Monday, July 31, 2006


I was lucky enough (thank GOD I live in NYC) to see a revival of Kurosawa’s THE LOWER DEPTHS, his version of Maxim Gorky’s play. There’s not a lot of plot, but a great honking barrage of character, all played to perfection by members of the Kurosawa Repertory Company. The film details the lives of a bunch of down and outers who live in a flophouse that seems to be located at the bottom of some kind of ravine. The film opens with people dumping garbage down the ravine onto the roof of the flophouse. Get it? Among the residents of the flophouse are an old tinker and his terminally tubercular wife, a past his prime actor, a prostitute, a man claiming to be an ex-samurai and his wife who now make a living selling candy, and assorted gamblers and dregs of society. The occupants of this flophouse are used to being dumped on. Well, life happens: as the film progresses, there’s a lot of yelling, a death or two, some illusions are shared and several more are shattered, a couple of attempted seductions and a good deal of drinking and sleeping. There’s more to it than that, of course, but it gives you an idea of the rather free-form feel of what goes on. There don’t seem to be the rigorous plot mechanics of SEVEN SAMURAI or RASHOMON at work here. The ragtag nature of the film reflects the ragtag nature of the characters.

The great pleasure of watching this film is in watching a bunch of world-class character actors carry a movie. Most of the cast, like Toshiro Mifune and the indispensable Minoru Chiaki, are familiar from other Kurosawa films. Character is summed up in a single gesture, one remarkable actress whose name I can’t remember but who was a memorable Lady Macbeth in Kurosawa’s THRONE OF BLOOD tells you everything you need to know about her character by the way she slouches into a room. Minoru Chiaki seems to have been the Japanese Johnny Depp: he makes me laugh simply by standing up and holding one foot over the fire. The most startling performance comes from Bokuzen Hidari, as an old man who seems to be some kind of pilgrim (his exact status, as priest or pilgrim, is never spelled out in the subtitles but might be apparent to a Japanese audience). Hidari played the hilariously sad-faced farmer Yohei in SEVEN SAMURAI, and is usually used as comic relief. But in LOWER DEPTHS he plays what basically amounts to a Christ/Buddha figure: he’s probably the most intelligent and enlightened person in the film, certainly the least selfish and crass. The man goes through the film with a wide beautiful smile, dispensing intelligent advice and basic human decency but never coming across as self-righteous or smug, even occasionally suggesting a sort of deviousness that makes you wonder exactly what he’s up to. There’s none of the cartoonish grimacing that can occasionally mar his appearances in other films, you really want to just keep watching him. If he was a TV evangelist, you’d send him money. You might even vote for him.

One viewing just isn't enough for a film as dense as this one. The interactions among the characters are just too intricate, and I'll need to do some reading on other aspects of the movie. For example, I'd really like to know what the Japanese characters on the back of the pilgrim's kimono mean, if they offer some insight into his character or the rest of the film. But repeat viewings will be great fun. I've discovered a new movie to try to get to the bottom of. Criterion DVD, here I come.

Monday, July 24, 2006


Kurosawa’s tasty black comedy begins at a wedding reception, one that rivals Connie Corleone’s for sheer drama: the daughter of a fat-cat corporate VP is marrying the VP’s personal assistant. As the reception begins, one of the officers of the company is arrested for cooking the books, much to the amusement of the press in attendance, who’ve been waiting for pretty much exactly this to happen. A good deal of plot is established in this opening sequence, as is the general tone of the film: the viewer is invited to share in the journalists’ amused cynicism about everything from the real feelings of the groom for the bride (is he marrying her just to get ahead?) to the sudden bizarre appearance of a wedding cake in the shape of a building with sinister associations for everyone concerned.

