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This is a British drama from 1976 about a shy and lonely widow Anne (Sarah
Miles) raising up her 13-year-old son in a small English seaside city. When
she meets the American sailor Jim (Kris Kristofferson), she falls in love
with him and wants to marry him. Her son, being a member of a fascist secret
circle led by the charismatic pupil "Chief", doesn't agree with that liaison
and uses his radical friends against his possible stepfather...
The German title of this brilliant movie was called "Der Weg allen Fleisches" which means as much as "The way of all flesh". This is a suitable title as love, loneliness, seduction, longings and sex are integral elements of the story.
The director uses surreal scenes to support the emotional side of the movie. There is a beautifully shot sex scenes between Anne and Jim, and an outstanding masturbation scene of Anne in front of a mirror, secretly watched by her son. There are strange dream sequences, spiritual moods of the sea and a cruel scene where the gang's leader rips off a dead cat to present his totalitarian theories to his worshippers by its testicles.
Sarah Miles ("Blow-up", "Venom"), Kris Kristofferson ("Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid", "Convoy") and also the children actors are doing a fine job here. The touching score was written by Johnny Mandel, and Kris Kristofferson added his chilling "Sea Dream Theme". This film is more than just a love drama but an outstanding and forgotten tale about love, sex and death at the seaside with great locations and a very strange ending. Watch it if you get the occasion to do so!
This movie is morbid but is quite faithful to the original story. And it
uses its Dover location very effectively in showing a place isolated in its
The story is about a fatherless adolescent boy who is himself very much like the sea. He is restless and calm and seemingly untameable. All the confusion and frustrations of adolescence are portrayed here in an honesty that no other movie has ever dared to show. The restless urge to be a grown up and to move on to a life of daring excitement, and the desire to find a philosophy and a poetry to which one can ascribe are all explored in an uncompromising way in this film.
Desperate for an authority and leadership that he can look up to, the boy finds himself vying for the acceptance of a sadistic boy with a Nietzsche complex who uses a strain of hierarchy in his little band of friends in order to maintain control. Soon Kristofferson shows up and as he seems to be the stuff of oceanic legends, the boy finds a new hero to worship.
I would not even attempt to give the ending away. Suffice it to say that this is a most disturbing film in its subject matter and for those with short attention spans, it may seem slow in its pace. But like the sea, the film is languid in its pacing and it promises the same degree of poetry and savagery.
This is a very chilling movie based on an even more chilling novel. It
does seem to be a cross between "Oedipus Rex" and "Lord of the Flies"
as some reviewers have astutely pointed out, but it is actually based
on an obscure Japanese novella. The original story had a Japanes
protagonist and was set in a Japanese fishing village. The filmmakers
don't entirely succeed in transplanting the action to rural England and
casting a Kris Kristoferson in the lead role, but an international film
never could have gotten made at the time with a Japanese lead, and once
they cast Kristoferson, setting the movie in a Japanese fishing village
would have drawn the inevitable charges of racism from the perpetually
outraged idiots in the "PC" crowd.
Besides the awkwardness of the adaptation is redeemed by some great acting. This is probably Kristoferson's second best role after "Pat Garret and Billy the Kid". Sarah Miles is also very good as the lonely widow. Her sex scenes with Kristoferson are very erotic if very perverse (you see them only through a peephole as her disturbed son watches). The British child actors are also very good for a change, particularly the very disturbed but nevertheless sympathetic son and the truly psychopathic leader of the gang of schoolboys he runs with (who make the "Children of the Damned" look cute and cuddly by comparison). The scene where the gang eviscerates a live cat is almost unbearable to watch. And the final scene on a hill overlooking the sea is chilling, tragic, fatalistic, beautiful, and mythic all at once. This is and haunting and unforgettable movie.
I really enjoyed this movie back when it came out in 1976. It never
showed up at the major theaters though. I saw it in one of the Dollar
theaters. How it got away with an R rating back then I will never know.
I had seen x-rated movies that had showed less. And the love scenes
were a spread in Playboy. My girlfriend said is was because it had a
plot. I do remember she was in a state of shock when we left. She was
an 18 year old Southern Bapist Sunday School teacher at the time. Kris
Kristofferson was never highly rated as an Actor but I think he did an
excellent job in this movie. The child actors were completely
believable. It was written by a Japanese gentleman and I am amazed at
how well some examples of Japanese literature and movies translate to
the US. The Magificent Seven ( AKA the Seven Samarai) and " A fistful
If you can find it on DVD I would highly recommend it.
