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Night Must Fall (1964)
Underrated; over criticized even by the filmmakers
Other reviewers have pretty much covered the synopsis of this film. I would just like to add that it really should be viewed with some consideration given to the time it was made. For those who feel Finney's performance was "over the top" remember in 1964 what the general perception was about a "crazy" or psychopathic person. The public wasn't as educated about or aware of what mental illness looks like.
Some historical context for this film for the reviewers who commented that Finney must really have wanted to make this film because he could do whatever he wanted after Tom Jones, and that he was trying to provide a showcase for himself. First of all this movie was released in 1964, but it was filmed before Tom Jones was released. Finney did not have carte Blanche to do anything he wanted at this stage. This film was not, in fact, the first choice for Karel Reisz and Albert Finney, who wanted to collaborate again after working on Saturday Night and Sunday Morning. They were not trying to make a showcase, but rather were excited about film making, and were trying to do something different and unusual. They originally planned to make a film about Ned Kelley, and had spent a lot of time and effort trying to put that project together, even going so far as to scout locations in Australia. However, the financial backing was from MGM, and at the last minute they pulled the financing from the Ned Kelley project and told Reisz and Finney they were doing a remake of Night Must Fall.
Both Director and Actor have said they didn't feel it was going well while they were making it, and they weren't happy with how it turned out; however, Tony Richardson said the same about Tom Jones. Sometimes, the artist doesn't appreciate his own masterpiece. I personally find Finney's performance riveting, the story suspenseful, and, as other people have mentioned, the cinematography as atmospheric and effective as you would expect from Freddy Francis. I'm obviously in the camp with those who think this is an overlooked gem. Everyone entitled to his/her own opinion, but I did want to clarify a little of the history. Also, it was probably just a typo by one reviewer, but Finney was 26/27, not his late thirties when this was being made, but yes I agree Ewan McGregor does resemble him.
A Man of No Importance (1994)
Moving film with wonderful performances
In once sense this comment is a response to some of the comments/reviews already posted here. Some reviewers were apparently looking for a message or statement from the film and felt disappointed. At times, I think the "message" can be secondary to the art of the actor or the filmmaker. Ironically, the main character in "A Man of No Importance" is passionate about "Art for Art's sake". Art doesn't have to have a point. Part of the art of this film is in the tapestry of colorful characters, wonderful dialog, and captivating performances. Albert Finney, Brenda Fricker, Michael Gambon, as one would expect from actors of their calibers, are completely convincing and real. Albert Finney's performance is perfectly calibrated, his character a combination of charming exuberance and subtly expressed confusion and loneliness.
It may be the director intended to put across a particular message about homosexuality, but to me it seems the real message and point to the film is the resilience of the human spirit throughout the experiences of isolation, loneliness, frustration, confusion, sadness, repression, etc. Attitudes about homosexuality in 1960s Dublin is one context in which to express this, but obviously it's a universal theme that can be played out in many settings.
The real challenge, and where this movie succeeds in spades, is in bringing humor, lightness, and real poignancy to the issue through a character one can genuinely like and relate to on so many levels. The credit for this is attributable to Albert Finney's brilliant acting in a film that is ultimately about the frailty and the endurance of one man, who could be any man.
One aside: the reviewer who liked the film but made the comment that it's unusual for Albert Finney to play a real person, must have not seen many of his films. Admittedly, he has often portrayed characters who are "bigger than life", but he can also quite effectively play ordinary people. I recommend the reviewer check out the following films: Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, Two for the Road, Charlie Bubbles, The Browning Version, Shoot the Moon, Rich in Love, The Playboys, Erin Brockovich, Gumshoe, The Run of the Country, Endless Game, Picasso Summer, and The Image.