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This film came on Turner Classic Movies recently, with the host
mentioning that it was the film's debut on that channel, and the first
film Patricia Neal made after winning the Oscar for Hud.
The story concerns a privileged upper-class blind woman named Alison (Neal), her husband Eric (Jurgens) and her younger sister, Robin (Eggar). At first all seems perfectly OK, given the circumstances, but bits of conversation are dropped here and there, darting looks are thrown here and there, and soon we realize that there is something lurking beneath the veneer of a privileged life. Alison, in the final stages of her second pregnancy, suffered a fall in her home that rendered her blind, though as she states early on, it's not that her corneas don't function, it's that her brain won't permit her to see images (paraphrasing here). Apparently this happened in 1959, hence the "'59" in the title: The story then takes place in 1964, five years after this fact, over a time period that seems to be about a month, or maybe two, when Robin re-arrives back into the lives of Eric and Alison after what appears to be a 5-year absence.
The black-and-white cinematography adds much to this film, such that I believe if it were in color, it would not be as effective. The language, dialogue and subject matter covered was ahead of its time, at least by U.S. standards, but stylistically, this matches a number of thrillers and socially-conscious dramas that came out of England in the early- to mid-1960s (e.g., Victim, Pumpkin Eater, etc.).
The first part of the film, set in London, sets up the story beautifully, and it isn't long before we start to realize that something's "up" - the carefully-worded dialogue, with certain key words and phrases omitted, or the glances of the blind Alison behind her sunglasses, to the beat of her words...you see that all that glitters is not gold, so to speak.
The second part of the film takes place at the characters' country house, located near a coastline; It is here that the set-up for what could be a riveting tale, as depicted in the first part of the film, loses steam and slows to a crawl, such that the conclusion is neither climactic nor satisfying; this is a shame, because it could have been done much better. Besides that, I do agree with the comments made by a previous observer, including that the grandmother doesn't seem quite grandmotherly (and actually, I'm sort of confused as to why this character is even in the picture).
Nonetheless, the acting is superb by all the leads, and particularly by Neal, who carries the film, in my opinion. Pay attention to every movement she makes, whether it's with her eyes, her head or her hands; listen intently to every syllable she utters, for it is through her character that we understand the real story of what has happened, or is happening, to these three people.
The movie is based on a book by the same name by Francoise des Ligneris, which is available online.
"Psyche '59" opened at an art theatre in New York City in 1964.
Receiving lukewarm reviews, it closed quickly, and was then used as a
co-feature in neighborhood theatres. I consider it a near-masterpiece.
Starring Patricia Neal, Curt Jurgens, and Samantha Eggar, it is a
spellbinding study of a woman suffering from hysterical blindness, her
sex addict husband, and her younger sister, who it seems was sexually
imposed-upon at a young age, and who is both cruelly nymphomaniacal and
masochistic as a result. This film was clearly ahead of its time.
The screenplay by Julian Zimet, from a novel by Francoise des Ligneris, is a finely-nuanced piece of work.
Alexander Singer might be considered a great director of films about women's issues, as well as a great director of actresses. Consider his direction of Lola Albright in "A Cold Wind in August" three years before, and his direction of Lana Turner in "Love Has Many Faces" the year following. The fact that all three of these films were failures is clearly the reason why Singer is not widely known ("Love Has" having failed simply because its critics and audiences could not appreciate its deliberately melodramatic style).
The cinematography in "Psyche '59" is outstanding. One shot, in which the camera manages to look upward towards Samantha Eggar, while she is lying on the sand, took my breath away. Within the context of the scene, this use of strange camera angle was intensely effective, and not at all pretentious. Whether it was Singer's idea, or that of cinematographer Walter Lassally, I guess I'll never know.
