Stranger in the Family
Out of the Unknown
An unaware mutation in the evolutionary line is held in check by his parents for safety’s sake, a commercial career goes awry, there’s a government program for him and his likes, to see them into adulthood by way of the laboratory.
And thus the allegory, it’s a matter of “spiritual discernment” and the moving of men’s souls, Hitler is mentioned in this connection, it’s a very dicey business.
Bridges at the BBC.
Two films in one, the first brilliant and captivating, the second intentionally ludicrous.
They are the drama at a country hospital with an accident victim who isn’t human and his fancy dress Lystrian shenanigans, described as “immature”.
Half the art is in presenting the two as one. The rubber-suited maniac is fleeing female justice on his planet, the doctors and staff have to deal with him rationally, and a force-field that heats the wards to Lystrian comfort.
Let’s Murder Vivaldi
The Wednesday Play
The mind has its order, famously, “and this other one,” Borges said just as famously.
“I get a bit tired of words sometimes, don’t you?” (Pinter, The Collection)
So the conventional plot runs itself out in exhausting analyses (boss, wife, employee, lover) that amount to nothing more than music, which is harmony, though the title describes a sort of domestic arrangement.
On the Eve of Publication
The Wednesday Play
The sadly tortured existence of an aging master of “the English Novel”, from the author of Morgan: A Suitable Case for Treatment (dir. Karel Reisz) and Providence (dir. Alain Resnais).
The two modalities of human communication by which he may be understood he recognizes by Queensberry maieutics, a sod of a son gone Šsthete and a lifelong Marxist honored by the State or some such rubbish is he, in some wise.
He drinks at dinner parties and “shows off” more or less coherently, his new book is The Last Days of Buster Crook, about to appear.
The Cellar and the Almond
Play for Today
After the Nazis and the Gestapo, the Communists and the NKVD.
The perduring image is the countess, quite gaga, for whom “this terrible war” is still “in 1943, or 1944.”
A feature-length film in color for the BBC.
The celebrated author Robert Kelvin (On the Eve of Publication) and his friend Zladek both appear, last meeting, last letter.
“It’s two years since the revolution,” the keys to her wine cellar are wanted for a feast.
The song on her gramophone is “here we have waited till moonbeams have faded and gone,” the tree she planted as a child is visible only to her.
King Arthur does a bunk for the New Order and wakes up on “Mt. Moscow, strip clubs on the left, brothels on the right, Kremlin in the middle,” veiling his words from planted microphones whilst reporters from the West interview him in his flat.
The drink conveys most of the balderdash he speaks, more and more incoherently.
Belloc and Blake and “the lost boyhood of Judas” are part of the framework.
Follow the Yellow Brick
The actor in television adverts despairs of “the muck in between”, his wife tries sleeping with his agent, all is impure that is not Waggy-Tail DinDin on Barnes Common or Krispy Krunch in the land of Oz, really.
That is the odd keynote of the style, realism, no matter what, one of the poor devils they make antidepressants for, and he sells those, too, by Saint Paul, “whatsoever things are of good report...”
Undoubtedly one of the great works of the English cinema, simply the RSM in business after the war “setting his day in order,” putting things in their proper places, on a right basis, setting up the fallen, removing what has been shifted, establishing the real.
“Talkative drama,” says dozing Halliwell, “not much fun.”
The RSM does not emerge unwounded, on the contrary, which is how RenÚ Char describes the poet at his work.
Palme d’or at Cannes.
Tom Milne had no idea of it, “at which point the film falls apart” (Time Out Film Guide), Ebert likewise (Chicago Sun-Times), Canby to be sure (New York Times).
Play for Today
The dying daughter down from Oxford, the pet shop of the title, sonny Jim on the stag circuit with his mistress.
And what is the sense of it? Joe shouts down the parson in chapel.
It is to bring home the emcee and have him propose to the stripper, father and son reconciled, the Christian and the comic.
Freddie Jones, Angharad Rees, Dennis Waterman, Patricia Franklin, Edward Evans et al., including a marvelously expressive parrot.
An extensive recomposition (cf. Rattigan’s Goodbye, Mr. Chips, dir. Herbert Ross) identifying sense and soul in the English spirit, a thing of mummers in the mystery plays at Winchester, otherwise it’s charity work and environmental medicine, raising the family, ping-pong and Monopoly and crosswords by the fire (“‘Love bade me welcome, yet my ___ drew back,’ four letters beginning with S”).
