The Dead (1987) Poster


User Reviews

Add a Review
63 ReviewsOrdered By: Helpfulness
A small, almost perfect, gem
GyatsoLa8 April 2007
So many literary adaptations are disappointments. There are many reasons for that, but usually it is the need to cut down a complex novel to the size of a screenplay. The Dead is unusual - it had to be 'padded', as the short story itself is a tiny, relatively short gem. It may in fact be the finest short story in the English language. In beautifully spare language it tells of the realization of Gabriel Conroy that his life, and the lives of so many around him are controlled by memories of the dead. Even his own wife of many years loved a man now dead more than him.

To bring such a short story to the cinema was always going to be tricky. John Huston did a magnificent job. He never gave in to temptation to play it up or use fancy technique to expand on the story. It is simple and true, with outstanding acting. The only slight miss-step is the use of music to accompany the devastating final soliloquy.

Its rare indeed for a movie version of a literary masterpiece to be itself a masterpiece, but I think its fair to use this term for this movie. Its not a bravura piece of film making, but it is simple and pure - I always think of Ozu's movies when i think of The Dead, its at that level of purity and simplicity and deep wisdom.
27 out of 28 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Wonderful period piece!
jebstrong-115 November 2004
This is a wonderful evocation of a previous age. True, it is slow moving but that is definitely part of its charm. Stately and elegant - a fitting tribute to an iconic director! Not many films can boast such a unique form. Top marks to the director for having the bravery to create such a work of art that may have seemed commercially non-viable. I doubt very much a piece like this would be given the green light in today's action-driven, dumbed-down movie environment. Does a good job of adapting the James story and also brings a little something extra to it as well as all truly good art should - it is not enough merely to emulate. Wonderful film and not to be missed!
21 out of 22 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
A perfect short story brought to screen perfection
This is my favourite movie of all time. And I always think of it as John Huston's requiem.

I must have seen it at least 20 times and never tire of it. The mood, the script, the singing, the dinner, it is like being invited into someone's home and observing the events and not able to participate even though you want to... It is a rare treasure, this movie and I cannot write enough praise for it.

It is cast incredibly well, with quite a few Abbey Theatre faces and also the wonderful tenor voice of Frank Patterson. Lady Gregory's poem recited in the movie is one of the most moving ever written. Anjelica's scene walking down the stairs as she listens to the song is one of the best performances every seen on film. I cry every time I see it..for all the right reasons.

We have all had love lost at an early age and weep for our young hopeful selves.

Donal McCann acted in far too few movies for my liking, he just loved stage work and stuck to it, and it is our loss that we do not have more of his performances on film as he does so much with this delicate role by expression and the portrayal of a deep love for his wife that will never be reciprocated and he conveys such inner sadness at knowing this.

If you want your movies action and plot packed avoid this, there really is no beginning, middle or end just a lens onto the characters at a dinner party in Dublin 80 years ago and all the little nuances and shadings of the personalities portrayed so beautifully.