The only flaw in "Psyche '59" is that the actress in the role of the grandmother seems too young for the part.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Made at a time when psychological dramas were enjoying popularity and at a stage when what could be depicted on screen was being tested with each new film, this movie showcases the talents of its star trio fairly well. Neal plays a blind woman, married to Jurgens, who is blind not because of any substantial injury or illness, per se, but because she has suffered some sufficient mental trauma to render her sightless hysterical blindness. Her husband dotes on her while simultaneously seeming to resent her. Things get even stickier when Neal invites her baby sister Eggar back home to live with them. Eggar dates family friend Bannen, who already has a flirtatious rapport with Neal, while Jurgens struggles with an attraction to Eggar. Eggar, an unbelievably brazen and selfish person, leads him on deliberately, sometimes right under the nose of her sight-impaired sister. When Neal and Eggar head out to the country to visit grandmother March, with the gentlemen soon joining them, things take on a more upsetting tone, culminating in yet another traumatic series of events which call Neal's vision into question again. Neal, fresh off an Oscar win for "Hud," is captivating to watch here and retains most of the film's focus. Jurgens, although top-billed, is somewhat less central though he does an excellent job. His steely eyes are well-served by the stark black and white cinematography (which is wonderful throughout.) Eggar is impossibly young and delectable. She shows off an array of 60s fashions and hairstyles, but also gives a strong performance in a role that could have been played very one-dimensionally. Bannen is likable and solid in his less-than-magnetic character. He has the bad luck to be in love with a vixen. March portrays with some degree of restraint the highly atypical grandmother who seems almost devoid of affection and doesn't hand out praise easily. This type of film will not appeal to all viewers as it is at times heavy-handed and strains to be artsy. However, for those willing to take it in, it's a very interesting and engrossing piece. Certainly, the work of the three leads is very strong. In the second half, the focus gets blurry, the pace begins to drag and the motivations of the characters get a bit cloudy, but there are some great moments of tension and anxiety on display. A heavily dramatic score by Kenneth Jones punctuates the opening credits and the emotional scenes. Fans of the leads really can't afford to miss out on it.
Françoise des Ligneris's novel "Psyche '59" becomes a fine dramatic vehicle for the always-sympathetic Patricia Neal, here playing the wife of a wealthy businessman who is suffering from 'hysterical blindness' after a mysterious fall; when sister Samantha Eggar comes to live with her after a failed attempt at marriage, years-old tensions (both resentful and sexual) between Eggar and brother-in-law Curt Jurgens rise to the surface. As photographed in glossy black-and-white by the esteemed Walter Lassally, the picture is a shiny, classy piece of goods, yet director Alexander Singer takes an awfully long time to warm up. The plot (or rather, the point inherent to the plot) doesn't make itself known for at least an hour into the proceedings, while the pretty images and visual tricks eventually become a nuisance. Singer doesn't appear to wrap things up cohesively with his finale, yet it's actually his best bit: Neal's mental handicap and Eggar's need to be the proverbial thorn in the rosebush are dealt with in solely visual terms, and the silent emotions released are triumphant. A near-miss, but worthwhile for fans of psychological melodramas verging on soap opera. **1/2 from ****
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
With the death of Patricia Neal this month (August 2010), I took some
time to research her life, past the obvious facts I had known about:
i.e., the affair with Gary Cooper; the marriage to famous children's
author Roald Dahl; divorce in 1982; respectable career continuing into
her 70's; death at 84.
PSYCHE 59 is a film which I saw on television years ago, and I found it very disturbing, because of its themes of betrayal and animalistic sexuality. Patricia Neal's performance was terrifying in its precision.
But now I realize that just a year after its release is when Neal suffered her strokes. In a way, her life, and that of her daughter, Tessa, mirrored this film. Let me explain.
Neal became an invalid, of course, and her dramatic recovery is usually ascribed to the caring discipline of her husband. However, Raould Dahl, who died in 1990, is now known to have been a promiscuous British spy, part of whose duties involved bedding wealthy and well connected American women, married to movers and shakers, in order to pry information from them during WWII, when the Allies never quite completely trusted their U.S. rescuers. At the same time, he made valuable contacts which helped him to promote himself as a writer in the late 1940's.
Dahl started out as a short story writer, quickly rising to the top echelon with works published in The Atlantic Monthly and The New Yorker for example. He started writing children's books after his marriage to Neal which, while immensely successful, do admittedly have macabre overtones, so popular today.
But in 1965 Neal, not quite 40, became more of a burden than a marriage partner to her dashing husband, whom so many women found irresistible.
Roald had dabbled in alcohol and drugs earlier in the relationship, after the death of their eldest daughter Olivia, age 7. Her death left him shattered, and it is reported he gave barbiturates to his next eldest daughter, Tessa, to keep her under control. Tessa grew up to become a drug addict and alcoholic. Tessa's own daughter, the beautiful Sophie Dahl, apparently has dated her mother's old boyfriends.
I am not making any of this up. I simply 'Googled' Neal, Dahl, Tessa Dahl, and Sophie Dahl, and read several articles listed on the first page of each search.
