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Cape Town professor David Lurie blatantly refuses to defend himself for an affair with a colored student whom he gave a passing grade for an exam she didn't even attend. Dismissed, he moves to his daughter Lucy's farm, which she runs under most disadvantaged terms, favoring the black locals. Yet rowdies, unprovoked, violently rob and abuse them both. Lucy refuses to fight back, unlike David, who is surprised by his own altruistic potential.Written by
Being John Malkovich means you can make this sort of fairly unpleasant and often disturbing dark tale into both an actor's piece and a reasonably good movie, from what is a bit of a dog's ear, which I saw on BBC1.
Few do contemptible sneering the way that Malkovich can and as in his best roles, he's a suitably complex nasty piece of work, emotionally shallow and morally drowning, we see him fall from what grace he had - and into the disgrace of the title.
Set in post Apartheid South Africa, the location is unusual as are the economic and political set-ups, creating an intriguing if beguiling premise. It's based on the Booker Prize-winning novel by J M Coetzee and ably directed by Steve Jacobs, of which this is his second only feature.
After the suicide of the young female mixed-race student, who had had a sexual relationship with white university lecturer David Lurie (Malkovich), the English professor is sacked. Finding he has no option, he goes to live with his lesbian daughter on a remote farm in the bush. Both willing to fit in and help to protect his own interests Lurie tries to accept both his fate and the set-up he has to tolerate, while the ever presence of black odd-job worker Petrus (Eriq Ebouaney) both irritates and underscores the whole black/white power struggle that resonates throughout the film.
Just as the film settles, some very nasty things happen and these are, frankly, unpleasant and difficult to sit through, with no restraints on graphic details. He's set on fire, pet dogs slaughtered and a rape. All done by black youths, seemingly on a whim.
Get past these though and the you will be rewarded; not in a film of great triumph and people changed and redeemed, riding off into the sunset but a slow realisation that life is just that and one has to admit personal shortfalls and to live with that. Disgrace is a fairly memorable film (maybe some of the parts more than the whole) but isn't one I particularly wish to see again, so the DVD won't be on my Christmas wish-list. For those who like and appreciate a challenging, well acted and modern human drama, it has a lot going for it.
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