Bravo to all who were involved in this production. 10 out of 10.
50 out of 57 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
THe crowning of a career
dbdumonteil27 June 2001
John Huston was seriously ill when he made his final achievement,and it's thoroughly his testament:uncompromising,difficult ,a thousand miles away from crazes and fashions,it will stand as the best "last film" you can ever dream of.A very austere screenplay,no action,no real hero,but a group of people coping with the vanity of life,the fleeting years and death.The party doesn't delude people for long.Admittedly,warmth and affection emanate from the songs and the meal,complete with turkey and pudding.But the passage of time has partly ruined Julia's voice,first crack in the mirror.Then the camera leaves the room where the guests are gathered and searches the old lady's bedroom.For sure,hers seems to have been a happy life,but it's a life inexorably coming to an end-A shot shows towards the end of the movie Julia on her future deathbed-.Maybe an unfulfilled life,because she remained a spinster,with no children to carry on .Only some poor things,yellowish photographs,bibelots and trinklets.... But are a human being's hopes and dreams all fulfilled?Look at Gretta.She 's a married woman ,about thirty-five,she's still beautiful and healthy but she knows something is broken.What Julia is today,she will be tomorrow,that's why,in her stream of consciousness,she goes back to her past,only to find out how harrowing her memories are: a young man committed suicide for her,a symbol of her youth now waning.The final monologue,if we listen closely to it,involves us all in this eternal tragedy,the doomed to failure human condition,John Huston's masterly lesson.
36 out of 41 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
A wonderful look at Dublin in the "The Rare Auld Times"
WHF416 April 2001
The entire movie, an artful adaptation of one of Joyce's "Dubliners" stories, takes place on the night of January 6 (Epiphany), 1906. Most of the film takes place at an annual party given by three spinsters (two sisters and their niece), where a group of upper-class Dubliners gather for an evening of music, recitations and dinner. While there is very little plot per se, the interaction and conversation among the group reveals much about Dublin in the early 20th century when the stirrings for independence were just beginning. The cast, all talented Irish stage actors with the exception of Anjelica Huston, are universally wonderful, and one actually feels he is a guest at the gathering himself. The poignant final scene, between Ms. Huston and the amazing Donal McCann, reveals much about the marriage of the characters. There is poignancy mixed with humor and insight, and for those who like quiet, thoughtful movies, "The Dead" is highly recommended. My wife is from Dublin, we make a ritual of watching this wonderful movie every January 6th. After many viewings it never fails to move me, and each time I glean something that I've missed before.
22 out of 25 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Absolutely superb
quatloos7 August 2001
This is truly a remarkable movie. "The Dead" shows us a turn-of-the-century Irish dinner party attended by a host of lost souls. It is a snapshot of people who either loved and lost, or never got to love at all. Everyone here longs for love -- not just ordinary fondness, but a condition where one almost sees God in the other person. (Those who have not experienced this will deem it maudlin.) For example, in the story, Anjelica Huston's character refers to one "Michael Fury" whose love for her had burned so intensely that he allowed himself to freeze to death in a river because he could not be hers. Such actions strike the idle passerby as pathetic (savage Americans would label Michael Fury a "loser"). But years later, when this kind of passion is deemed the only thing that matters, people privately develop a more respectful take on such things.

At dinner, tenor Frank Patterson sings for the guests, his lovely voice stealing through the walls like the scent of a garden into a tomb. Beauty like this makes us want to find someone, open our jugular vein, and urgently bleed into them. We feel that somewhere burns an unseen, silent, and impossibly distant Light. If only we could share that Light with someone, or at least share a quest for it. But how? Alas, we can only stand at the bedroom window alone, watching the snowfall like Anjelica Huston's husband (Donal McCann) does at the movie's end. Many characters in the movie spend their whole lives at that bedroom window. Others are like Michael Fury, dying in a freezing river as he stares at the house where his Beloved conducts her affairs, unresponsive to him. At one point, after a guest recites a moving poem, one of the female guests laments, "Imagine being loved like that." She means a devotion so intense as to rearrange our psyches. But her chance for love is gone, crushed beneath layers of dashed hopes now piled high like the snows of Ireland in the movie. No rose sprouts in these drifts; only long-buried yearnings that waft like a vapor around headstones.

This movie hints at secrets that are akin to something one experiences as a child who, lying awake and alone one night, spies a star outside the window and for an instant glimpses the Unspeakable. The child makes no mention of this to anyone - who would understand? ("That's nice, dear.") But the longing to share that glimpse with someone, or to share someone else's glimpse, burns until death. At the end of "The Dead," Anjelica Huston's husband realizes that he has shared no such glimpse with his wife, no such love. His wife has sobbed herself to sleep on the bed and remains silent as he looks out the bedroom window in the wee hours. Great stories have great dialogue, but the greatest have characters whose silence points to the realm of boundless could-be's. We hear the husband's lamenting thoughts as exterior night scenes melt into one another. Fields, starlit graveyards, wizened trees -- all hushed as "snow is gently falling all over Ireland, and falling gently."

No routine tale of collision between desire and proscription this; no melodramatic costume-struggle between attraction and social propriety. "The Dead" speaks to each person's Star of Bethlehem, glimpsed once and then repressed until something like this dinner party shakes it loose. On the morrow the guests will tell themselves that they simply had too much wine at the party, and will thereby seal Heaven into their mental cellar once more. Their pain will continue as always.

Sensitive and understated, I give this one top marks across the board. Bravo to John Huston. A fitting last effort by a great director.
35 out of 44 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
One man's opinion
tribulis6 January 2005
I have watched thousands of movies in my life and I believe this movie is the most "perfect" movie that has ever been made. By perfect I mean the storytelling, the plot, the acting, the staging, the camera work, etc. (This is a lay opinion; I have no background in film production.) A lot of movies have perfect scenes, such as the bartender filing a report with the police officer in the movie Fargo. (Indeed, that scene could play well as a short.) In The Dead every scene is done to perfection, making the entire movie perfect. Perhaps, John Huston sold his soul to the Devil to make such a movie. Hopefully, Daniel Webster has gotten him out of the contract!
30 out of 38 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
A faithful screen adaption by a director at the peak of his powers
higby15 August 2003
Superlatives really are a dangerous thing. No sooner do we rashly assert something as being unsurpassable, the object of our veneration immediately becomes just that. James Joyce's concluding story in his book 'Dubliners,' entitled, 'The Dead,' was always going to be the exception to that rule. It's been described by a number of critics over the years as the greatest short story in the English language. After seeking the story out many years ago when I was a teenager, I can do nothing but agree whole heartedly with the critics.