At the time of her divorce from Raold Dahl, Neal revealed that she had discovered he had been carrying on an affair with Felicity Crosland, a friend of hers who had worked on her first commercial for Maxim Coffee, behind the scenes. Dahl confessed the affair in 1982, and demanded Neal leave their home in England, which they had shared for 30 years. She did so. He quickly married his mistress and moved her in.
Neal also shared that it was very hard for her to accept the additional discovery that her own children had known about his connection with Crosland and hidden the facts from their mother. Tessa at the age of 16 evidently overheard a passionate phone conversation between the lovers. Her father Raold, in words I won't repeat here, told the girl if she said a word she would be thrown out on the street.
PSYCHE 59 is a film with tremendous unspoken tensions. I suspect that Patricia Neal and her children suffered greatly. In fact, Neal's 'blindness' to her husband's long affair is similar in an uncanny way to the blindness of the wife in PSYCHE 59.
In this case, did 'Life Mirror Film'? Or was Patricia Neal conveying to her husband, in a non-threatening way, that she really knew what he was up to? Raold didn't meet Felicity Crosland until around 1972, but it is more than likely he had other adulterous relationships over the years also.
In her magnificent career, Patricia Neal excelled, as most actresses do, when she tapped deeply and honestly into her own psyche.
Psyche 59 is directed by Alexander Singer and adapted to screenplay by
Julian Zimet from the novel written by Francoise des Ligneris. It stars
Patricia Neal, Curd Jurgens, Samantha Eggar, Ian Bannen and Beatrix
Lehmann. Music is by Kenneth V. Jones and cinematography by Walter
Blind Alison Crawford (Neal) lives with her husband Eric (Jurgens) and finds the equilibrium of life upset when her young sister Robin (Eggar) comes to stay. It seems there are secrets to will out, both with Robin and the matter of how Alison came to be blind.
A strange, almost hypnotic type of movie, Psyche 59 aims to be a Freudian thriller but just misses the mark of being great. The set up is intriguing, the twists risqué and the photography suitably moody. Neal gives a fine performance as the afflicted Alison, both physically and emotionally, Eggar is super sultry and raises the temperatures considerably, while both Bannen and Jurgens are fine considering the former is under written and the latter gets a character arc that's a bit of a stretch. Unfortunately the pay off is hopelessly weak, the whole build up holds the attention, you sense we are heading for great dramatic denouement, but sadly that's not the case and it leaves a disappointing taste in the mouth. 6/10
Patricia Neal is a blind married woman, who's a victim of hysterical blindness, a term for blindness that is caused by psychological reasons, instead of anything really wrong with the eyes. It seems she was traumatized by something and refused to see things the way they really were. By way of how she relates to sister Samantha Eggar and husband Curt Jurgens, we enter her world. I read one review of this movie that called it turgid. I was never sure what turgid meant. And. sometimes the dictionary only tells you a synonym type of definition, with not enough of an explanation. But if turgid means to tell a story with exaggeration instead of subtlety. Then, I would agree to an extent, but I think this type of film, the story itself, the mood and setting, and its way of telling the story all go well together, up to a point. Things certainly get worse, before they get better. But I liked Ms. Neal's performance (as usual) and I particularly liked the ending, instead of getting a startling and shocking climax which the film feels like it's heading for. It may not be much on the whole, but I would watch this over and the family dynamic and dysfunction only adds to its appeal as a curiosity piece for the Patricia Neal fans.
I am admittedly biased after seeing her in "The Subject Was Roses", an
incredible achievement by Patricia Neal. That being said, this film
"Psyche 59" deals with Neal and her seemingly caring husband Curd
Jurgens (always believable as middle-aged man, malcontent).
The story starts with Neal in her comfortable London town home, where she is blind due to a tragic accident five years earlier. Her sister Robin (Samantha Eggar) comes to stay with her, which for some reason annoys Jergens. We see the reason clearly as the film unwraps, Eggar's personality as she flirts with her sister's husband. It is rather hard to believe the storyline here that Robin (Eggar) is 17 in this film, as she looks to be about 30 in real life, and manner.
If you can suspend the disbelief a bit (Eggar becomes shrill and annoying at the end, attempting to gain attention from Curt Jurgens).
They stay at the grandmother's country estate for a beach vacation, and the grandmother is , as another reviewer mentioned, rather an extraneous character and its puzzling as to why she has been included in the film, even.
