|Index||3 reviews in total|
Ralph Richardson and John Gielgud are excellent and make the play well
All the action takes place in the dusty courtyard of a "home," whose patients are aged and mentally disturbed. The viewer is left to decide just how crazy they really are.
At times it's quite moving to watch Gielgud and Richardson struggle to remain polite, engaged, and coherent as they converse. Richardson does inept card tricks and Gielgud pretends not to notice the repeated screw-ups. When, finally, John does quietly point out a mistake, it's as if he has punched Ralph in the gut.
In unfortunate contrast to such subtle force are the two female roles -- the actresses only occasionally rise above their annoyingly screechy, caricatured dialogue.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
In the early 1970s U.K. director Lindsay Anderson formed a creative
partnership with playwright David Storey; this filmed play is the best
result of that partnership that I've seen. Touchingly simple music from
Alan Price (Anderson's collaborator on his masterpiece, "O Lucky Man!")
introduces and concludes each of the play's two acts, setting the stage
for the intimate character explorations to follow. Anderson's camera
pokes and probes about the stage, only zooming once (and quite slowly
at that) to give weight to John Gielgud's strong performance. Most of
the time it rests comfortably in the audience's perspective (I didn't
actually see an audience and some parts of the play are pretty funny
but I didn't hear any laughter, so this was probably not filmed in
front of a live crowd) but occasionally he glides about the stage to
follow the various characters as they move away from the table with 2
chairs that serves as the focal location of the play.
There's almost no "action" in the film at all the closest we get is a lobotomized oaf (Warren Clarke, instantly recognizable from his brilliant performance in Stanley Kubrick's "A Clockwork Orange"; this is an actor who can really use his face to good effect) lifting the chairs and table high in the air and eventually absconding with the precious lawn furniture. There are only 5 characters and all the character development consists of revelations and not real transformations. Even so, it's difficult to tell which of the revelations are true and which are simply a façade, because even though these people are inmates at some kind of mental hospital (a fact which, like so much else, is never made explicit but rather must be understood by inferring from casual observations by the characters), they still feel the need to maintain some kind of personal dignity. They show each other respect as well (as the other poster noted, it takes Gielgud's character quite a while to finally let Richardson's character know that his card tricks aren't working too well). Storey's play hits the mark when he shows the 4 primary characters -- Gielgud and Richardson's along with 2 women (Dandy Nichols and Mona Washbourne) one of whom makes up for her insecurity through male attention and the other of whom seems to pay attention to everything and everyone except herself fussing and fretting over who should sit in which of the 2 chairs in the courtyard. I find it really strange, and yet very convincing, that the spectacle is both so pathetic and somehow ennobling. When Clarke's character enters the scene with his implicit violence, they are finally able to restore order to the scene by speaking to him as well, although they grow annoyed when he hangs around perhaps in hopes of being spoken to further. These are characters struggling to hold onto their own sense of belonging in the universe, but deathly afraid of offending or upsetting anyone else's sense of place as well.
I can't say that this is a hugely entertaining film and it will probably alienate many viewers by its lack of action and its down-to-earth conversational style of dialog. However I enjoyed it quite a bit just as a "slice of life" kind of play and I think the dialog and the acting were very well done.
I don't remember how I came to see this piece but what a lucky day it was. Pure chance. What a shame that it barely has 2 dozen votes. Indicative of the tight, limited exposure of this wonderful dot of genius. Then added to this is the performances of Gielgud & Richardson. These guys are the best. What depth of character and subtlety. The actresses are also wonderful. The swallowness of todays efforts cause me to think about the cameramen, scenery, etc.. but this piece I'm lost in its grip. Totally involved with there world. This kind of quality is rarely seen today. This is a piece that can be viewed over and over and in fact is best to do so to fully appreciate it.
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