The story captured a time, a place, and a romanticism that I've dreamt about all my life. The setting is a house at the turn of the century, filled with guests from all over Ireland, who gather for an evening of dancing, poetry and piano recitals.

Joyce's consummate story telling, is not found in the almost mechanical way most authors put their stories together, but it's revealed in the sheer power and strength of feeling projected by the characters involved; Gabriel's concern about his after dinner speech and the ongoing changes in Ireland, Gretta's secret passion for someone she'd once loved and lost, and now even the mere acknowledgment of such a love threatens to destabilize her relationship with Gabriel, Freddie's inability to rise beyond his drug dependency, the arrogant tenor Mr D'Arcy at the table loudly trying to upgrade his status through his supposed musical superiority, Lilly the housemaid all nervousness and efficiency, the list goes on: each playing their part with absolutely convincing character motivation.

How could John Huston's film ever really of taken on such a literary masterpiece and still proved faithful? Well, to his credit, he comes pretty close.

Of course when we're reading a story, an author often leaves a degree of ambiguity, specific areas in which we're allowed to interpret our own mental pictures from the words cited. Joyce was no different. Here lies the problem: transfering a work of fiction to celluloid is like trying to join up the dots. Not everyone is going to recognize the picture and be happy with the adaptation.

Personally, I loved the film. However, there were a couple of scenes that I knew were going to prove a problem, and they did prove problematic. Firstly, when Gretta defers her descent down the stairs after dinner, because she's filled with thought's of Michael Furey and the love that she'd lost. The memories come flooding back. She can hear his voice superimposed over D'arcy's and it unsettles her. It's such a deep enduring moment. In the film, Huston just looks away dreamily. There's very little to express the full range of thoughts rushing through her head. It's not Angelica Huston's fault. It simply highlights how difficult it is to accommodate the limitless expression of literature to the silver screen, which is why like an earlier commentator on this film asserted, I too strongly recommend that Joyce's story is read first. It really does add a great deal.

The second scene that troubled me was the ending. It doesn't even begin to pack the tremendous power of Joyce's written word. How could it? This is a stream of subconscious thought extracted from the greatest short story in the English language reduced to a simple voice-over.

Ah, well! Still a good film. Overall Rating: 8 out of ten.
21 out of 26 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
See it, Read it and Love it
PBonga30 November 1998
It's a short movie for such immense feelings. The last 20 or so minutes are among the most intense in the recent years of the industry. Huston (John) is dying and only love can make the difference. The actor's work in the long evening scene is absolutely marvellous.
15 out of 18 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
"Think of all those who ever were, back to the start of time…"
Galina15 June 2009
The last film of John Huston, the great American director of the Irish descent is an adaptation of the last short story in the early collection "Dubliners", of the greatest writer ever came from Ireland. The film is a family affair. The dying director made it based on the script adapted by his son Tony Huston from one of the most poignant, beautiful and profound short story ever written in this language and considered by many THE BEST English language short story. John directed his daughter Anjelica in what could be her finest screen performance. The film is short, only 83 minutes. It's got no action sequences, no plot, it is almost non-eventful, and it may seem slow. The guests, friends and relatives come to the party that takes place in Dublin during the Epiphany week in January 1904, at the house of two elderly sisters who give annual dinner with music and dance. What viewers see for the first hour, is the ensemble conversation piece. The guests talk, listen to the music, discuss the latest opera premiere, and make jokes, sometimes awkward. Gradually, the conversation turns to the long dead friends or relatives the memory of whom never faded away.