And we’re off and running. It turns out that the personal assistant (played by a very restrained but still magnetic Toshiro Mifune) isn’t quite what he seems: he has a very definite agenda. Hint: the movie owes a bit of a debt to HAMLET. There is a lot of good nasty fun to be had in THE BAD SLEEP WELL, of the kind that Kurosawa does especially well. Echoes of IKIRU’s bureaucratic satire and the bitterly misanthropic comic one-upmanship of YOJIMBO can often be felt, along with the unmistakable tension of the mysteriously under-rated HIGH AND LOW. Unfortunately, THE BAD SLEEP WELL falters, and it is hard to pinpoint exactly where. It has something to do with Mifune’s character having some well-founded concerns about the consequences of his actions, and these concerns being allowed to overwhelm the character and finally the movie.

The problem is that we're told that the "good" characters need to be as "bad" as the "bad" characters in order to prevail. Unfortunately, the ultimate undoing of the "good" people is not due to "goodness" but to "stupidity." In a nutshell, in order to give us a tragic ending, Kurosawa has Mifune under-estimate the "badness" of the people he is up against, and it just doesn't wash. Mifune has just been too clear-sighted about his enemies to make the error he makes, and the extended monologue a certain character makes on Mifune's behalf isn't terribly moving because of it.

Worth seeing, certainly, especially if you can manage to see it on a big screen. The Criterion DVD is great, but a DVD of any Kurosawa film is a serious dimunition. The acting is, as is only to be expected in a Kurosawa film, of the highest imaginable standard. There just aren't better made or acted films than Kurosawa's.

THE BAD SLEEP WELL. They sure do.

Friday, July 21, 2006


Mostly enjoyable, but it seems to suffer from overkill. Way too many subplots are crammed in, and way too little time is given to each of these subplots, for the story to do justice to any of them. There is also a fatal lack of escalation: the film hits an adrenaline high fairly early, and it stays at about the same level of excitement for most of its running time. It doesn’t end with the Big Finish, the Colossal Topper that makes you feel you’ve gotten you’re money’s worth of Summer Movie Excitement. But I liked it anyway, even if it does feel too much like a two hour and thirty minute prelude to next summer’s PIRATES III.

The story concerns our hero and heroine from PIRATES I, Will and Elizabeth, played ably by Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley. Their wedding has been delayed by their arrest by the poisonous Lord Beckett (an appropriately sinister Tom Hollander) for aiding and abetting Jack Sparrow’s escape from the law (shown at the end of PIRATES I). Beckett has an Ulterior Motive, however: he will issue pardons to both Will and Elizabeth if they find Capt Jack Sparrow and obtain Sparrow’s apparently magical compass (a detail I don’t remember from PIRATES I, I’ll have to check). Capt. Jack has problems of his own, dealing with a long overdue debt (soul, eternity) to Davy Jones, played by the magnificent Bill Nighy, who manages to be recognizable even through his CGI face of octopus tentacles. Jack manages to tangle Will and Elizabeth in his schemes, and Will and Elizabeth tangle Jack in their schemes, and everything rattles on amusingly enough: escapes from cannibals, attacks from Krakens, and so on.

Alas, the subplots start to come quick and furious: the pair of comedy relief pirates (the short fat one and the tall skinny one with the fake eye) return for no other reason than that of providing a link to the first movie. A promising bit of business, the one-eyed pirate flourishing a bible he can’t read and talking about getting religion, never really goes anywhere. Neither does the subplot involving Bootstrap Bill, Will Turner’s father (Stellan Skarsgard), who is one of Davy Jones’ crew, and who isn’t given a lot to do but make unconvincing attempts to mend parental fences with Will and wear a lot of extremely unflattering makeup. There’s a new character, a voodoo witch who offers supernatural guidance when she isn’t slowing down the plot with excessive atmosphere and trying to out-flounce Depp. Jonathan Pryce’s scenes are similarly uninteresting and unnecessary, and his character is mostly forgotten about. Only Jack Davenport’s return as Commodore Norrington, Elizabeth’s unsuccessful suitor from PIRATES I now fallen on hard times, generates enough interest and seems important to the story, or stories.

