Get SF Weekly Newsletters
Pin It

Appreciation: Heath Ledger's untimely death, and that milestone performance 

Wednesday, Jan 30 2008

What I want to say about the death of Heath Ledger is ... nothing. No speculation on why he committed suicide, if he committed suicide. No comment on the chronology, the circumstances, the known facts or lurid details of his passing. No outrage at the ghoulish gathering outside his SoHo apartment, no interest in who may or may not have owned it, not even my revulsion — violent as it is — that New York Magazine no sooner posted news of Ledger's death on its Web site than it also offered a link to a broker's listing for a loft in the same building, as if this were just another colorful chapter in the story of Manhattan real estate.

No one saw it coming, everyone says, as if it would be any of our business if we did.

Ledger's most recent performance belongs to a movie about the artist besieged by critics, cultists, acolytes, and skeptics; inundated with intrusions, expectations, adoration, and disillusionment. As the dissolute actor in I'm Not There (how doleful, how morbid that title now becomes), he contributes a bittersweet, reproachful shade to this kaleidoscopic reflection on the necessity, and consequences, of reinvention, an epic contemplation on the thrill, and toll, of a life spent heading for the exit.

What is there to say? His rigorous, wrenching turn in Brokeback Mountain, instantly accepted to the uppermost pantheon, now abides in the ethereal company of Mike Waters, narcoleptic angel of My Own Private Idaho. Like River Phoenix' lovesick hustler, Ledger's Ennis Del Mar is a milestone not only of acting but also of representation. His forthcoming role as the Joker will be what it is (and we can best respect his memory by letting it play out as free as possible from studio temerity and maniacal punditry), but Ledger's legacy will always rest on the sad shoulders of a performance that belongs equally to the history of acting and cultural consolation.

About The Author

Nathan Lee


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Popular Stories

  1. Most Popular Stories
  2. Stories You Missed


  • clipping at Brava Theater Sept. 11
    Sub Pop recording artists 'clipping.' brought their brand of noise-driven experimental hip hop to the closing night of 2016's San Francisco Electronic Music Fest this past Sunday. The packed Brava Theater hosted an initially seated crowd that ended the night jumping and dancing against the front of the stage. The trio performed a set focused on their recently released Sci-Fi Horror concept album, 'Splendor & Misery', then delved into their dancier and more aggressive back catalogue, and recent single 'Wriggle'. Opening performances included local experimental electronic duo 'Tujurikkuja' and computer music artist 'Madalyn Merkey.'"