The disappointing confessions of John Malkovich: ‘The infernal comedy’ at Bozar

I know of quite a few girls who would instantly faint if John Malkovich was holding his head against their belly. So imagine that you are a soprano and you have to continue singing. It was funny to see Malkovich fool around with the two sopranos, during The infernal comedy at Bozar (Brussels), last night. And the music was nice too, but apart from that? A rather disappointing affair.

As he was walking on stage – white suit, sunglasses on – you could feel the excitement in the concert hall. This is what everybody had eagerly been waiting for: the great John Malkovich (Dangerous Liaisons, Being John Malkovich) on stage. Here and now. Sure, there was an orchestra and two sopranos, but this was what you had bought your ticket for: to hear and see Malkovich perform.

He started off in a great way. He addressed the audience directly, threw some jokes in, as if this was going to be a performance by a stand-up comedian. You had the impression you were listening to Mr. Malkovich, but quite soon he made it clear that we were listening to the Austrian serial killer Jack Unterweger, giving a reading at some sort of book signing session. The stage was empty, apart from a table with a few copies of his book. And then one of the sopranos started signing, accompanied by the Orchester Wiener Akademie: Sposa son disprezzata, taken from Vivaldi’s Ottone in villa.

This is the way it would be for the rest of the performance: John Malkovich would be telling a part of Unterwegers story, and then either Bernarda Bobro or Aleksandra Zamojska would sing. As the evening progressed, my disappointment was growing. In the beginning it really seemed as if this was going to be a John Malkovich-evening with some musical interludes, but in the end it turned out to be more of a musical programme with some interventions by Malkovich. Secondly, and surprisingly, it seemed as if Malkovich really needed his sheets of paper, to read his lines from. Those who had expected a great, intense theatrical performance just got a rather impromptu sounding, flimsy reading. And that story he was telling – the play itself – wasn’t exactly a spellbinding one.

Sure, it was fun to see him strut and talk, in that inimitable style of his. Or to see him interact with those two singers. And it was nice to hear some aptly chosen aria’s (Mozart, Haydn, von Weber…). But the unforgettable John Malkovich-evening lots of people in the audience were undoubtedly hoping for? No. We’ll have to rent a movie for that.

For a promoclip of ‘The infernal comedy’ on YouTube, click here. Touring schedule here.

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5 Responses to “The disappointing confessions of John Malkovich: ‘The infernal comedy’ at Bozar”

  1. Graham Nequest Says:

    Very self-indulgent, pretentious claptrap – redeemed only by two fine singers and a good orchestra (who may well now regret ever getting involved in this..)! Malkovich’s monotonous delivery managed to make what was a feeble script to start with even worse – with his irritatingly rising intonation, he spent most of the evening ambling up and down the stage reading out loud from sheets of paper, books and (not content with that) even a computer screen. Never was a fan, but this ‘performance’ merely confirmed my suspicions that Malkovich is simply full of his own importance, but devoid of any talent…sorry, not for me!

  2. Ronny Says:

    You are completely right. It was a dissapointing evening. I think no performer could get away with this farce of a performance, unless your name is Malkovitch. I would call this the quick money tour.

  3. I know this is an annoying thing to say, but: you missed the point a bit. Unterweger is not supposed to be a charming character. He is not supposed to speak in a pleasant or poetic manner (the Austrian accent is mentioned at the start). This is indeed his “quick money tour”, as much is said during the play: the only purpose is selling Unterweger’s new book. Did you really miss “this will not be a performance”-parts? BTW: not that it matters, but Malkovich was not actually reading his lines, just pretending to e.g. the Wikipedia entry he read is not very similar as to what is actually on there.

    Again, it is your right to be disappointed. Malkovich’s voice and manner of speaking is a large part of his appeal to me as well, so I was glad to be able to hear him speak out of character in Cinematek a few hours earlier. Still, most of the criticism you raise is not valid.

  4. Graham Says:

    I entirely got the point, but – unlike others apparently – dislike being taken for a ride..and, even worse, being told so! How anyone could enjoy – oops, don’t want to be accused of missing the point again! – appreciate a piece of work like this is beyond me..but then again, you know what they say about a fool and his money…

  5. The “don” says: I know nothing of Malkovitch and/or opera, and only stumbled upon the infernal comedy whilst channelsurfing, but I have to admit I found it oddly compelling – enough to Google it. To Grahame, I would suggest that, if he had watched it with less a priore expectation, he may well have enjoyed it more; but, sadly, he seems to be an expert! One definition of ‘expert’ that I really like is “a drip, under pressure!”.

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