We also get the crew of the Black Pearl, the crew of a foreign fishing boat who come to an unnecessarily sticky end, the crew of another boat who manage to pick up both Elizabeth and Will at different times on the same voyage, and you just get the feeling that the whole mess could have used some streamlining. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have a problem with wild excess, but when a scene of Elizabeth hiding out in male drag aboard a ship, using her discarded dress as a marionette to get a bunch of superstitious sailors to think a ghost is telling them to go to Tortuga actually makes it into the final cut of a movie you know there’s something wrong.

But the good stuff is good. The effects are effective, and the design is particularly interesting. Davy Jones’ crew has all started to morph into sea creatures, and a lot of fun seems to have been had in assigning them marine characteristics. One of them has the head of a hammer head shark and Jones himself has the aforementioned tentacle beard and an outsized lobster claw for a left hand.

I am a total helpless sucker for Johnny Depp’s work in general and for Capt. Sparrow in particular. It isn’t often I laugh out loud simply at an actor’s posture. A good friend’s child was asked what the best part of PIRATES II was, and she replied, “Looking at Johnny Depp,” a sentiment I can’t disagree with.

Bill Nighy’s Davy Jones is a marvel, an example of what a first-rate actor can do even when buried under tons of makeup/CGI (compare Nighy’s work with Keanu’s in A SCANNER DARKLY, and you’ll see what I mean). Nighy projects a palpable menace unlike anything found in PIRATES I. For the first time, attempts to draw parallels between a sinister captain in a piece of popular entertainment and Melville’s Captain Ahab don’t seem out of order. Those icy blue eyes and icier whisper make Nighy’s Davy Jones one of the very few characters, mortal or otherwise, who can attract attention away from Jack Sparrow. I want to see more of both the actor and the character.

Strange Things: the film looks dirty. PIRATES I has that studio-produced sheen to it, it looks like a big old fantasy movie. PIRATES II has a much grittier look to it. The exteriors look like real locations rather than backlots, everybody’s got bad teeth and sunburn. There’s even one bizarre moment when the picture gets very very dark, and I was concerned that the light bulb in the projector had burned out, but no, it just seemed to be clouds passing overhead. I’m not sure what they were after, but it does seem part of a general darkening of the atmosphere, an attempt to add a “serious” dimension to the proceedings. There are moments, brief to be sure, when the stakes seem to be almost spiritual. The One-Eyed Comedy Pirate’s flirtation with the Bible and bizarrely blurted statement about the “dichotomy between good and evil,” and Davy Jones’ Mephistophelian soul-collecting from sailors/pirates afraid of their fates in the next world hint at some more serious intent that never really comes fully across. Maybe next year.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

A SCANNER DARKLY -- First Viewing:

I found it troubling and fascinating, okay? It feels very free-form, almost as if it was just kind of improvised as they went along. The plot, such as it is, seems to concern a character known alternatively as Fred and Bob, depending who is talking to him. Fred/Bob lives in a house with two freeloading buddies, and Fred/Bob seems to also be a cop charged with observing his two freeloading buddies. There's a lot about a terribly addictive drug called Substance D, which apparently is so addictive that the world is divided into two camps: those who are addicted to Substance D, and those who haven't tried it yet. In order to better observe his two freeloading buddies, Fred/Bob has become addicted to Substance D. Or something.

I'll confess that I found it very hard to follow. Part of the problem is the animation. The film was apparently shot in regular live action, and then each frame was painstakingly rotoscoped and turned into a weird hybrid of animation and live action. This allows for some dazzling effects, especially a sort of anonymity suit that Fred/Bob and other police officers wear that allows them to be almost invisible: different faces and body parts are constantly appearing and changing and morphing as you watch. Cool. Unfortunately, it also gets a little distracting. You can get so lost in just watching the anonymity suits that you can lose the thread of conversations. Even worse, you can get so lost in just watching the fascinatingly dreamlike way in which walls shift and move, or the way somebody's hair moves, or the way Robert Downey Jr. and Woody Harrelson seem to have been born to be animated in this way that you can lose track of what is going on altogether. That's not really a bad thing. Or is it? After only one viewing, I can't really be sure.

