FIND MOVIES
Movie List
Loading ...
or
Find Theaters and Movie Times
or
Search Movies

Glee and venom

By MICHAEL ATKINSON  |  May 8, 2007

Losey, an American HUAC fugitive who in Hollywood was a rich, imaginative manufacturer of genre movies, became an idolized figure among the cognoscenti, and he tried to rise to the occasion with his next two Pinter scripts, ACCIDENT (1967; May 25 at 9:15 pm and May 26 at 7 pm) and THE GO-BETWEEN (1970; May 22 at 8:45 pm and May 23 at 6:30 pm), filmizations of others’ novels that at the time were perceived as the salvation of English movies in the fierce art-film heyday of Godard, Fellini, Bergman, and Kurosawa. Pretension was a prevalent hazard, and it seems that the stultified existentialism of Antonioni and the historical objectivism of Rossellini were major influences on Losey. But today these movies, for all their highbrow glamor and pungent social commentary, do not wear terribly well — their fashionableness is enervating, mannered, and often stiffly acted. The latter, shot in chintzy color, is a grandly styled period piece that places a woozy young boy in the middle of a forbidden romance between Julie Christie’s manor maiden and Alan Bates’s tenant farmer. The class conflict couldn’t be simpler, and the film couldn’t be more entranced with its own obvious ideas about Old World soullessness. One can only guess at Pinter’s contribution and responsibility, but such is the grace of writing for movies, as well as possibly one reason he has so rarely stepped into the director’s shoes. (He’s helmed only a few TV plays, and the American Film Theatre version of Simon Gray’s Butley, in 1974.)

A meatier and more muscular experience was offered by Penelope Mortimer’s novel THE PUMPKIN EATER (May 13 at 7 pm), which as directed by Jack Clayton in 1964 bore all the famous and evocative earmarks of that decade’s Britfilm — serotonin-depleting black-and-white cinematography, constant drizzle and gray skies and overcoats, domestic strife that borders on the homicidal. The dialectic Pinter had to work with here was distinctive and involving: lost in her third marriage and her motherhood to six children, an English woman (Anne Bancroft) struggles to keep her sense of self together when it becomes apparent that her screenwriter husband (Peter Finch) is a philandering bastard. (Mortimer’s husband was busy scribe John Mortimer, who did indeed divorce her a few years later, then remarried and fathered Emily Mortimer.) The dialogue, pitched at a feverish speed and anger, careers and defiantly contradicts and barely keeps the lid on savagery, and it’s pure Pinter. “What do you think of our marriage?” Bancroft’s raging wife probes during the film’s furious peak exchange. “It doesn’t exist,” Finch’s lout spits back. “So what?”

She then asks whether he’s slept with a family friend, and, “Did you ever try not to?” He snaps, ambiguously, “Yes!” Later in that same scene, Finch’s exasperated jerk lets loose with “I wish you’d shut up, I wish you’d die!” — words that freeze the air. But he blanches when his troubled wife slowly shuts the door behind her and quietly asks, “How should I die?” Pinter is peerless at discovering the hidden impulses and surreal thoughts beneath hot-blooded marital combat, and the scene leaves a bruise. Of course, it may be that The Pumpkin Eater’s primary asset is Bancroft, whose wide-open eyes and dark strength command attention in ways that no English actress of the ’60s could have. But Pinter’s textures make the film sing with anxiety. It may be the first film made anywhere that explicitly links a woman’s psychological destruction to her oppression by men and by the traditional roles to which she’s restricted.

< prev  1  |  2  |  3  |   next >
  Topics: Features , Entertainment, Music, Jeremy Irons,  More more >
| More


Most Popular
ARTICLES BY MICHAEL ATKINSON
Share this entry with Delicious
  •   REVIEW: FAR FROM AFGHANISTAN  |  March 06, 2013
    A contemporary mirror of 1967's multidirector lefty-agitprop masterpiece Far from Vietnam , this omnibus epic plumbs the American quagmire in Central Asia from the aesthetic viewpoints of five western filmmakers assembled by John Gianvito (who also contributes a segment), plus a cadre of Afghan locals called Afghan Voices.
  •   OVERDRIVE: THE FILMS OF LEOS CARAX  |  February 11, 2013
    Every Carax shot is a new way to feel about something...
  •   AUTEUR LIMITS: THE FILMS OF STANLEY KUBRICK  |  January 30, 2013
    There will never be another Stanley — cinema's greatest loner-demigod, the hermit CEO of hip public culture for decades running, the filmmaker-artiste everyone could obsess about even if they didn't know any other working director by name.
  •   REVIEW: NOTHING BUT A MAN (1964)  |  January 08, 2013
    Michael Roemer's modest, eloquent, New Wave-y micro-movie — made independently in 1964 — is essential viewing for its matter-of-fact look at an average black man's struggle for dignity in the Deep South in the early '60s.
  •   REVIEW: THE DEEP BLUE SEA  |  March 29, 2012
    Like a bad dream trapped in amber, Terence Davies's studied film adaptation of Terence Rattigan's famous 1952 play is both spectrally beautiful and frozen in self-regard.

 See all articles by: MICHAEL ATKINSON