The Chronicle History of King Henry the Fift with his battell fought at Agincourt in France by Will Shakespeare

The film no longer belongs to Olivier but to Renoir (Le Carrosse d’or) and Russell (The Devils) and Kurosawa (Ran) and Bergman (The Magic Flute), in that order.

The rest is Shakespeare.



The potent poison has a Freudian dimension that lines up Laertes and Claudius at the last, against Hamlet, but it quite o’ercrows his spirit. Nevertheless, the camera shows his progress to the heights with the very symbols of the film (cannons, rounded portals and windows) justly aligned for the first time.

This manner of construction will of course leave out the critics, who do not understand the term and generally misuse it to mean suggestive and naughty.

There is always the concern to make a film, the organizational principle works from first to last informing the pictures.

Peter Brook borrowed from the ghost for King Lear. The dizzying ascent up the circular stone stairs is reversed in Crichton’s The Lavender Hill Mob and repeated in Fellini’s La dolce vita.


Richard III

Those who fought with Harry upon Saint Crispin’s day are honored in the film, gentles one and all.

The memory of Adolf Hitler was very green and vivid, the dreamlike torpor punctuated with thrusts and shocks, borne along by concatenations in the editing (the bloody axe, a maidservant’s wet cloth), the conscious originality of the direction not without precedents (Lubitsch for the monologue addressed to the camera passing one window after another with a view inside), the list of plays made evident (Julius Caesar, Macbeth), the medievalisms and romanticisms, with Garrick and Cibber, render the film a sumptuous telling.

And at the very end, the Crown of England too is grateful.


The Prince and the Showgirl

The Prince and the Showgirl

Rattigan’s screenplay on the ordering of the kingdom bears directly on Zeffirelli’s Tea with Mussolini, indirectly from Cukor’s Born Yesterday.

“Anti-Carpathian activities” mean collusion with the Germans in 1911, the Regent puts them down, the King that is to be conspires.

The American (out of Stroheim’s The Merry Widow) sees things amiss but puts them right.

Olivier as Charlie McCarthy with a foreign accent has lost his Bergen, Monroe very plush from Milwaukee is an understudy like the kinglet, she doesn’t appreciate the hierarchies but that doesn’t matter.

The director plays a joke on himself here and there, the miniature London of Henry V, Hamlet’s cortege bearing the passed-out showgirl to the Regent’s bedroom, whence she emerges next morning with the royal crest on her bum.


The Three Sisters

The Prince and the Showgirl

How one gets from King Lear to Cries and Whispers, they have nothing in their heads but vanity, two of them, the other an old refrain about an oak tree and a golden chain, their mother is dead and their father, the general, back to Moscow they would go.

Co-directed with John Sichel. “‘A town like Perm’, which is now called Molotov...” Masha remarks, on Irinushka’s name day, “we won’t be remembered, just forgotten.”

Colonel Vershinin, “let us say that there are a hundred thousand people in this town, a backward and uncouth place, of course, and that there are only three people like yourselves. It is obvious that you cannot conquer the dark mass that surrounds you in your own lifetime, gradually you’ll have to surrender and get lost in the crowd. Life will stifle you, but...”

Kuligin, “a trifling, silly little book,” he says of his own history, “written because of nothing better to do.”

Masha, “what a damned unbearable life.”

Andriuska and the local girl, “he went to his doom.”

Chekhov’s idea of a comedy, blisteringly realized by the National Theatre. An impression of the stage production not very far from the Olivier/Burge Chichester Uncle Vanya, in color, which seems to have struck Bergman most forcibly. The camera moves within a set almost real, very large and yet fragmentary, with exteriors of the Russian woods on a sound stage. Homeric laughter, in a way, Lensky may die in a great poem, but Tusenbach...

The youngest takes a job in the telegraph office, the eldest grows older teaching school, Masha... married Kuligin.

Natasha’s French rebuke of Masha drives poor Tusenbach to seek redress in a decanter of brandy from the cameraman so as not to break into laughing.

The little bourgeoise and the carnival people, she that is mistress to the chairman of the local council, she of the bustle and clattering shoes.

A thing to be rebuked by Tom Milne (Time Out), “a catalogue of pregnant pauses from which all Chekhovian intent has long since ebbed away.”

For Molly Haskell (Village Voice), “a feminist vision”.

TV Guide, “though flawed, an important rendition”.

Hal Erickson (Rovi), “melancholy classic”.

Bell-ringers and firemen open the second half, quite surrealistically filmed, an echo of Wild Strawberries as much as anything else (and Welles’ The Hearts of Age). “In 1812, Moscow was burning, God almighty, the French were taken by surprise!”

The great house is mortgaged to pay a silly debt.

Halliwell’s Film Guide, “lacks cinematic vigour.”

Walton score, Unsworth cinematography.

The brigade to Siberia. Moscow, the saddest dream imaginable. Not Siberia at all, Poland. “Home Olga.”

Natasha, “so tomorrow I’ll be all alone here. First thing I’ll do is have that row of fir trees cut down.”