I remember thinking that this film is not at all what I was expecting, which lead me to wonder what in fact I had been expecting. This made me remember that A SCANNER DARKLY is a film by Richard Linklater, who tends to play fast and loose with narrative conventions. Don't get me wrong, his films all have beginnings middles and ends, and they're usually in that order. His films just don't seem to have beginnings middles and ends in the way that most movies have them. It isn't unusual to see a Linklater film and wonder: what was that? Repeat viewings will usually reveal what is going on. Linklater is much more like Mike Leigh than Steven Spielberg. I happen to love Mr. Linklater for that.

Okay. I'll say it because it must be said. The big problem with the film is Keanu Reeves. Even extensive roto-scoping can't save his "performance." You'd think that a character having identity issues and drug problems might play to whatever alleged strengths Reeves possesses as an actor, but no. There is no more embarassing display in recent American cinema of sheer thespic ineptitude than the scenes involving Reeves trying to keep up with Robert Downey Jr. and Woody Harrelson. It is like watching Laurel and Hardy and George W. Bush. Music Cue: "one of these things is not like the others..."

Gratuitous swipe:
Of all sad words of tongue or pen
The saddest are these:
"It stars Keanu Reeves."

Bottom line: I'll see it again. There's enough of interest to make me want to.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006


An ongoing Kurosawa series showed a rarity recently: I LIVE INFEAR. Produced the year after SEVEN SAMURAI, it is a remarkablemovie. Toshiro Mifune stars as the patriarch of a rather divided family who is very very concerned about the possibility of nuclear war and the dangers of radiation. He wants to sell his successful family business and relocate his family to Brazil to avoid what he views as certain death from the H-Bomb. His family is not entirely sympathetic, and attempts to have him declared incompetent. Part ofthe interest of the film comes from watching Mifune's behavior, and trying to decide as to how right he is to be so concerned. Is his concern justified, or is he just going nuts?

Apparently there was a lot more justification for the Mifune character's concern than I had thought. A little post-movie checking showed me that there were a lot of atomic tests going on at the time the film was made. Apparently there was even one incident where a fishing boat had got caught in a fallout cloud. It wasn't just in movies that folks were thinking of departing Japan for less radioactive parts.

I don't know if anyone is going to list I LIVE IN FEAR as one ofKurosawa's greatest efforts. There's a piece of stunt casting that nearly sinks the film, and unfortunately it is Mifune himself as the patriarch. Playing a character apparently twice his age, Mifune assumes a cane and a bit of a stoop, but nothing, not even dyed hair and glasses, can hide his (to me at least) astonishing physical magnetism. Try as he might, he can't hide his youth and energy. It would be like Marlon Brando at the height of his STREETCAR/WATERFRONT beauty playing someone that old. As fascinating as the stunt is, it winds up distracting from the film. Mifune does his best, of course. He pulls off lots of wonderful little moments, especially a running habit of grunting angrily and furiously fanning at the stupidity of his ungrateful children, and his final scenes are very effective.

There are other wonderful performances as well. Takashi Shimura has a role as a dentist (kind of the audience's surrogate) who finds himself drawn into the family struggles, and he is excellent as usual: he's certainly among the most dependably excellent actors I know of. It was also interesting to see Minoru Chiaki, who played the monk in RASHOMON and the comic samurai in SEVEN SAMURAI, this time in modern dress playing a rather undistinguished, rather spineless person. Other members of the Kurosawa Repertory Company appear as well: the film is full of familiar faces. Ultimately, I LIVE IN FEAR is a fascinating and troubling film that asks a lot of difficult questions without supplying any easy answers. I liked the film very much.

