For someone like Egoyan, themes of voyeurism, technology, isolation and alienation run rampant in his work and so it seems that the use of this technique makes his characters open and vulnerable to the filmgoer. He flips this a bit in Felicia's Journey when Joe's (Bob Hoskins) character momentarily confronts the audience with a stare before drugging his latest victim. A simple glance is all it takes to bridge the distance between the viewer and the events on screen and induce sympathy or even make them complicit to a crime.
Ingmar Bergman used the same simplistic but emotionally charged "look" in The Seventh Seal and direct-address technique in several films, including The Passion of Anna, where interview segments with the actors (about their own characters) "breaks the fourth wall" in a way that bears some resemblance to reality television or shows like The Office.
Blazing Saddles, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Animal House and Annie Hall are just a few films that use direct-address to comedic effect, reinforcing the bond the viewer shares with that character and their situation. Sometimes the technique is used to a patronizing effect (intentional or not), as when self-obsessed characters become mouthpieces for the philosophies of their creators, like in Michael Haneke's Funny Games.
Filmmakers have been using these forms of direct-address for so long now that it's become part of the language of cinema, but have audiences become so used to it that they no longer notice? Do you prefer actors take a more understated approach when addressing the camera, or are you the kind of viewer that can't get enough of your favorite character's asides? Does this technique have any bearing on your emotional connection to the character or is it simply annoying? I've highlighted a few classic examples of this approach, but there are countless others out there. What are some of your favorites? Which ones have you hated so much that they ruined the entire viewing experience for you?
Check out the trailer for Atom Egoyan's Chloe after the jump.