In Alexandria, in 1938, Darley, a young British schoolmaster and poet, makes friends through Pursewarden, the British consular officer, with Justine, the beautiful and mysterious wife of a ... See full summary »
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Joseph W. Sarno
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In Alexandria, in 1938, Darley, a young British schoolmaster and poet, makes friends through Pursewarden, the British consular officer, with Justine, the beautiful and mysterious wife of a Coptic banker. He observes the affairs of her heart and incidentally discovers that she is involved in a plot against the British, meant to arm the Jewish underground in Palestine. The plot finally fails, Justine is sent to jail and Darley decides to return to England. Written by
Joseph Strick worked for several weeks on this film on location in Tunis (with Anouk Aimee, not Glenda Jackson). His plan was to films as much of it as possible on location. He had quarrels with the management of Twentieth Century Fox and was disliked by some of his actors - Anna Karina claimed that he had actually fallen asleep whilst directing her. When he was replaced by George Cukor, a big decision was taken to recreate the Alexandria of the 1930s in the Hollywood studios and to do the rest of the movie there. A few bits and pieces of Strick's location work were retained, but most of his work was re-shot by Cukor, who accepted the extant cast. The film ended up being enormously costly and was a box-office flop. See more »
When the hell are you going to stop being an old sin-cushion - into which we all have to thrust our rusty pins!
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George Cukor's adaptation of Lawrence Durrell's ALEXANDRIA QUARTET forms the shape of a dial made of character traits from medieval mystery plays--Fanatic Patriotism, Sexual Cunning, Heartless Bargaining, Furtive Retreat. If Durrell sought to catalogue every human impulse, Cukor had another, lower agenda that serves the material beautifully: shifting these allegorical characters into ripe, lustrous kitsch icons who seem to have time-travelled from a Sternberg movie circa 1931.
The whole picture seems to have undergone a time-machine move from THE SHANGHAI GESTURE to swinging '69. It's Cukor's most vibrant movie visually, and each gorgeously staged and color-patterned shot finds a new way to layer an Islamic tapestry atop psychedelic poster art.
Cukor, brought in as a replacement, brings a vigor to the material you don't associate with him, and at 70, he still knew how to shape the beats of a scene like a Broadway pro. It is reported that he and the star, Anouk Aimee, loathed one another, and in honesty it's easy to see Cukor's frustration: she gives a dismally coy, incommunicative performance as the black widow whose web forms the story. She seems aberrantly at odds with the coolly dignified, taciturn style of the other performances: Dirk Bogarde, as the Graham Greene-ish diplomat with a lurid secret may never have been more creepily sympathetic than he is here. And John Vernon, an actor best known for playing pompous authoritarians in B movies, has such noble composure as Justine's long-suffering husband that he seems to turn into a folk-art engraving of a noble and besieged human soul.
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