Sunday, July 09, 2006


Talking toys, I'm there. Talking fish, I'm there. Talking bugs, I'm there. Talking monsters, I'm there. Superheroes living undercover in suburbia, I love it. But talking cars. I mean, talking cars. There's something in me that just turns off at the idea of a movie about talking goddamn cars. It felt too close to a movie about Care Bears, somehow. That's part of what kept me from seeing the movie for so long, the Care Bear factor. The certainty that Big Lessons were going to be imparted to me via the Magic Of Animation.

And actually, I wasn't far wrong. CARS feels like it was made for kids, and frankly not very bright kids at that. The movie is a pretty naked endorsement of friendship, honesty, teamwork, etc. Our hero's journey from being a self-involved self-sufficient selfish creep to being a nice guy who values others is trite and predictable, with only the occasional faint surprise. Heartstrings are tugged and tugged. Worst of all, the energy and irreverence that kept Pixar masterworks like TOY STORY and FINDING NEMO and THE INCREDIBLES from sinking under the weight of their own assorted Messages is almost completely absent. There's a cute bit during the end credits, where we see car versions of Pixar classics like TOY CAR STORY and MONSTER TRUCK INC, but even this feels forced, as if they sensed that something was missing from the rest of the movie.

To be fair, the movie looks great. Shot after shot astounds. A scene in a moonlit field is startling, because it just looks so damn real: this one moment puts years of bogus cinematic day for night shooting to shame. A scene lit by neon is similarly gorgeous. The scenery and art direction are magnificent.

But without a more interesting story, who cares? I sure as hell didn't.

Thursday, July 06, 2006


A happy little film from France. I cannot tell you the names of anyone concerned with it, except that the director's last name is Noe. The movie begins rather mysteriously, with a pair of people on a bed. One says to the other, "Time destroys everything." IRREVERSIBLE takes this little line very much to heart. Similar to Pinter's BETRAYAL and Kaufman and Hart's MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG, but bearing more of a relationship to the noirish MEMENTO, IRREVERSIBLE moves backward in time, the action unfolding in reverse.

After the opening chat between two people who never appear again, there is a graphic trip to a gay sex club called (no, I'm not making this up) RECTUM. The camera swirls and swoops around, offering glimpses of red-lit dungeoun activity. Eventually a pair of men arrive and demand to find some one known as the Turan, and after what feels like a very long time they find him. What follows is not pretty, one of the most disturbing scenes in any movie I've ever seen. Eventually, as the film travels back, we learn that the two men are avenging a woman who has been horribly raped (which rape is also shown in one long not particularly graphic but still horrible shot). The film keeps going back and back, we learn gradually more and more about the characters, motivational knives are twisted in character's psyches, on and on until the ending/beginning which feels frankly rather abrupt, going for something of a metaphysical jump (there's a prominently displayed poster of 2001 in one character's apartment).

The acting is of a very high standard. The technical aspects of the film are beyond reproach. The camerawork is particularly fluid, the camera seldom staying in one place for long. The transitions from scene to scene, the temporal jumps backward are handled very simply so the viewer is never lost for long.

All in all, a very difficult film to watch, and an even more difficult film to like. I have a great deal of respect for it, and certainly for the actors, who are called upon to do some pretty difficult scenes. There are also some unintentional laughs provided by the subtitles, as during one scene when a character pursues a rapist to the earlier mentioned gays sex club by saying, "On to RECTUM!!"

I might be able to work myself up to see it again, to see if there is even more evident on a second viewing (particularly to see if that rather bizarre mindwarp ending is forecast at all). There's a lot to recommend it, but I can't say I blame anyone for not being able to get through it.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006


Kind of sums it up. Serious and adolescent.

The film is a very long two and a half hours. It kind of picks up five years after SUPERMAN II ended, if SUPERMAN II had been made in 2001 rather than 1980.

