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The Films of John Schlesinger

A Kind of Loving

Billy Liar

Darling (July 19/14)

Darling follows Julie Christie's Diana Scott as she embarks upon a series of affairs with a variety of men, with the plodding narrative exploring the impact that Diana's cavalier behavior ultimately has on her fragile psyche. Filmmaker John Schlesinger has infused Darling with a meandering, plotless feel that is, at the outset, not as problematic as one might've feared, as the director does a superb job of establishing both the swinging protagonist and her posh environs - with, in terms of the former, Christie's superb performance heightening the movie's distinctive atmosphere. But as appealing as the character-study vibe initially is, Darling starts morphing into a seriously trying piece of work as it progresses into its deliberately-paced and repetitive midsection - with Schlesinger offering up a series of sequences that couldn't possibly be less interesting (ie there's a stretch here that seems to literally consist of one dinner party after another). The ensuing lack of momentum ensures that one's efforts at working up any sympathy for the central character's problems fall increasingly flat, and it's worth noting, too, that the emotional impact of the movie's final few scenes is diminished significantly by Schlesinger's padded-out sensibilities. And although the film boasts a handful of compelling sequences - eg Diana and a paramour engage in a vicious argument within London's tube system - Darling is, in the end, unable to establish itself as anything more than a time-capsule curiosity that thoroughly squanders a fine performance from its talented star.

out of

Far from the Madding Crowd

Midnight Cowboy

Sunday Bloody Sunday (November 11/03)

Bob (Murray Head) is a handsome young man who happens to be dating two people at the same time - a well-to-do doctor named Daniel (Peter Finch) and Alex, a successful editor (played by Glenda Jackson). The film concerns the efforts of Daniel and Alex to convince Bob to settle down with only one of them, a decision Bob clearly does not want to make. If Sunday Bloody Sunday had been content to be about just that dilemma, and excised the myriad of extraneous plot threads, the film probably would've been a lot more entertaining and engrossing. Screenwriter Penelope Gilliatt refuses to focus on the three characters and subsequently throws in sequence after sequence involving the each member of the trio dealing with other matters. This results in useless scenes like Alex discussing the finer points of monogamy with her parents and Daniel attending an interminable Bar Mitzvah, with the latter feeling as though it were shot in real-time. At the film's core is a pivotal question that's never answered; namely, how did Bob come to be involved with these two very different figures. And since it's made clear that Alex does mind sharing Bob, why does she continue to stay with him? The most intriguing aspect of Sunday Bloody Sunday is the relationship between Bob and Daniel, particularly since Peter Finch has been cast in the latter role. He's quite a bit older than Bob, so it's hard not to wonder if he was perhaps married to a woman for many years and has only recently embraced his homosexuality. But once again, the film doesn't provide any answers - choosing instead to pad out the running time with superfluous scenes (eg Alex's conversation with a recently-fired co-worker). But keeping the movie from sinking into tedium are two fantastic performances in Finch and Jackson (Head is good, though he can't quite keep up with his co-stars). Finch, in particular, creates a fascinating character that could easily sustain his own movie. Daniel becomes someone that we empathize with, though the film never entirely allows us to get too close to him (primarily because we're not given all that much information about his past). And Jackson does a nice job of portraying a woman who is realistic and pragmatic about the whole situation. Sunday Bloody Sunday should be applauded for refusing to dumb down the material to appeal to younger viewers, but the film's '70s excess prevents it from ever becoming anything more than a time-capsule curiosity.

out of

The Day of the Locust

Marathon Man

Yanks

Honky Tonk Freeway

Separate Tables

An Englishman Abroad

The Falcon and the Snowman

The Believers

Madame Sousatzka

Pacific Heights

The Innocent

Cold Comfort Farm

Eye for an Eye

The Tale of Sweeney Todd

The Next Best Thing