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Jack Cardiff received a 1960 Oscar Nomination as Best Director for this lush, engaging film starring Trevor Howard, Dean Stockwell and Donald Pleasence, which was adapted from D.H. Lawrence's classic novel. A young man with artistic talent who lives in a close-knit, English coal-mining town during the early 20th Century finds himself inhibited by his emotionally manipulative, domineering mother. Written by
This is an admirable adaptation of the 1913 D.H. Lawrence novel of the same name. The story concentrates on young Paul Morel and the relationships among him, his parents, his brothers, and his two lovers. This is a case where the title provides a good synopsis.
The relationships are complex. Paul's father is a rough coal miner and his relationship with his wife is quarrelsome. We get a glimpse into how that relationship came to be, when in fact they were lovers. The intense relationship between Paul and his mother is at the core of the story--the dynamics of all the relationships are spin-offs of this central one. Paul talks of wanting to be free while being uncommonly devoted to his mother; this emotional tug-of-war is central to Paul's personality.
Trevor Howard is wonderful as the father and the rest of the cast does not lag far behind. Contrary to some opinions, I found that Dean Stockwell was well cast as the sensitive, emotional young Paul.
The filming is truly outstanding, earning Freddie Francis an Oscar for best cinematography. The composition of every scene reflects the work of a superb visual artist. Francis' ability to exploit the black and white CinemaScope format is a joy to behold. The 2.35:1 aspect creates a tremendous sense of freedom, making any other format seem rather claustrophobic. Black and white photography is ideally suited to the stark emotional and physical environment of this movie, a movie that depends a lot on facial expressions. I sincerely regret the passing of the art form of this super wide screen black and white filming. The most recent movies to film in this format, exclusively in black and white, are Woody Allen's "Manhattan," and "The Elephant Man" in 1980. Think how the facial closeups would lose impact if filmed in color, and how the scene with the young couple frolicking on the beach would be made insignificant. The final scene between Paul and his first girlfriend, Miriam, is so beautifully filmed as to make it hard to forget.
The dialog is subtle and insightful, thanks to a good screenplay, but also thanks to D.H. Lawrence I assume. Consider this comment Miriam makes to Paul when he suggests they call it quits:
"I could hate you for making me love you. Making me fail you."
The only minor negative comment I can come up with is that the music gets a bit too aggressive on occasion.
This movie deserved its seven Oscar nominations and it puzzles me as to why it is not more honored in film history.
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