The film basically begins with Superman crashlanding on the Kent family farm, found in the flaming wreckage by his adoptive mother, played by the sublime Eva Marie Saint, the first in a series of fine actors who don't get nearly enough to do. Superman, we're told in dialogue and in a title card, has been away from earth for about five years on something of an inter-galactic wild goose chase: astronomers apparently found evidence that Krypton had not been destroyed after all, and Superman just had to check it out. Turns out those pesky scientists were wrong, and Superman has come back home.

In the interim, life has gone on, mankind has moved on, even Lois Lane has gotten on with it: she's now married and a mom. Even that consummate cad Lex Luthor has kept busy, shaking down a wealthy widow and starting up a particularly unpleasant scheme to clean up in real estate and destroy Superman.

Okay. So there's some cool stuff. Superman's big return to action is kind of neat, and has a nifty kicker that I won't spoil. I like Luthor's big nasty plan to grow another continent with crystals pilfered from Superman's Fortress of Solitude. I like the improved flying effects. There is a new intimacy in the way Superman and Lois are able to cling to each other and spin around and still talk. I liked Parker Posey and James Marsden, who deliver the only intelligent and appealing performances in the entire movie. They are the only people in the entire two and a half hours I gave a damn about. Posey plays Luthor's moll, kind of the 2006 equivalent of Valerie Perrine's Ms. Teschmacher from the original. She manages to take a rather stereotypically conceived role and plays it with some zest and fun, and her growing appreciation of Superman's virtues is the sole instance of a character changing in the course of the film. Marsden, after being wasted in not one, not two, but three X-Men films, is very appealing also, similarly breathing life into the thankless role of Mr. Lois Lane. Please, someone, give him a franchise, hopefully one where he can appear shirtless occasionally.

Okay, so the big problem with the casting is that someone somewhere decided to cast the two leads real young. Brandon Routh as Superman and a completely forgettable person named Kate Bosworth as Lois may be the same ages as Christopher Reeve and Margot Kidder were when they played the roles, but they can't make me believe that they've completed their first summer internships. They just don't have the weight and gravity, and certainly nowhere near the wit and warmth, that most average adults should have and that Reeve and Kidder brought to their versions of the characters. Try an experiment: think of Margot Kidder flashing those bedroom eyes at Christopher Reeve, asking him what color underwear she's wearing, and try to imagine Kate Bosworth doing the same thing. Or even better: try to remember Kate Bosworth at all.

See what I mean? Ms. Bosworth doesn't register. She doesn't need to hike up her panties and sing Dixie, but she should at least do something. How on earth director Bryan Singer didn't re-cast Parker Posey as Lois Lane after seeing the first rushes (or even after the first read-through, if there was such a thing) is beyond me.

Mr. Routh is okay as Superman/Clark Kent, solid and warm and virtuous, doing his best as clumsy Clark Kent and filling out the classic outfit very nicely as Superman. But. It takes two to tango. If Superman is going to be solid and dependable and, well, Superman, that means that Lois Lane is gonna have to add some spice to the central relationship of the film. It don't happen, and it is the film's biggest problem.

As for Mr. Spacey's alleged performance, well, what can I say. Ian McKellen he ain't. Never has an actor underplayed so hard to so little effect, and then suddenly started over-acting still harder to even less effect. I was reminded of William Hurt's horrific over-acting in last year's HISTORY OF VIOLENCE. This is what happens when stiff unimaginative monotone actors decide to show aspects of their talent that just plain aren't there. Was Gene Hackman unavailable, or uninterested, or what?

It may seem unfair to continually compare Mr. Routh and Ms. Bosworth and that Spacey creature with their counterparts in the original films, but the film invites these comparisons. Using the John Williams title theme and even the same stylized opening credits, they are clearly setting up a continuity with the older films, ill-advisedly.