A nice coincidence: I just started this novel, by Yukio Mishima, and this film, which I didn't even know existed, popped up on Netflix Instant. I finished the novel and started the movie about one minute later. First off, the novel: excellent. I think it really captures, in a horrifying way, what it was like to be a kid who thinks he's so much smarter than all the adults in his life. It's very insightful, tightly plotted (only 180 pages), and has brilliant but simple characterizations. The film: it's a fine adaptation. The location is transported from Yokohama, Japan to a small, coastal town in England south of London. Sarah Miles plays a young widow with a 13 year-old son (Jonathan Kahn). Kahn is a precocious boy who pals around with a gang of five other too-smart-for-their-age kids. They refer to each other by rank. The lead boy, known as the chief (Earl Rhodes), is a ferocious leader who believes human morality is a ridiculous concept. Basically, he has a very fascist philosophy and believes himself, and his five underlings (Kahn is #2 of the five), to be of a superior ilk than everyone around them. Kris Kristofferson plays the titular sailor who begins a romantic relationship with the very lonely Miles. While Kahn is excited at first to know this sailor (he is himself fascinated by the sea), when he realizes that he's intent on entering the family, he feels threatened. Kahn and his buddies then form a plot to get rid of Kristofferson. The major criticism that most seem to have of the film is that it doesn't explicate the children enough. I'm not sure that it's true. Perhaps I understand them better because I had just finished the novel (where there is a bit more of an explanation), but I think that people reading the novel may be just as perplexed by these kids' attitudes as they are when watching the movie. Perhaps a lot of people didn't have that philosophy when they were that age. More power to them, because it's very ugly, but I think it's very common. The one big complaint that I have with the film is a technical gripe: the sound is awful. I don't think it's just the video I watched, either. Much of the time, characters speak in an audible volume. But just as often they speak so softly that you can't hear them at all. Even after I turned off my air conditioner, I could just barely hear what was being said. The cinematography is very beautiful, as is the score (by Douglas Slocombe and Johnny Mandel respectively).
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Compared to other projects like 'The Great Santini' and 'The Mechanic,'
this 1976 drama was a bold endeavor for writer-director Lewis John
Carlino. 'The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea' is Carlino's
adaptation of a novella set in post-World War II Japan by Yukio
Mishima, a prolific 20th century author who tried to revive the Bushido
code of samurai honor and committed ritual suicide in 1970. Mishima was
a grand literary force, considered several times for the Nobel Prize
and was lauded as the 'Japanese Hemingway' by Life Magazine. Indeed, it
says a great deal about his writings that Carlino was able to transport
the novella's ideas to a modern English setting.
'Sailor' focuses on Anne Osborne, a lonely widow and antiques dealer played by Sarah Miles. The middle-aged woman lives with her sea-loving, teenaged son Jonathan (Jonathan Kahn) in an English coastal town. Well into the rebellious phase of life, Jonathan finds himself without an adult male influence and backs a schoolmate known only as Chief (Earl Rhodes), who runs a secret club with four other boys as his underlings. This club is not the usual fun-and-games of children, however; Chief is the precocious son of a town surgeon and looks to teach the four members his nihilistic points of view (morality, for instance, is just rules that adults invented to control the world). So dedicated is the boy to his values that he even autopsies the family cat to prove an idea about existence.
Providing Jonathan with another outlet is Jim Cameron (Kris Kristofferson), an American sailor who arrives into port and has a change meeting with Anne. The two fall in love almost immediately and Jonathan discovers a man who fits Chief's description of 'a heart of steel' - a man who travels the Earth and overcomes great odds. However, Jonathan feels betrayal as the love affair between Anne and Jim thickens; his hero decides to stay in England and remain tied to the soil. It's only Jonathan and his friends who can restore Jim's 'grace' with the sea from which he came, leading to one of the most outrageous conclusions in film history.
As a person who has seen numerous films and read quite a few novels, 'The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea' was a very strange experience. The film doesn't fit any one particular genre, nor does it really generate one clear emotion. The love story between Anne and Jim functions as an obvious work of erotica, while the dark portrayal of adolescence reminds me of writers like Aldous Huxley and Patrick McCabe. The story's meaning is intentionally unclear, although it seems to imply that each person is given a specific destiny and that the feelings of children, by necessity, are of equal value to those of adults. There is also a certain sexual philosophy judging passion as the destroyer of good things, in this case the strong bond between Jonathan and his mother.
One of Sailor's technical strongpoints is its broad, languid pacing that has a feel similar to waves of the sea. Cinematographer Douglas Slocombe offers breathtaking images of ocean, sunrise, and house interiors that compare with still-life paintings. Adding to the rich visuals is a lean, chilly score by Johnny Mandel (with themes by Kristofferson) that captures the film's underlying ideas. The entire cast is superb, especially the children headed by Jonathan Kahn (who had a brief screen career). Sarah Miles conveys a wide range of emotion and has a physical elegance that is ideal for her role. Kristofferson was an excellent choice for the Jim Cameron figure, a rugged, brooding individual whose tales of sea life feel authentic. Of vital importance is the chemistry between Miles and Kristofferson, which must be strong for the film to work. Unlike inferior films that produce a cardboard love affair, Anne and Jim's rapport is solid and nothing less than convincing.
Anyone who is put off by graphic sexuality or cruelty to animals will best avoid this film. Miles and Kristofferson are involved in two explicit sex scenes, with Kahn watching through a peephole to sate his teenaged curiosity. Miles is also viewed masturbating at her dressing table, but all of this material was filmed with great sensitivity. The cat 'experiment' is highly unpleasant, although not exceptionally graphic, and Chief blasts apart an overhead seagull by tossing a firework stuffed inside pieces of bread. The end credits mention that no real animals were harmed in the film, a rare disclaimer in the 1970s.
