Under The Volcano (1984, John Huston)

Wanted to check out some more late Huston before the upcoming Emory screening of The Dead, since I don’t believe Wise Blood is typical of his films. But now, having seen these two plus The Maltese Falcon and nothing in between, I still have no idea what is typical of his films. It’s got that familiar 1970′s grime all over it, so either Huston was late in adapting to 80′s-style cinema or, more likely, Mexico was still in the 70′s.

“Some things you can’t apologize for.”

“Hell is my natural habitat.”

Full of fun quotes, mostly spoken by literate drunk Albert Finney, who gave up sobriety when his wife left a year prior. Finney (a few years before Miller’s Crossing) is tended by his brother Hugh (Anthony Andrews, lately of The King’s Speech), and all is depressingly normal until the now-ex-wife (Jacqueline Bisset, the mother in The Ceremony) shows up unexpectedly. Finney goes off the deep end with the drinking and erratic behavior, ending up shot to death in a hostile bar/whorehouse, scaring a horse into trampling to death his wife in front of Hugh, with whom she’d been having an affair before she originally left Mexico. It’s a great ending to a movie which overall didn’t strike me as hard as it seems to strike everyone else.

Finney and Bisset:

Andrews spontaneously goes bullfighting:

Didn’t watch the many DVD extras so I still know nothing about author Malcolm Lowry. Alex North brings his heavy hand to the proceedings, not offending except once during a comedy scene when he got overexcited. Shot with Mexican D.P. Gabriel Figueroa, who worked on at least four of Bunuel’s best films.

C. Viviani makes connections to The Dead:

It was with The Man Who Would Be King (1975), a project that he had been thinking about since the 1950s—based on a Rudyard Kipling story—that Huston made his return to literary adaptation. After the success of that bold “action-adventure” (in which both the action and the adventure are more within the characters than on the screen), Huston began favoring fictional works that were problematic, in terms of translating them to screen, because of the importance given to internal monologue or their absence of action. In less than ten years Huston would adapt three stories considered to be “unadapt-able”: Wise Blood, by Flannery O’Connor, Under the Volcano, by Malcolm Lowry, and “The Dead,” by James Joyce. In each case the adaptation rose to the challenge by deliberately ignoring false problems and by choosing to render the spirit rather than the letter of the original. It was not a matter of filming everything but of filming only what Huston liked, which is, in fact, a constant throughout his work. The culmination of this approach, The Dead (1987), is a film that is both respectful and free, and it became a kind of legacy work, in which Huston does not so much film Joyce’s story as use it as a pretext for offering his daughter Anjelica and his son Tony the gift of his artistic heritage.

Buy from Amazon:
Under the Volcano – Criterion DVD

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