2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
A docudrama exploring the early life and work of Eugene O'Neill.
Alice Liddel (-firstname.lastname@example.org) from dublin, ireland
19 July 2001
Most TV biographies of notable writers follow a predictable format: a
history of the artist's life; a side glance at the historical background; a
superficial analysis of the work and personality by experts, 'friends' and
fellow authors. 'Eugene O'Neill: Journey into genius' shows moderate
inventiveness in choosing to dramatise the famous dramatist's life, not in
the Hollywood biopic sense, but as a series of discrete tableaux revealing
various aspects of his life and work - a modest precursor to '32 short
about Glenn Gould'. Maybe this method is more common in the States than
Britain; I certainly can't think of many examples from the
The film deals with O'Neill's literary apprenticeship, from being thrown
of Princeton for generally deviant behaviour, to his winning his first
Pulitzer Prize for 'Beyond the Horizon'. It is framed by O'Neill's vigil
the deathbed of his father, an Irish ham actor he contemptuously nicknames
'Monte Cristo' after his most famous barnstorming role; an actor so
in his day that O'Neill's Pulitzer was announced in the papers as an award
for James O'Neill's son.
This Oedipal struggle shadows all the events of O'Neill's life, from his
Princeton expulsion; his developing alchoholism in dead end clerical and
newspaper jobs; his first, stumbling attempts at poetry; his secret
marriage; his contracting TB and decision to become a playwright; his
travelling the world as a sailor; his putting on his first play with a
provincial acting troupe, creating a new, genuinely American theatre in the
process; his growing celebrity, and involvement with the socialist
intellectual circle of John Reed; his affairs and second marriage.
Appropriately, he wins the Pulitzer in the year of his father's death, and
the film comes full circle.
Director Skaggs adopts a number of styles to tell this story -
straightforward historical recreation; symbolic tableaux; stills montage;
monologues of reminiscence, etc. There is no attempt at realism here - the
intention is to tell of O'Neill's development in the mood and style of
O'Neill's plays, with lots of stilted talk, atmospheric portentousness,
silence, darkness etc. Fans of O'Neill who can recognise the allusions
probably enjoy this most; there are no concessions to the beginner.
For someone who hooted her way in disbelief through the 'classic' Anna
Christie, and who has always considered the author a parodic Tennessee
Williams, I found this film a little trying, the risible conversations with
a tubercolic colleen; the 'significant' meeting with a fisherman; the
pretentious debates about Art and Politics in New York bars; the supposedly
harrowing sequences of medical operations and injections.
Matthew Modine, refuses the sinister charisma Jack Nicholson brought to the
role in 'Reds', and is quite appealing as the arrogant, reckless, young
O'Neill, faring less well with the rather embarrassing contemplative Art
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