ooga, she can. You just really have to believe.
posted by Peecabu at 10:52 PM on September 24, 2007


The Economist's obituary of Bip. The first paragraph:
When the spotlight faded on Bip last week, leaving not even a hand or a flower illuminated, it caused only a sigh of surprise. Bip had tried many times to put an end to himself. He would cut his wrists with a blade, nicking and wincing away from it, in case his copious blood gushed over his pure white sailor's trousers. He would shake out into his palm a handful of pills from a bottle, open his wide red mouth, and fail to swallow them. Stepping on a chair that wobbled under him, he would knot a noose round his scrawny neck, test it, yank it, gyrate his neck like a pigeon and step out into the void. Nothing worked. He went on living.
posted by Kattullus at 1:36 PM on September 29, 2007 [1 favorite]


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