This is the film you have to stay with, let it pull you in, listen to what and how the guests at the party say, how they communicate. Pay attention to the body languages, to the looks at their faces when they drift away from the light, laugh, and music of the present to the long gone but never in fact left most precious memories where the Dead of the title are not dead but forever young and so alive. If you do, you will be awarded with the final scene of such emotional power and impact that it will always stay with you. It will break your heart to pieces, pull them together and put it back transfixed. The film as well as Joyce's story centers on Gabriel Conroy (Donal McCann as James Joyce's alter ego gave a very moving understated performance) as one of the party guests who arrives with his wife Gretta (Anjelica Huston). Gabriel is still in love, feels close connection to and fascinated with her. It is after the party, he discovers that even after many years of closeness, he does not know all about her past, her pains, her regrets, and the unforgettable emotions and loss she had lived through as a young girl, and he is no part of. For the first time, he looks at her and thinks of her not as the indelible part of his existence but as another human being with her own inner world, her own loneliness and sadness, and for the first time, "a strange, friendly pity for her entered his soul." It is he who narrates the final most powerful and profound lines of the story: "Snow is general all over Ireland. . . falling faintly through the universe, and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead."

If you have not seen the film or read the Joyce's story, please do. They are truly the works of Art that leave the everlasting impression and would change something in you to the best.
9 out of 10 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
They just don't make them like this anymore!
Fleapit17 January 2005
An exquisite film. They just don't make them like this any more! We eavesdrop on an upper middle class family in Dublin in the early part of the 20th century. They are hosting an after Christmas dinner for their friends and relatives. Their table talk is just idle chatter but it is so well written that one is engrossed. Away from the dinner table some fine piano playing helps to create an intimate atmosphere as if one were there as one of the guests. Perhaps a bit too perfect for an amateur player, the odd mistake here and there would have added to the magic of this film. No real story but real entertainment and an object lesson for up and coming film makers.
17 out of 24 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Snow Was General All Over Ireland
dreverativy31 December 2006
Warning: Spoilers
"Yes, the newspapers were right: snow was general all over Ireland. It was falling on every part of the dark central plain, on the treeless hills, falling softly on the Bog of Allen and, father westward, softly falling into the dark mutinous Shannon waves. It was falling, too, upon every part of the lonely churchyard on the hill where Michael Furey lay buried. It lay thickly drifted on the crooked crosses and headstones, on the spears of the little gate, on the barren thorns. His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead."

I think that few endings are as fine, as transcendent as that penned by Joyce in 1914. It rivals the final paragraphs of Sir Thomas Browne's "Hydriotaphia" (A Discourse on Urn Burial) for pure sublimity. Tony Huston chose to quote it in full at the end of this remarkable adaptation of the novella contained within Joyce's brilliant, dissection of Irish society. "The Dead" is easily one of the best films made in the last two or so decades of the twentieth century; it is a pearl amidst swine.

The entire cast work with (and therefore in certain senses, against) each other in an impeccable manner. The direction is consistent and steady. The cinematography is respectful. The art direction is restrained and the period detail sure. The story is allowed to speak for itself and to carry itself at its own measured pace. Although it is little more than 80 minutes, we feel as though we have lived through every part of an Epiphany party than might have lasted for several hours or so. In most readings of Joyce I have been conscious of the time contained within a story passing at a natural rate (the effect is achieved with an horologists' care in "Ulysses" for example). The film is therefore a tribute to Joyce, much as it is for the ailing John Huston, one of Erin's own adopted sons.

I gather than a sixty minute programme was made on the making of "The Dead", and it was shown as part of the John Huston season that has just ended at London's National Film Theatre. Alas, I was unable to attend, but I have read that Huston was very ill at the time it was made, dependent on oxygen cylinders, and often unable to leave his car. He was therefore reliant upon his assistant directors and upon his son (Tony) and daughter (Angelica, as Gretta Conroy, one of her finest roles). This may have been a cathartic experience as I gather that relations between the very demanding father and daughter had been distant for some time - the experience of making this film led to a final reconciliation. Perhaps it was wrong for Huston, with his lungs wrecked, to leave the clear, dry air of Mexico for the dank, foetid vapours of London and Dublin (although I'm not sure that he actually did any of the exterior scenes in Ireland). Whatever the medical merits, the artistic result clearly vindicated his decision.

Many of the stories in "Dubliners" are concerned with the sterility and stolidity of Irish society: 'The Sisters' (the reference to Fr. Flynn's 'paralysis' is apt), 'A Painful Case', 'A Mother', etc. Gabriel Conroy (a superlative Donal McCann) surveys the prospect of the party arranged by two elderly maiden aunts, and surmises that most of those assembled are, one way or the other, half-dead. Then, stung by his wife's lament for the passing of her original (only?) love, he understands he himself, with his own want of feeling, of passion, of emotional engagement, is afflicted by that same malaise. Is Ireland dead or is it merely sleeping? Will it - as Molly Ivors (an electric Maria McDermottroe) sincerely hopes - awake when the British yoke is cast off, and it ceases to be 'John Bull's other island'? Gabriel is sceptical - like Joyce himself, he would rather travel to France than Galway (where Michael Furey lies buried by the shores of Loch Corrib at Oughterard). Molly enjoins Gabriel, a London hack, to learn Gaelic. Gabriel almost hunches his shoulders - the people of the Pale have given the same shrug to the outer reaches of Connacht and Munster for centuries (only now that residential property prices in Kerry and Clare have scaled the heights of those in Surrey and Berkshire are attitudes starting to adjust). Joyce shrugs too - but the suggestion that Ireland is only blanketed in snow, and not deadened by permafrost, suggests that he still has hope for his nation.