So Happy Fourth Of July.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

I watched the DVD of David Lean's RYAN'S DAUGHTER recently, and find myself unable to entirely make up my mind about the film. Even more than the Kurosawa films I've seen recently, RYAN'S DAUGHTER veers backand forth between excellent and, well, how shall I say this -- not excellent.

RYAN'S DAUGHTER is the story of Rose (played beautifully by SarahMiles), a young woman living in a small village on the coast of Ireland during WWI. She falls in love with Charles Shaughnessy, the localschoolmaster (Robert Mitchum), who is considerably older than she is. They are married, and seem to be doing well enough until a new commander of the local British garrison arrives (Christopher Jones). Rose has an affair with the officer.

There's a lot more to the movie than that, of course. There's a major subplot about the IRA, a leader of which arrives in town during a storm to pick up an arms shipment (or something, the reason for this armsshipment happening at all is pretty murky) during a particularly violent storm. Anti-British sentiment is pretty virulent in this little town, and when rumors of Rose's liaison with the officer get around, it can only mean trouble.

The acting is mostly beyond reproach. I was very impressed with both Sarah Miles and Robert Mitchum. Leo McKern and Trevor Howard both turn in good work, I thought, as Rose's father and the local priest. Christopher Jones has some very good moments, even if the film does go a little too far out of its way to establish his character's emotional problems (the officer was shell-shocked in the war), and then to keep reminding us of them.

The big performance problem is John Mills' work as Michael, the village idiot. The character is mute and seems to be retarded, and shambles around the town in the way that village idiots in books and movies occasionally do. It's a rather heavy-handed concept, using Michael as an all-purpose symbol of whatever needs to be symbolically embodied a tany given time, usually The Social Outcast and Unrequited Love. The Social Outcast stuff usually involves Michael behaving outrageously while being taunted by a mob of ill-mannered kids. The Unrequited Love stuff involves Michael being all-too obviously in love with Rose, and being rather Chaplinesquely heart-broken at her lack of interest. I thought there was too much of Michael the Sad Clown, accompanied by a dissonant version of the film's main love theme, and I started to dread his appearance. To be fair, though, when it works it really works: the look on his face when he finally gets a bit of recognition from Rose almost made up for everything that had gone before.

Michael and Mills' performance pretty well sum up the big problem with the movie. The unfortunate tendency to underline everything to make sure the audience gets it. This can happen visually, by having John Mills' character wear just a bit too much makeup to make sure we get that he is retarded and Quasimodo-esque or by having Christopher Jones'character appear in shadow to emphasize whatever that is supposed to emphasize, his isolation or something.

But the one thing that really drove me up the wall about the film, the one thing that I really find unforgiveable about the film, is the score. That damn Maurice Jarre score quickly becomes infuriating. There's a love theme that is played incessantly, much like the ubiquitous "Lara's Theme" from DOCTOR ZHIVAGO. If the persistent love theme wasn't a big enough problem, there's a lot of other distracting music that plays big and loud for no apparent reason, or where quieter music or no music at all might have been more effective. For one scene of Mitchum searching Rose's bureau for a piece of incriminating evidence, Lean and Jarre throw a big chunk of loud Beethovenian bombast on the soundtrack, and it just plain flat out doesn't work. A lot ofMichael's scenes are accompanied by a dissonant version of the Big Love Theme, played on what sounds like a musical saw and jew's harp. Ick. It all gets to be just too damn much.

But. The score is not reason enough to avoid the film. It is almost acliche by now to praise a David Lean film for the cinematography, but boy is it praiseworthy in this case. I could get a feeling from my TV that it was getting all excited at the gorgeous imagery it was being allowed to show, almost as excited as I was. I mentioned the storm sequence, which apparently took an incredibly long time to capture on film as Lean waited for months for just exactly the right storm to hit the coast. This sequence alone is worth watching the film for: I didn't know waves could do what they do in this film. I've never seen anything quite like it.