Overall though while the story moves slowly at some points, keep watching for Patricia Neal. She saves the storyline and makes the film well worth your time. Recommended.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I don't remember when I first saw this film possibly around 1973 or 4 when probably shown late on a Friday night I'm sure it was shown more than once after that it disappeared from our screens and, to the best of my knowledge, has never been shown on UK television since this rarity value ensured its legendary status, at least in my own mind if not the annals of film history. Patricia Neal plays Alison Crawford, a woman who has convinced herself she's blind a blindness not only psychosomatic but also metaphorical as she no doubt wishes she was blind to her husband Eric's (Curt Jurgens) adulterous ambitions towards her younger sister Robin (Samantha Eggar) who is engaged to Paul (Ian Bannen). The story revolves around the psychological power play between Jurgens and Bannen and the relationships between these four main characters. Part of the drama is meant to occur in France but when a taxi is summoned a Vauxhall Cresta PA in right hand drive on British number plates turns up. Better viewing then for car enthusiasts than seekers of realism. Of the actors and the acting, Patricia Neal never slipped below best form, and she makes a striking appearance here looking like a corpse in Ray-Bans. Samantha Eggar is nowhere near as good as she is in the following year's Return From The Ashes, but still not bad in an unsympathetic and shallow role. Ian Bannen is marvellous witness him in The Hill (also 1964) and The Offence (1972) you always know he's going to come off second best, but he does a grand job of getting there. Curt Jurgens is in pre comedy-high-ranking Nazi officer mode that he would perfect in time for Soft Beds, Hard Battles (1974) The background music can be intrusive at times: almost as if a small string section had been sat down in front of a tape recorder, had the film rolled for them and told to play whatever seemed appropriate. At one point they all stop playing, as though they realize something serious or dramatic is about to happen. It reminds me a bit of that silly plink plonk background music in Desperate Housewives that you only notice when it stops the difference is DH is meant to be funny whereas '59 is meant to be serious or is it? This film has now been released on region 1 disc in America, but if your DVD player won't play region 1 discs I can supply a superb quality region free disc but without any artwork. Contact me by Email at email@example.com or text on 07949 792498.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
***SPOILER*** Slow moving and at times boring psychological drama that
has nothing at all to do with the movie "Psycho" which by its
title-Psyche 59-it can easily be mistaking for.
Alison Crawford, Patricia Neal, has been blind for five years since on that fatefully summer day in 1959-the year that the movie's title indicates-when she feel down a flight of stairs at Grandma's, Beatrix Lehmann, place in the country and ended up losing her sight. Told by her doctors that there's nothing wrong with her eyes in them being perfectly normal it's obviously that Alsion's loss of sight has to do with her mind not wanting to see whatever she sees! That has to do with what Alison saw just before she fell and lost her sight five years ago! What she saw was so shocking that she not only forget what she saw but never wants, psychologically, to see again! See!
Married to successful businessman Eric Crawford, Curt Jurgens, Alison has settled into the life of a sightless person not really that interested in whats going on in the world until her kid sister-13 years her junior- Robin, Samanta Eggar, shows up at the Crawford's elegant flat in downtown London for a visit. Even though Alsion can't we could see that Robin and Eric have been lovers for some time in how they interact with each other during their time together at the Crawford flat. In fact Eric's good friend Paul, Ian Bannen, who's really got the hots for Robin and wants to marry her is rebuffed every time he tries to get It on with her in favor of Robin being "lovey Davy" with Eric!
Eric for his part is very uncomfortable with Robin being around the house in the unwanted advances she make at him with his wife Alision, Robin's sister, totally unaware of what happening between the two. It's when Eric and Robin together with Paul and the Crawford kids Jean & Susan, Shelley Crowhurst & Sandra Leo, go visit Grandma's country home that the shocking truth in what caused Alisons blindness comes dramatically to the surface! In her almost ending up with a brain concussion when she was hit by a runaway horse, that Robin was riding, in the garden.
***SPOILERS*** The big and shocking surprise ending in the film "Psyche 59" was so obvious that it shocked practically no one not even those in the films cast. The fact that anybody could see whats was going on between Eric & Robin with the exception of the blind Alison made the surprise ending a no brainier! By far the biggest and only surprise in the film was how Eric reacted, is wife's revelation about him and Robin, to it that totally psyched me out!
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