There are no false notes in this film, no mis-steps. Even Tony Huston's interpolation of Lady Gregory's ode to love is woven seamlessly into the script, and enhanced it brilliantly (thanks to the excellent recital by Sean McClory as Mr Grace). The entire cast delivered an outstanding performance, and I should make particular mention of Cathleen Delany as Aunt Julia, Marie Kean as Mrs Malins and Donal Donnelly as her wayward son, Freddy, and lastly Frank Patterson as the bibulous Bartell D'Arcy (a particularly interesting character - at once very Anglican and yet very Irish, and therefore a typical Dublin type, the city being in certain respects an island of unionism and protestantism in a Romish and increasingly republican sea). I mention these actors not because they are superior to the others, but because they illuminate particular aspects of this besetting malaise that interest me. Of these, the most significant is Aunt Julia. It is she whom Gabriel sees in her coffin, and there is something in her indomitable rendition of 'Arrayed for the Bridal' the beautiful, resolute, yet curiously myopic eyes set in a failing face, that typify the confused mixture hope and desolation that 'The Dead' represents. A stellar performance and a fitting epitaph to one of the last and greatest of old Hollywood.
12 out of 16 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Cinematic Perfection
Eumenides_018 February 2009
John Huston finished his remarkable career with one of the most perfect and sensitive movies I've ever seen. For his farewell he decided to adapt James Joyce's beautiful short story, "The Dead", and made not only one of the most faithful literature-to-film adaptations yet, he also crafted a movie that more than 20 years later still surpasses a lot of contemporary cinema.

When I watched this movie a few years ago, as a student at University, I gazed in awe at the screen, marvelling at every aspect of the movie: acting, screen writing, direction, costumes, settings, music, cinematography. Thinking about it now, I still can't of anything I'd criticise it for. Huston just knew how to tell a good story.

A good deal of credit should also go to Tony Huston. He knew better than to meddle with a text that is not only perfection itself but already visual enough for cinema. Father and son let the story breathe and relish in the long, fascinating conversations between characters, and in the meaningful silences.

Donal McCann also deserves credit for the his performance as Gabriel Conroy. I had never seen him in movies before, nor have I seen him afterwards, but he gave one of the most moving performances I've ever seen.

All in all, The Dead is a fine cinematic experience, from a legendary director who never stopped being excellent.
6 out of 7 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
John Houston takes his exit with an elegiac meditation in honoring his forefathers and passing on his wisdom to his devout audience
lasttimeisaw27 September 2016
Released posthumously, THE DEAD bookends John Huston's illustrious career spanning 46 years, which is kick-started with a bang by THE MALTESE FALCON (1941). Adapted to the screen from James Royce's source story from his shorts collection DUBLINERS by John's son Tony, and stars his daughter Anjelica, plus a succinct length of merely 83 minutes and the fact that its story is mostly confined in a single location, THE DEAD is a small-scale labour of love of Huston (and his family too), an octogenarian ruminates about his fulfilled life and ponders what is inevitably waiting for him. But, don't be misled by its title, the film doesn't dwells on that morbid subject, instead, its life-force engendered from the lively festivity of a January dinner in Dublin 1904.

University professor Gabriel Conroy (McCann) and his wife Gretta (Houston) are invited to attend the annual dance and dinner to celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany, hosted by the former's aunties, the Morkan sisters, Kate (Carroll) and her elder sibling Julia (Delany), as well as their niece Mary Jane (Craigie). Other guests are also presented, among which there is Mr. Grace (McClory, the Irish old stager in his final silver screen presence), a character doesn't exist in Royce's original text, entertains audience with his sublime recitation of a Middle Irish poem YOUNG DONAL, " ..You have taken the east from me; you have taken the west from me; you have taken what is before me and what is behind me; you have taken the moon, you have taken the sun from me; and my fear is great that you have taken God from me.", it is a magic moment where the sheer power of words embraces its deserved cinematic glory.

