'The numbing of the moral sense' part 2.
, 05 Oct 2013
The British Class System blah-blah or as Samuel Goldwyn is supposed to have put it, What we need are new clichés.
This is an excellent piece of film making by any standards - script, performances, cinematography, soundtrack. In fact, the use of sound is excellent throughout and Joseph Losey comments on this interestingly in one of the extras (specifically a black and white excerpt of him alongside a suave and inevitably smoking Harold Pinter on American TV back in the mid-sixties.)
The two chief protagonists and rivals are Oxford Dons in a nostalgically filmed Oxford University just prior to the late 60s bad magic, bad hair and bad attitude (students going on strike, Sitting In etc being about as meaningful as Zombies doing a Work to Rule). Contrary to lazy assumptions about this and all such fare, the third and in fact the only sympathetic male lead, one who has no interest in rivalry and doesnt even realise that his apparent paramour is the target of it, is also the bona fide Aristocrat - rather well played by Michael York too, although I am guessing that this was not such a stretch for him.
Everything is beautifully filmed and framed here English Summer Lawns, pastoral fields and woodland as well as the University itself. London gets a look in too, with its Restaurants and period glamour.
There are top notch performances by all concerned, serving a first rate script by Harold Pinter at his creative peak as good as any of the classic Stage Dramas like The Homecoming.
In the same black and white excerpt mentioned earlier, Pinter airily dismisses the description of himself as Master of the Comedy of Menace, but there is plenty of that here, along with surreal humour, such as Stanley Bakers Soup speech, and most especially a little treasure of a scene in which Harold Pinter himself, ably abetted by a young-old Freddie Jones, gives a tone-perfect comedic Acting Master class in - well - How to Act Pinter.
There is so much to treasure on just one viewing, so must catch this again the Tennis Match, the extended Sunday Lunch, the relaxation on the lawn (these Men of a Previous Era all drink and smoke to heroic excess and as if to the Manor Born, by the way)
Politely vicious stuff then; the Alpha Male Nasty initially appears obvious Stanley Charley Baker, of course. And then over the course of this, Dirk Stephen Bogarde subtly and gradually sinks to such astonishing depths of moral depravity that it astonishes even Charley and perhaps it doesnt initially register with the viewer even as they are watching just how deep he has sunk by the end.
Ok, nothing is perfect not-such-good points then: In material like this where conundrum is an essential facet, there is a conundrum of altogether the wrong sort in the whyfor of the Austrian Princess with the unpronounceable German name speaking with a French accent throughout although Jaqueline Sassard is perfectly creditable as the cipher everyone projects onto. And the Aristos indoor Rugby Match is just as daft and ill-conceived as the orgy scene in the preceding Losey/Pinter/Mosely collaboration The Servant. Also, for me, the Bogarde characters occasional stammer/twitch didnt make sense at all.
There you go, then take it for all in all, a major piece of collaborative craftsmanship. And, like the Oliver Reed Paranoiac, I found the Blu Ray presentation uncanny: the spooky feeling that there must be more depth and clarity in the picture here than in the original pristine cut cant be, of course . . .
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