'Sailor' deserves good DVD treatment for its photography alone, if not for its fine acting. Image Entertainment has come through with a 2003 disc that presents the film with respect, undoing years of mistreatment by TV broadcasts and full-frame VHS tapes. The film is presented in widescreen with immaculate visuals and Dolby enhancement of the original mono track. Unfortunately, there are no extras, with chapter stops offered as the lone feature. Another minus is its auto-play of the film when loaded into a DVD machine, which is inconvenient if you need a few moments to settle in. But for admirers of this film, IE's new disc restores the vibrant imagery seen in cinemas thirty years ago. Moving, shocking, and at times repugnant, 'Sailor' is one of the most bizarre film experiences you will ever have.
*** out of 4
Roving Reviewer - www.geocities.com/paul_johnr
An unforgettable and profoundly disturbing story centered on a widow,
Anne, and her only son, Jonathan, in a remote English seaside town.
Jonathan belongs to a gang led by a precociously intelligent sociopath
known only as Chief, who through sheer force of will and intellect,
indoctrinates them with a quasi-Neitzchean philosophy of ultimate
superiority and the non-existence of morality. When Kris
Kristofferson's Captain Jim arrives in town, and strikes up a
passionate relationship with the lonely Anne, Jonathan sees him as a
heroic masculine prototype, removed from society and living a 'true'
life on the open sea. But when the Captain decides to settle down and
marry Anne, Jonathan takes it as an ultimate and unforgivable betrayal,
and exacts a terrible revenge.
Based on the 1963 Mishima novel, "The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With The Sea" hints at many themes, from Jonathan's Oedipal obsession with spying on his mother's bedroom to his physical admiration of the Captain that verges on latent homosexuality. The atmosphere, masterfully created by veteran cinematographer Douglas Slocombe, is one of darkly brooding clouds, gray seas, and an air that constantly threatens rain. The (in)famous sex scenes are really not that explicit, and the casual violence exhibited by the children is far more shocking than any glimpse of breast or buttock.
The film, for all its brilliantly evocative atmosphere, excellent performances, and quietly brooding menace, is not without its flaws. The score is terrible, all mawkish piano and sickly clarinet. It is often overly intrusive and distracts from the overall sense of ripe stillness that director Carlino conjures throughout the film. But in general, the film is a remarkable experience, and one that any viewer is unlikely to forget quickly.
The film can be faulted for at least appearing to give too much to the
mother/sailor side of the conflict, an appealingly sexy but eventually
unconvincing romantic fantasy. The boy Chief is the other distracting
trap for the viewer - he's the embryo of a crypto-scientific nerd who
has less in common with Nietzsche than with a certain type of
sclerotic, egotistical academic you'll find slowly going berserk at a
second rate college.
Importantly, the Chief doesn't quite "get it" about his underrated disciple Jonathan and the Sailor. Jonathan is, or should be, the focus of the film because he is a more interestingly conflicted, assertive, and intellectually cogent character than any of the others - he is the Mishima surrogate, who tries to reconcile and meld the Chief's perfectionism with the sailor's fictional attraction. That requires canceling out the unacceptably artless "return" of the sailor, which is the "fall from grace." Restoring aesthetic grace to the Sailor is the shocking concluding project. Keep your mind's eye on Jonathan - even while heeding the siren calls of competing sex and death.
The casting is very good. Miles has the dreamy look and self-deluding spunk of a romance novel heroine. Kristofferson always plays "himself" and in this film his noble antique head, wooden cowboy self-assurance, and gravel-voiced platitudes work perfectly to attract susceptible but discerning Jonathan in the first go around and disgust him in the second. The young actor Jonathan was a real find - able to play the submissive but also a live spark when called upon - his is the subtlest but most important role in the film.
"The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea" by Lewis Carlino deals with the romance between lonely widow and a merchant marine officer.Her son is a troubled teenager who spends his free time with a group of sadistic boys.The kids sentence a cat to death for being old and fat;they drug it and dissect it alive.Somber drama with gorgeous photography of British coast and some graphic scenes of sex and sadism.Frank Perry made similar film in 1969 titled "Last Summer",a grim story where bored wealthy kids at a seaside island abuse first a total stranger and then rape one of their own.If you liked "Last Summer" you can't miss "The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea".It's well-acted and unforgettable drama with seriously dark streak.8 sailors out of 10.
I saw this movie when it came out. With no advance info, I was
entranced with the story, the beauty of the countryside and village. It
proved to be a powerful story, great love story, finally ending in a
dreadful surprise outcome. Very psychological story and character
study. Watch it, you will be rewarded.
Life in the village provided many interesting cameos. A story of how wrong things can go, even in a peaceful Welsh seaside area. Deep feelings from a traumatic loss of a father cause the young boy to develop an unhealthy way of coping with his mother and her new friend. Frightening, beautiful, complicated and well worth a view.
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