Another highlights include Freddy Malins (Donnelly, an unforeseen usurper in my BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR list), a middle-aged bachelor, a raging alcoholic, Gabriel's childhood friend, noticeably under the influence, his soused conduct sterlingly breathes an air of discomfiture and drollness on top of the cordiality presented by the rest of the ensemble; whereas his mother Ms. Malins (Kean), a helicopter parent who perhaps isn't even aware of what damage she has done, and risibly puzzles why her son keeps being such a disappointment and laughing stock.

Irish hospitality, as Gabriel addresses in his heart-felt tribute speech to the three hostesses, whom he praises as "three Graces", is the glue brings everybody altogether, regardless of their tastes in music, political stances or even religious persuasions. Cathleen Delany as Aunt Julia, upstages the rest of the Irish ensemble with her grand reaction shots and bolstered by her rendition of an Irish folk song, purely because it is too rare a case that the script would give sizable screen time to a senior lady singing in her weather-beaten timbre (apart from Ms. Florence Foster Jenkins for obvious reason).

Anjelica Houston, shares her last journey of movie-making with her esteemed father, takes a back seat in the dinner party with her composed demeanor, until Gretta's concealed memory is unexpectedly prompted by THE LASS OF AUGHRIM sung by the tenor Bartell D'Arcy (Patterson), when the party is winding down. In her quietly poignant confession of a deceased young man who she fell in love with, the film reaches its well-earned catharsis through Donal McCann's reflective voice-over about certain existential epiphany, enhanced by the picturesque montage from DP Fred Murphy and Alex North's conspicuously pensive accompanying score.

John Houston takes his exit with an elegiac meditation in honoring his forefathers and passing on his wisdom to his devout audience, it is brimming with loftiness, sincerity and an utterly captivating sensibility, and we wish the party would never be over, because goodbye is the hardest word to say to a beloved master.
3 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
A film of great warmth and depth
himbletony1 May 2012
Has there ever been a greater swansong than Huston's final film? I love this in so many ways. Joyce's tale is reputed to be one of the best short stories ever written, and that is pretty accurate, but maybe Huston has even improved upon it. I say this because an Irish friend who saw the movie said that a love and deep understanding of the Irish shines through in every frame. It is this warmth that makes it such a wonderful experience, and yet it only makes the final few minutes of the film more poignant. The casting is inspired and Anjelica Huston has never been better. How fitting that this role should be in her father's last work. If you have never seen this sublime film, I urge you to remedy that. It will be watched many times in the future and its status will surely grow.
3 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
This is not, repeat NOT, a horror film!
BJayDC18 November 1998
Easily one of my three or four favorite films. Definitely one for the desert island. There is nothing `brilliant' about this film. Rather, it glows warm and welcoming. The audience is invited to a party and, like any good party, the joy comes in the interaction of the guests, and what you learn as you progress from one to the next. With apologies to Joyce, the film's title conjures up a number of ideas that keep audiences away. The film is not horrifying. It is not depressing. It is a beautiful look into a time that has past, within which people are growing up, and others are winding down. Some are frustrated, and others are serene. And all around, ever present throughout the evening, are the people, and the parts of people, that have been laid to rest. The words these exquisite actors are given to speak are perfection and, set to the music of the Irish brogue, are an auditory feast, particularly to us flat-toned Americans. About the lack of brilliance I referred to above, I take it back. There is no other word to describe the final scene between Anjelica Huston and Donal McCann. It speaks quiet volumes about … well, everything. Some lovely snowy evening, rent this film and just let it happen before you. No gunfights, no car chases, no dinosaurs – just film at its most sublime.
8 out of 11 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Huston's last...and best
blanche-220 December 2011
James Joyce's short story "The Dead" was turned into a film that marked John Huston's last project. It was a fitting end for a director that gave us so many magnificent films, including "The Maltese Falcon," "The Treasure of Sierra Madre," "Key Largo," etc.

"The Dead" is about a turn-of-the-century Irish dinner party and its aftermath for one couple, Gretta and Gabriel Conroy (Angelica Huston and Donal McCann). Attending are various relatives, an Irish tenor, and assorted friends. It's a lively gathering with food, conversation, singing, and poetry. As the dinner breaks up, the tenor (Frank Patterson) sings an Irish ballad, "The Lass of Aughrim." Gretta stops at the top of the stairs and, in the most stunning moments of the film, listens to his beautiful tenor singing. When she and her husband arrive home, she cries over a lost love, Michael Fury, whose passion for her was great, but it wasn't to be, and he let himself freeze to death in remorse. Gretta falls asleep, leaving Gabriel to stand at the bedroom window and watch the snow fall as he ponders life, its meaning, and all that What might have been, and what isn't.

