“The past is a foreign county. They do things differently there.” No longer just a Silkworm lyric (from the same song that references “Willie” Somerset Maugham and possibly Casablanca), now back home in its proper element, or at least the film adaptation of its proper element.
A quality picture with excellent production design and fluid camera movement – like Carol Reed with a touch of Alain Resnais. It’s a perfect storm of my least-favorite types of movies: British upper-class period costume dramas and coming-of-age stories. But, highly recommended and Cannes-award-winning and all, I stuck with it and really loved the last half hour.
Kid named Leo is spending the summer with a family in the country, but his playmate Marcus (I like him – privileged asshole with a good vocabulary) gets the measles, leaving Leo to pal around with the grownups, getting involved in their secret affairs as a messenger boy. Julie Christie (between Petulia and McCabe & Mrs. Miller) is the young hottie of the household, promised to dull scarfaced Hugh Trimingham (Edward Fox of Day of the Jackal) but having a Leo-assisted affair with rough farmer Ted Burgess (Alan Bates of Secret Friends, also Chabrol’s Dr. M). Once the lovers are caught together and Julie seems lost to him, Ted shoots himself.
“We can’t expect to be happy all the time, can we?”
Fun sidetracks with Leo’s belief in occult curses. A dog with a name like “dry toast” (tri-toes?). A cricket ball is batted straight into the camera. A 1970’s love-triangle movie set among wheat fields, bringing to mind Days of Heaven. Little bursts of voiceover dialogue, like scenes omitted for time, or sometimes repeating what we’ve heard. An unexplained, unheard shot of a conversation between two characters we haven’t seen – only when going back through the screenshots did I notice the television set in the corner, definite sign of a flash-forward. The present day keeps breaking through into the early-century period story, and suddenly Leo is sixty (now Michael Redgrave of Mr. Arkadin, Secret Beyond the Door), summoned to visit Julie Christie (backlit to avoid displaying her old-age makeup).
“So you met my grandson”
“Yes I did”
“Does he remind you of anyone?”
“That’s it. That’s it. He does.”
Based on a famous novel, screenplay by Harold Pinter, who also wrote The Servant and Accident. Senses calls it Losey’s last great film and compliments Michel Legrand’s fine score. “Aside from its intelligence and insight, however, it hardly seems to be a Losey film—it is evocative, judicious, perfectly cast, but rather cautious.”
Shooting Down Pictures:
Occurring mostly in the past with occasional flashes to the present, Pinter’s manipulation of time feels perfunctory compared to what Alain Resnais was doing a decade prior, or even what Pinter managed in his script for Losey’s Accident. More interesting is Losey’s entymological dramatization of British manor life, exhibiting both gentility and prejudice with near-emotionless decorum. Pinter’s dialogue pinpoints the neurotic weirdness underlying British politeness with unnerving precision, and is served ably by the ensemble, especially Dominic Guard as the boy, whose naivete and unwitting indiscretions stand sharply against the hypocrisy and innuendo surrounding him.