After World War II, a Highland Regiment's acting Commanding Officer, who rose from the ranks, is replaced by a peace-time Oxford-educated Commanding Officer, leading to a dramatic conflict between the two.
A charming and ambitious young man finds many ways to raise himself through the ranks in business and social standing, some honest, some not quite so. If he can just manage to avoid a ... See full summary »
On the H.M.S. Defiant, during the French Revolutionary War, fair Captain Crawford is locked in a battle of wills against his cruel second-in-command Lieutenant Scott-Padget, whose heavy-handed command style pushes the crew to mutiny.
Gulley Jimson is broke, difficult, conniving, uncouth, and a welcher, but an artist. The visions in his head may not really satisfy him when realized, but the quest continues, for the perfect wall. The Beeders leave for six weeks of vacation, and return to find a seven thousand pound committment, and the wall of their living room a national treasure, even though living with a wall mural of feet is not their cup of tea. Then, in a bombed out church scheduled for demolition, THE wall that can become his vision.Written by
Bruce Cameron <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Alec Guinness not only stars in what amounts to a one-man show as aging, struggling London painter Gulley Jimson, he also wrote the script. Funny he got an Oscar nomination for the writing, and not for the acting.
As Jimson, Guinness is a memorably growly, seedy type, testament to the artistic impulse of man running afoul of polite society. Even his nasty Fagin from "Oliver Twist" was affable company; Jimson tells off his young admirer Nosey (Mike Morgan) with a convincingly hoarse "Go do something sensible, like shooting yourself." It's all for laughs, of course, except when "The Horse's Mouth" gets mildly serious, mostly when Jimson holds forth on his vision of art.
"Half a minute of revelation's worth a million years of know-nothing," he tells his companion Coker (Kay Walsh).
"Who lives a million years?" is her sharp reply.
"A million people every 12 months."
"A Horse's Mouth" isn't always so smart. Walsh plays her part too shrill, Morgan his too moony, and the artist who provided Jimson's paintings, John Bratby, uses too much red. After establishing Jimson, Guinness's script doesn't do much with him. He paints some walls, gets into some trouble, and sails away, leaving others to bear witness to his "genius".
What I like most about this film, other than Guinness's fine acting and occasional scenes here and there that feature his character to good effect, is the vivid picture you get of London circa the late 1950s, double-decker buses with hoardings for Gordon's Gin and Ty-Phoo Tea on their sides. Also, director Ronald Neame finds interesting angles to frame the film from in order to give the on-screen action (rarely painting itself, but frequently static conversation shots) a bit of vitality, and often outside with lively streetscape backdrops.
This is like a David Lean movie once removed. Neame was Lean's cinematographer in his early days, Guinness was Lean's favorite actor, and Walsh was Lean's ex-wife. Even Anne V. Coates, later the Oscar-winning editor of "Lawrence Of Arabia", snipped this as well.
She deserved her Oscar; not so Guinness his nomination here. As a comedy, "The Horse's Mouth" is a bit of a miss. A scene of Jimson ruining a rich couple's penthouse apartment is painfully unfunny, especially when a sculptor friend of Jimson (Michael Gough) arrives out of nowhere to add to the mess. Most of the other business in the movie, like a struggle between Jimson and his ex-wife for a portrait of her he needs for painting money, feels like chopped-down scenes from Cary's novel mined for easy laughs, at some expense to story.
I didn't care much about Jimson by story's end, but I did enjoy his company, or rather that of Guinness playing Jimson, staring at a charwoman and fixated by her feet, "...old women's feet...thin, flat, long...clinging to the ground like reptiles". Like much else in regard to the movie, I'm at a loss to what it means, but I value the experience. That counts for something with art.
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