Such a staggering film, where the silences are more powerful than any words, about private pain, about love and loss, almost as if John Huston had come to some profound understanding before his death and shared it with the world.

Powerful in its quietness, "The Dead" will have a profound effect on you. Don't miss it.
2 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
John Huston's haunting farewell
Michael Neumann13 November 2010
It may be wise to approach with caution the posthumous release of the last film by a respected director; in the wake of grief and regret a thoughtful review can too easily become a eulogy. But the late John Huston's parting film is more than just an elegant swan song; it's the perfect cinematic equivalent of a literary short story: graceful, concise, and finely detailed. The focus is intimate, centered almost entirely on a dinner party in 1904 Dublin, and the evening's revelations are small and personal, but quietly devastating. The final passages offer a beautiful and fitting conclusion to both the film and its director's career, turning the housebound camera out of doors into the Irish countryside that Huston loved so well. With just a few simple landscapes, and with the melancholy music of James Joyce's prose, Huston is able to convey a stunning evocation of the Emerald Isle: dark, windswept, lonely, and compelling. It's hard not to wonder if the director knew he would never see these final images reach the screen.
2 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Michael Fargo10 December 2009
James Joyce, arguably, could write some of the best sentences in the English language, and his short story, "The Dead," which ends his collection The Dubliners, contains—in its finale—perhaps the most perfect paragraph in the English language. It's fitting that John Huston, who held back in attempting to film this story, ended his career with it. As with The Red Badge of Courage and The Man Who Would Be King, Huston revered the literary source but made the adaptation cinematic. And with "The Dead" (which was completed after Huston's death by his son, Tony Huston) we get something nearly perfect in the marriage of literature and cinema.

Valuing all that cinema can do, as one of the commentators points out "this isn't The African Queen" (nor does it need to be), this is the kind of movie that is uncompromising for an audience. All of us slogged through Portrait of an Artist in school, and one needs to bring the maturity of appreciating how words and images in and of themselves can touch us. As with silent films, Huston seeks something pure here, and he works with the confidence of his many years and leaves the world a masterpiece that equals Joyce's original.

Many veterans of the Irish theater world are recruited to bring the story of a man filled with self-importance (and mock self-doubt) that's reinforced by the hosts of an annual party on the eve of the Feast of the Epiphany. What's in store for Gabriel Conroy is an evening of celebration, song, dance, poetry where he's asked to give the annual toast to the two sisters and their niece who host the party. He's distracted by the task wanting to rise to the occasion, and this distraction leaves him vulnerable for an earth-shattering experience, handed to him by his wife. While his ego is shaken when he hears a story from his wife's past, it's also a gift where all that seems to have mattered throughout the evening is swept away by the realization of impending mortality for all who are living.

And rather than trying to make the last famous paragraph of the story "cinematic," Huston brings in a voice over and we hear those incredible words recited as we watch "the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling." It's the perfect solution to a filmmaker's adaptation.

The cast is all we would hope. Since this is basically a testament to the power of the written word and how it brings us together through common experience each performer seems elevated by their role. Anjelica Huston as Gretta Conroy has a wide range to play, and her account of a young boy who once loved her sears not only Gabriel Conroy, but the audience as well.

When I think of Anjelica Huston, it's the transformation she makes in this film; and when I think of her father, it's this film I remember first.
2 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Huston Saved the Best for Last
evanston_dad20 June 2008
For his last film, John Huston directed his daughter, Anjelica, in this adaptation of the story from James Joyce's "Dubliners", and he gave us one of his finest achievements to remember him by.

Joyce is about as impossible to film as anyone, but "The Dead" at least presents a traditional narrative to work with. Much (indeed, almost all) of the important information in the story lies in the spaces between the lines, in characters' thoughts and expressions -- there are big moments, but they're cerebral -- they're not the stuff of which movies are made. But somehow, Huston gets it right, and he manages a nearly flawless adaptation.

Anjelica is magnificent, and the movie is haunting and powerful.

Grade: A
3 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
John's final masterpiece, Tony's first and last
bcdc3921 November 2007
In print this is one of the greatest short stories ever written, brought brilliantly and poetically to the screen by this father-son team, working together, sadly, for the first and last time.It is fitting that John Huston should end his career on a high note by bringing the work of one of his favorite author's to the screen, in what is easily the best Joyce screen adaptation. Huston made a career of adapting great works of literature to film, usually quite successfully. It is sad, and somewhat puzzling, that Tony Huston pretty much began and ended his career in film by adapting what would be his father's final project and picking up a well-deserved Oscar nomination in the process.

