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It's been awhile since I've seen this. I remember it as an odd movie and overlong, but certain elements of it haunt me. A British playwright (Alan Bates) travels from place to place in the US using different theater groups to try out different endings to a play which he is chronically unable to finish. His drinking and chain smoking annoy everybody around him, and clearly get in the way of the fulfilment of a calling, the working out of his own authentic story, which finishing the play represents. I was particularly intrigued with two figures in the movie--an elderly homeless man and a young man on a skateboard--whom I take to be angels, or messengers of death, trying to warn him to mend his ways. I read the film as being not so much about addiction as about the refusal of grace.
I discovered this on TV in my early twenties (or was it late teens) and
it instantly became a cult hit in my infinitesimal social circle of
two... Some kids walk around quoting the Life of Brian... Whereas we
drunkenly traipsed the streets of our discontent chanting this inspired
tele-movie line for line... There was also, not surprisingly a healthy
smattering of "Withnail and I" in our diatribe amongst other things...
This hilarious small budget film was like cocaine for two young would-be writers... It's full of angst, horribly attractive (though costly) vices and wonderfully charming and funny characters, not to mention those delightful little show tunes - "every waddle of the duck.. is for the first time", the fine rendition of "Blue Ridge mountains of Virginia" etc... and that... joke!?!... "J.Edgar Hoover Memorial Hospital" - absolutely priceless (obviously I ain't of American descent - and certainly not from Dallas ;) Unfortunately, we maybe realised too late that imitating the derogatory actions of Hamish Partt to the proverbial T is not the way to become a successful writer... I don't, however regret the experience and bottle of scotch (or cheaper equivalent) in belly or no, this film stands as a wonderful testament to some of the finer character actors of TV and film in the late 20th century... I highly recommend it to other aspiring writers and lovers of the theater alike...
Three cheers Mr Pratt!!!
Unnatural Pursuits was a two part television series made by the BBC and
written by the playwright Simon Gray. It is based on mounting his play
The Common Pursuit (itself turned into a television film) in the USA.
Unnatural Pursuits is a musical comic fantasy as it features occasional singing in the mould of Pennies from Heaven.
Alan Bates plays the hard drinking and smoking playwright testing his new play in the USA and bemused by the people he encounters as well as figuring out the ending of his play.
Richard Wilson plays a Harold Pinteresque type writer who seems to be hovering in a disapproving and at times, a threatening manner. Bates drinking means that he sometimes hallucinates allowing the makers of the drama to use the then novel morphing technology that became fashionable in Terminator 2.
The American setting allows Bates to have fun but having seen the film The Common Pursuit which had a scene stealing turn from Tim Roth, I know which is the better drama and Unnatural Pursuits does not quite cut it in comparison.
I was an extra in this film when a part of it was shot in Houston Texas. I had a chance to see it when it played here. (at the theater of fine arts, *rolls eyes*) I walked out on it, even never have seen the scenes I was (supposed to be?) in. All I received from this movie was a really nasty sunburn. I hope that someone enjoyed it, I didn't. I would guess that someone liked it somewhere. I'm at a loss at who could of. Please if you liked it don't hate me. I just never got into it for the story was way too long in the set-up, or I was way too impatient. Either/or, it wasn't a movie I'd ever see again. Hope I didn't rag on it too much. It just didn't appeal to my tastes.
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