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The Balcony (1963)

Not Rated | | Drama | 4 December 1963 (Sweden)
In a fictional country, the Madam of a brothel satisfies the erotic fantasies of her customers, while a revolution is sweeping the nation.



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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 1 nomination. See more awards »


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Complete credited cast:
Arnette Jens ...


Shelley Winters is the madame of a house where customers play out their erotic fantasies, oblivious to a revolution which is sweeping the country. When her old friend, the chief of police (Peter Falk), asks her to impersonate the missing queen in order to reassure the people and halt the revolution, she offers instead three of her customers to play the general, bishop and chief justice, all of whom have died in the revolution. Written by bajac

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Meet Madam Irma and her girls from the House of Illusion ... they make men live their wildest dreams ! See more »




Not Rated | See all certifications »




Release Date:

4 December 1963 (Sweden)  »

Also Known As:

El balcón  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


Although initially refused a UK cinema certificate by censor John Trevelyan the film was passed uncut after successful showings by local council authorities. See more »


Madame Irma: You can all go home now. To your own homes, your own beds. Where you can be sure everything will be even falser than it is here. Go on!
See more »


Featured in For the Love of Spock (2016) See more »


The Soldier's Tale
Composed by Igor Stravinsky
Conducted by Robert Craft
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User Reviews

If you're up to it, close to a "must-see"
12 January 2010 | by See all my reviews

This is absolutely NOT a film for the theatrically illiterate or anyone who cannot accept a film which is less than realistic and into the exploration of the fantasies film is supposed to look at (dare we admit it is stage influenced - but not stage bound?). Those who simply want a mindless night at a "fun" film had best look elsewhere, but for anyone who has a mind and enjoys using it, who knows what Existentialism is, or who enjoys really good acting in demanding texts, the 1963 adaptation Ben Maddow made of Genet's 1959 draft of THE BALCONY in consultation with the original author is close to a "must see." Moving smoothly from the horrifying stock footage of the wartime rioting as the Germans were withdrawing from Paris and radicals were wreaking vengeance on "collaborators" (representing an unnamed country in revolution) through shots establishing a very young and handsome Leonard Nimoy as a revolutionary the film quickly settles into the studio produced isolation of a prominent brothel where clients can act out any fantasy and Genet can use these fantasies to examine the nature of power and relationships - even for a moment drawing back the tenuous curtain separating fantasy and reality.

Top billed Shelly Winters as the madame may never have given a better, subtler performance, and the later all to irritating (as television's Columbo) Peter Falk gives a performance of sustained intensity as a man who thinks he's in charge of his destiny - very reminiscent of the best Twilight Zone work.

All too often overlooked in the uniformly solid cast are Ruby Dee (between her stage triumphs in PURLIE VICTORIOUS and A RAISIN IN THE SUN and recreating them on film) as a woman on trial, Jeff Corey (a versatile character actor with over 200 movie and TV credits including everything from Perry Mason to Star Trek) as "the Bishop," Kent Smith (with a resume akin to Corey's but possibly best known as Peter Keating in the movie of THE FOUNTAINHEAD) as the "General" and famously Blacklisted Lee Grant (just coming off that painful period) as one of Ms. Winters' "girls." Despite the brilliance of all concerned, the film has had its problems It was made at a time when, even if independent films could get around the political bigotry of the previous decade, they were still not immune to the pressure of a sexual puritanism which had a major studio first force a damaging rewrite then refuse to issue an important Billy Wilder film (KISS ME STUPID) under its own name because it appeared to endorse infidelity. The screenplay of THE BALCONY is, on many levels, "tamer" than the stage version. The castration of a character is eliminated as are most homosexual references and exposed skin is kept to a minimum, and it may have been still further Bowdlerized in regional release, but the essential ideas are there for any with the wit to explore them.

If you're up to it (and many viewers will recognize that Rod Serling clearly was), this is a journey through time and space - and one's mind - well worth taking.

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