Kevin Spacey Plays Hapless Ventriloquist in New Series of International Films

If only more liquor com­pa­nies thought as cin­e­mat­i­cal­ly as Jame­son, we’d nev­er run out of stunt-ish yet care­ful­ly craft­ed short films to watch on the inter­net. They’ve put on some­thing called the First Shot con­test, which teams up-and-com­ing film­mak­ers from around the world with no less a lumi­nary of stage and screen than Kevin Spacey. Above, you’ll find The Ven­tril­o­quist, fruit of the labors of Amer­i­can writer-direc­tor Ben­jamin Leav­itt. Spacey stars as the tit­u­lar street per­former, work­ing every day the same emp­ty L.A. street cor­ner, long­ing for the same cof­fee-cart girl, and falling into an ever more com­bat­ive rela­tion­ship with Mr. Hig­gins, his polit­i­cal­ly incor­rect, Char­lie McCarthy-era throw­back of a dum­my. Open Cul­ture read­ers will, of course, already know that Spacey has what it takes for the role, hav­ing seen his nine impres­sions in six min­utes.

Spir­it of a Den­ture, writ­ten and direct­ed by South African win­ner Alan Shel­ley, casts Spacey as a den­tist and frigate enthu­si­ast who one night finds him­self alone in his office with an actu­al sea pirate. Enve­lope, below, by Russ­ian writer-direc­tor Alek­sey Nuzh­ny, dress­es Spacey in a bland­ly gar­ish out­fit of Sovi­et casu­al wear. The year is 1985. The place sits some­where behind the Iron Cur­tain. The char­ac­ter is a col­lec­tor of inter­na­tion­al postal can­cel­la­tion stamps, with only the return of a delib­er­ate­ly mis­mailed let­ter to New Zealand stand­ing in the way of his grand pro­jec­t’s com­ple­tion. Leav­itt, Shel­ley, and Nuzh­ny know how to draw on Spacey’s pecu­liar strengths as an actor: his askew-every­man mys­tique, his dis­tinc­tive­ly fine com­mand of seem­ing­ly bland fea­tures, his seam­less assump­tion of voic­es and man­ner­isms that few oth­er play­ers could take on with dig­ni­ty. Even cer­tain A‑list film­mak­ers, as movie­go­ers know all to well, can’t quite man­age that.

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall.

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