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Lumet's Othello-like story pales in comparison to his better work
Considering the film was made in 1969, the film is interesting in its approach to subjects, camerawork, acting, etc. Lumet being an American was making a European film in style and content. Some of the camerawork along the streets of Rome reminds you of Boorman's "Point Blank" (1967) or Goddard's "Alphaville" (1965). It has a pointless helicopter shot of the lovers in embrace in an open field which six years later was used with great elan by Arthur Penn in another existential story "Night Moves" as the final shot in that movie. The film has no semblance to the typical Hollywood cinema of late sixties; it is closer to European cinema which Boorman was able to capture quite effectively with existential dilemmas presented on screen. Lumet went on to make much more memorable films, one of which was "Equus".
The story of a doubting lover, a jealous husband has been presented on screen several times. It is an Othello story retold. Omar Sharif's lead role appears plausible but he seems to overdo every detail. His cigarette smoking scene was meant to be a picture of nervousness--yet he is rarely seen smoking during the course of the film. Lumet seems to overlook details. Or is he teasing you?
Anouk Aimee is great to watch because she is so good looking not because she acts well--at least she is not convincing in this film. What is her relationship with the young man on the island? Lumet makes us wonder with the meaningful shot of the man's face on the second trip of the couple to the island. We are left guessing about Aimee's true character even after the end. Everything is open ended, except for the Othello-like lead character. Probably this was the reason for the film being nominated for the Golden Palm at Cannes. Lumet succeeds in fleshing out the male character, but fumbles with the female lead character. Perhaps it was his intention to leave us guessing.
The film remains a puzzle, a good effort that pales in comparison to Lumet's better works like "Equus", "12 Angry Men" and "the Verdict".
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