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The Oxford professor of philosophy Stephen has two favorite pupils, the athletic aristocrat William and the Austrian Anna von Graz. Stephen is a frustrated man, with a negligent wife, Rosalind, who is pregnant of their third child, and is envious of the Oxford professor Charley that has a television show. Stephen feels attracted to Anna, but William woos her and she becomes his girlfriend. Charley has a love affair with Anna but when William dies in a car accident, she leaves Oxford to return to her home town. Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
[reading from learned journal]
A statistical analysis of sexual intercourse at Colenso University, Milwaukee showed... that 70% did it in the evening, 29.9% between 2 and 4 in the afternoon and 0.1% during a lecture on Aristotle.
I'm surprised to hear that Aristotle is on the syllabus in the State of Wisconsin.
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From the very first shot Losey lets us know that to get the most from this film it's not what you see, but what you perceive, that matters. The opening shot of a country house is held steady for our eyes whilst the sound of an approaching (speeding) car and, inevitably, the grinding of metal on gravel as the accident happens, dominates our hearing. And so it is for the rest of the film. What is important is not, necessarily, what we see, but what we discern.
The complexities of the relationships between the main characters, the effect on all of them brought by the simple presence of Anna (Sassard), their infidelities and insecurities all contribute to make this a spell-binding 100 minutes or so of classic cinema.
The spare, Pinteresque, dialogue inspires the viewer to attempt to untangle the dynamics between the characters. Some poignant photography (for instance, the symmetry of Anna and Stephen (Bogarde) as they gaze out over picturesque English countryside whilst leaning on a gate but, at the same time, teasing us as to whether or not they will draw closer,) adds to our desire for a better understanding of these people and their relationships.
The photography of rooms shot from odd angles (indeed, some of these shots seem designed to accentuate the angles of the characters every bit as much as the rooms themselves) all contribute to a complex web of relationships. Some sexy, sixties sax from John Dankworth adds an appropriate musical blend to the whole. And how many times does Stephen say to others `What are you doing?' as he strives to come to terms with his own infidelities and insecurities, let alone those of all those around him?
It's an intense, but approachable, movie with little concession to humour, save perhaps for a couple of comments from Stanley Baker's picaresque character, Charley. But don't let that put you off; this is intelligent, challenging cinema, a welcome refuge from the shoot em up stream of movies we've become used to over the years.
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