Archive for September 14th, 2012

by R.D. Finch

When in the late 1920’s the entire film industry raced to embrace the addition of sound to movies, one notable film artist, Charles Chaplin, resisted. Chaplin’s 1931 picture City Lights was made without dialogue, although Chaplin did include sound effects and compose an original music score for the film. His next picture, Modern Times, was not released for another five years, and still Chaplin resisted the pressure to add dialogue to the story. By 1940, he was at last ready to tackle the task of incorporating dialogue in his next project, the political satire The Great Dictator, and to audiences and critics of the time his efforts proved successful. Chaplin received the Best Actor award from the New York Film Critics Circle (which he declined). The movie was nominated for an Academy Award as Best Picture, and Chaplin received nominations for Best Actor and Best Original Screenplay.

Today it’s a movie loved by many critics and filmmakers. But when I finally saw The Great Dictator a few years ago, I found it disappointing. Parts of the movie are appealing in the ways Chaplin’s silent movies are, alternately touching and funny, but in the end it simply falls short of Chaplin’s greatest work. Throughout the film one gets the sense that Chaplin believed he could merely graft words onto what he was already doing without rethinking his approach to comedy or screenwriting. The subject might have been daring for its time, but the resulting movie often seems awkward and anachronistic. (more…)

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by Allan Fish

(UK 1963 53m) not on DVD

Whispering time

d  Joan Kemp-Welch  w  Harold Pinter  m  Denis Lopez  art  Frederick Pusey

Vivien Merchant (Sarah), Alan Badel (Richard), Michael Forrest (milkman),

There are some playwrights who, while absolute masters of their form, just do not translate well to the screen.  Some like Tennessee Williams, Eugene O’Neill, Edward Albee or Lilian Hellman have transferred pretty seamlessly, but then again, they were all from across the pond.  Think instead of the attempts to film John Osborne, Joe Orton or Alan Ayckbourn.  All at best well-acted records and at worst pretty ghastly.  Surely no-one, however, has proved as impenetrable to the camera’s gaze as Harold Pinter.  The Birthday Party, The Caretaker, The Homecoming, Betrayal, all were later translated to film, but fell flat, exercises in cleverness or strong acting, but none would compare cinematically to say Wyler’s The Little Foxes or Kazan’s Baby Doll.

So we come to the crux, and what in the end seems a paradox.  While thinking in my head that perhaps Pinter on screen is best digested in small portions, it may seem as no surprise that my choice of Pinter for the selection is his one act play from 1962, filmed for ITV in 1963.  I say paradox because, by the end credits of The Lover, one is left wanting something a little meatier than what tastes, in the end, like a glorious hors d’ouevre.  Here then is a Pinter that is not enough for one who on film often finds him too much.  (more…)

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