The work is undertaken by John Bowen, author of Robin Redbreast (dir. James MacTaggart) and A Photograph (dir. John Glenister). Cinematography by Arthur Ibbetson, score by Cyril Ornadel.
Books and book reviewers (the quote is attributed to Henry Vaughan), the great collective jabber of Leviathan or what d’ye call it, anyway. The overwhelming nostalgia for the immediacy of Lean’s film is an effect put to good use by Bridges. Still a thing of railway stations (and suburban homes and the cathedral, “the longest Gothic nave in the world,” a flat on the canal, town centre with rude youths).
A nickel mine Down Under (Paradise Springs), still Anna Karenina of England.
Halliwell’s Film Guide, “unqualified disaster.”
Out of Season
A complicated equation that works out as follows, you can go home again, it’s as if you’d never left, if that’s any consolation to you.
Yank on the English seacoast.
“Topnotch performances... a taut script and firstrate direction” (Variety).
“An impossible project” (Time Out Film Guide).
“Well enough done” (Halliwell’s Film Guide, nevertheless befuddled).
The Mind Beyond
A fine analytical rendering of Clair’s It Happened Tomorrow on the prescience of lovers, the punchline comes precisely from the fine analytical rendering, stylistically a straightforward realistic drama of autism and the treatment of it, therefore and self-evidently a tour de force for the BBC.
“He’s not one of those, uh, Winnipeg Bolsheviks, is he?”
Generally given under the title Age of Innocence.
Cp. Why Shoot the Teacher? (dir. Silvio Narizzano). A minutely detailed, finely gauged masterpiece with a fine flavor of Cassavetes’ A Child Is Waiting right after the start, and Welles’ The Hearts of Age, “for God’s sake, wind.”
“Kindly recharge my glass.”
“The dark side of academe,” pronounced to rhyme with “seamy”, Mrs. Boswell. “I don’t believe in using science for war,” says the new instructor formerly at Eton. A sense of Welles’ The Stranger to begin with and throughout, a running joke...
Schubert and the Charleston. “Quite the modern young woman, don’t you think?” Bridges’ virtuosity never more in evidence, cp. Out of Season.
TV Guide, “no entertainment value whatsoever.” Halliwell’s Film Guide, “rather uninteresting”.
Rain on the Roof
The philandering ad man has to find a name for “polystyrene cheese”, his wife cultivates a medicated unlettered young Christer yobbo from upcountry, who cuts the husband’s throat and sits down to a spelling lesson, the medication prevents him from eating cheese of any description.
The title is what you suffer without Our Saviour. Mind you, the ad man can spout a sonnet by the swan of Avon over a dinner row like nobody’s business.
The Return of the Soldier
He is unmanned by shell shock, remembering only his childhood and early youth, the last most vividly in an innkeeper’s daughter he once loved, now married and middle-aged as he is.
His life as a man, the wife he cannot recall, his home and duties and manner of living, must resume as his memory does, this takes a concentrated effort on his behalf, it all comes back to him at once.
Canby had the scent in his New York Times review, he saw the interplay of characters and was perhaps aware that this is a film of great pith and moment that elsewhere lost the name of action.
The direction is of the utmost perceptiveness cut as fine as ever it could be, the cinematography similarly serves the turn, and the performances.
The Shooting Party
The British disaster in World War I, prefigured in a general cockup at a country estate that presents the very image of a nervous breakdown facing “the German military regime” a year before the “trial of strength” already anticipated.
“More Ibsenite than Chekhovian”, but really neither, despite Osbert’s wild duck and dreams that never might be, or were, and are before the eyes of the several willing participants.
Good form gone bad, poor shooting, sham grounds and artifacts, provincialism, folly and speculation (explicitly condemned), worse things than that, a vain belief that blinds the eyes even when the bird is in the hand, a completely cautionary tale against the shattering effects of apprehensiveness pure and simple, all in retrospect, of course, with the huntsman’s funeral procession from Un Chien Andalou on top of everything else.
The Tale of Little Pig Robinson
As in Crusoe, by a long mile to Stymouth this little piggy went to market.
Beatrix Potter on Edward Lear and Daniel Defoe, filmed on location.