Last night, whilst we were sleeping, a post written by Steph and Birb Friend Hayley went up at The Toast! It’s 3000 words about Keanu Reeves.
HOW EXCITE. We love Keanu so much, quokkas. SO MUCH. So much so that below the cut is another 1500 words of APPENDIX (We had to cut over 500 from the post hahah) including a review of his book SHADOWS, Hayley’s notes on ode to friendship Man of Tai Chi, and many photos of Keanu being gazed at adoringly by either Winona Ryder or River Phoenix.
We started this semi-seriously, a desire to rewatch many Keanu movies and to help people realise how great Keanu is in all of them. By the time we submitted our essay to The Toast, our hearts were swelling with affection every time we thought of Keanu, and we were constantly texting each other things like “We are LIVING OUR BEST LIVES” and “This project is everything” and “I just love him SO MUCH.” And we have no regrets.
The Book: Shadows, by Alexandra Grant and Keanu Reeves
We got it: purchased from the publisher, Steidl
Bless the internet for telling us about this book. Despite the exchange rate, we both purchased copies of this book (purchased Monday night in Melbourne, sent from Germany, arriving Friday arvo in Melbourne, faster than Australia Post could have got a parcel to us from Perth, what a DELIGHT, what a BLESSING) and sat in Steph’s living room for two hours reading it together and glowing with happiness.
We are not, usually, purchasers of things just because famous people have arted them, so we were filled with trepidation. We are pleased to tell you that NO TREPIDATION IS NECESSARY, this book is so wonderful that it can be read as often as one needs, picking it up to page through it casually, set it down again. It’s so delightful that Hayley purchased a book display stand so it is always ready to hand.
The book “Shadows” is laid out starkly. Reeves wrote a line or two of text to accompany each of Grant’s photos of shadows — be that Reeves’ outstretched hand, his face bowed in profile, his body bent over as if in the throes of a tribal dance. Many of the images are black and white. Some are colored by light pollution from the digital clock on the microwave oven that the photographer and her subject forgot was there as they shot in a New York apartment.
Are you not charmed?
Without witnessing the full book (if you’re in Melbourne, both Hayley and Steph might allow you to delicately touch the book) you cannot experience it truly, but you can watch Keanu and Alexandra read it out together:
We know that we’re not the first to love Keanu with this blazing, unreasonable ferocity. Still, it was with some consternation that we encountered this excellent article we neither of us had seen that basically loves Keanu as much as we do and does a similar thing, which is, reappraising his works.
Keanu Reeves missed his calling as a silent film actor.
Critics and viewers alike refer to him as stiff, shallow, fake, always playing himself. These opinions have been repeated enough that they’re treated like fact. But this critique misses something. Keanu’s power lies not in transformation or the ability to wrap his mouth around clever word play. No, Keanu is at his most powerful when film is at its most elemental. Like Gloria Swanson, Greta Garbo, and the greatest of silent actors, Keanu has immense screen presence and a keen understanding of communicating story through physicality, albeit with a very modern inflection. A simple glance or curled lip can unfurl lengthy character history or upend expectations.
What a DELIGHT. What TRUTH. Everything is this article is excellent, except for the bit where she disses Keanu’s performance in Bram Stoker’s Dracula, which, as we outline in our piece for the Toast, is a performance of truth and intensity and not, as the world would have us think, a case of being miscast.
We were tiny when Keanu was first a person to love, so that’s a thing we’ve come to terms with. We will always be on someone else’s lawn.
For as long as I can remember, my mom has been a Keanu Reeves super fan. She’s had a non-stop obsession with the actor and musician since 1994, and it’s one she’s been unable to shake. “It has nothing to do with the fame,” she told me. “I like him because he is a beautiful person who has endured the same struggles and challenges in life as me. But, if I was to say it has nothing to do with his looks, I would be lying.”
Reading this article is such a delight, we recommend it above all others, it exemplifies everything we love about Keanu, his genuineness and his excellence and his considerateness.
We need to talk about Hamlet. Keanu was Hamlet in Winnipeg late 1994/early 1995, and was apparently the greatest Hamlet ever.
William Shakespeare’s Hamlet has long been considered one of the theater’s most grueling roles. Demanding an exhaustive emotional range, physical agility and the delivery of some 1500 lines, the role is reserved for the select few. Reeves proved himself worthy of the part with fluid body movement, convincing facial expressions and clean, well-enunciated delivery of the bard’s script.
That we will never see Keanu as Hamlet is probably one of the greatest tragedies of our lives.
MAN OF TAI CHI, Or Keanu Is Friendship
While we gave it a valiant go, we simply couldn’t cover all of Keanu’s filmography in the piece for the Toast, and had to sadly leave some of the gems we discovered by the wayside. One of these was Keanu’s feature film directorial debut MAN OF TAI CHI, which is essentially a FRIENDSHIP LOVE LETTER in which Keanu frames an old-school style kung-fu film around Tiger Chen, a martial arts instructor and stuntman who he worked with on the Matrix films.
The most interesting aspect of this film is the fact that, in attempting to establish Tiger as an action film hero opposite Keanu in the villain role, a lot of what we generally consider the Keanu screen presence is either subverted or completely channeled in the opposite direction, presumably to allow Tiger the greater chance to shine. To wit: in the very first scene of the film, Keanu BREAKS ONE DUDE’S NECK AND BRUTALLY KNIFES ANOTHER and it is SHOCKING and you know immediately that this is something out of the usual.
It’s quite extraordinary to see an established star with a very definite, iconic screen presence attempt to quash and twist themselves into something lesser in order to elevate another performer. Tiger Chen is portrayed as this beacon of goodness and the camera wants to lovingly envelop him at all times, whereas Keanu is so FUCKING INTENSE it’s actually terrifying, you don’t even want to look at him it’s so overwhelming. This is some canny direction in terms of character building and positioning. It’s just ultimately a shame that, well, Tiger doesn’t exactly light the screen on fire any time he’s not required to fight, and is instead an infuriatingly blank presence.
Regardless, it’s a damn good fight film, and how can you not embrace with your heart a film that is a clear devotional offering to joy in friendship? May we all one day have a friend who loves us enough to make us the hero in their directorial debut even though we have all the screen personality of an egg.