I once had the privilege of sitting in the company of the great screenwriter/playwright Horton Foote, who cited this film as one of his favorites in recent years (at the time it was still a fairly recent release). As a rather prolific screenwriter himself (and a brilliant screen adapter of his own works, as well as great authors such as Faulkner, Steinbeck and Harper Lee) he was obviously impressed with Tony Huston's first time effort, and possibly equally puzzled by his lack of output since then. If anyone has insights to share on the topic I'd be interested to hear more.
3 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Moving picture
a88041544 January 2003
Not often it happens that a great director´s last movie becomes such a moving, brillantly performed and filmed masterpiece. The cast is excellent as well as the camerawork. What starts up as a merry coming-together of a group of well-educated citizens of an early-20th-century- Dublin turns into a dark, philosophic narration about all our fear from death and the sometimes dark shadows of the past. Thank You, Mister Huston, for this last piece of great cinema!
3 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
A classic film from a legendary director.
rclay22 January 2002
I believe John Houston's "The Dead" is a true classic. Not only was it Houston's final film, he is quoted as saying "all I know about film making is in this film." The story, closely adapted from "Dubliners" by James Joyce, is a great ensemble piece featuring sterling performances by Angelica Houston, John's daughter, and a cast of English and Irish actors who bring the story to life. This is a film that should be part of any serious collection, not only because it is visually elegant, but because the story is timeless and very appealing. The film is not hurried, nor is it charged with action. Rather, the story unfolds from within the characters, who bring light and meaning to the dialog. The end of the film is stunning, poetic, and haunting. I recommend "The Dead" without reservation as one of the finest films ever made.
3 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Joyce brought magnificently to life
nighthwk21 October 1998
This is really the only chance to see the magic of James Joyce's writing brought to life. His novels are all unfilmable (in any real sense) and this is the only long story he wrote. It was John Huston's last film and did not reach the screen until after he had died, and it is easy to see his touch of greatness. The Dead is poetical in its approach on the screen, telling us more about Ireland than any modern movie on the IRA and "the troubles" could ever hope to tell us. Hopefully more people will watch this film and get to experience the finest of both John Huston and James Joyce, and perhaps visit this story in your local bookstore (and discover that it is probably the greatest short story ever put on paper).
3 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Quite simply one of the greatest films ever made
Martin Bradley7 January 2008
There are so many '10 Best' lists which could easily fit "The Dead" - Best Screen Drunk, Best Literary Adaptation, Best Use Of Music Not Specifically Written for the Film, Best Use of Poetry, Best Screen Speech, Best Ensemble Cast and finally, perhaps, Best Film Ever Made. This was John Huston's last and greatest film, adapted by his son Tony from James Joyce's short story and set on the evening of the Feast of the Epiphany in the Dublin of 1904. It is confined, largely, to one setting, the home of the Morkan sisters, and not a great deal happens in conventional 'dramatic' terms. They entertain their guests; there is singing, dancing, recitations and much small talk but watching this film you can't imagine anywhere else you would rather be than in this company.

Finally, of course, it is 'about' much, much more. It is about love, loss and regret, those stable mainstays of great drama. In the film's closing scenes the tenor Bartell D'Arcy, (Frank Patterson), sings a song, 'The Lass of Aughrim' which conjures up in the mind of Gretta, (Anjelica Huston), wife of Gabriel, (Donal McCann), the ghost of her first and probably greatest love, a boy who died in all certainty of a broken heart at the age of seventeen, and suddenly Gabriel realises he has never really known his wife and that he has not been the great love of her life, after all. Emotionally, these scenes are incredibly powerful, firstly as Gretta recounts the circumstances of her lover's death and then as the voice in Gabriel's head sums up his own feelings. This is great cinema, the monologues superbly delivered by Huston and McCann.

But then all the performances are extraordinary. This is ensemble playing of the highest order and while it would be invidious to single out one performer above another, has the screen ever given us a more likable, genial or convincing drunk than Donal Donnelly or has poetry ever been delivered with such passion that Sean McClory, (the IRA man in "The Quiet Man"), brings to his reading of Lady Gregory's translation of 'Donal Og' here? Added poignancy is to be had, of course, from the knowledge that Huston himself was close to death when he made this film which seems to me the culmination of his life's work. Death may well be its central theme but viewing this film is a life-enhancing experience.
4 out of 6 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
An error has occured. Please try again.

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews