Wednesday, 21 December 2011

admirations and qualifications

I'm a great admirer of Terence Davies and his extraordinary films and have told him so in the past, but The Deep Blue Sea is a sad miscalculation, curate's egg if ever there was! There's a wonderful cast, giving uniformly excellent performances, as one would expect from a lineup that includes Simon Russell Beale, Rachel Weisz, Tom Hiddleston and, in support, Barbara Jefford and Ann Mitchell… But, but, but – why remake what was originally a somewhat thin if 'wellmade' and rather middlebrow theatre piece (by T. Rattigan), already filmed, equally unexcitingly, with Kenneth More and Vivien Leigh in 1955?

As regards recreating the immediate post-WW2 period, it's all slightly wrong: the dark interiors aren't dingy enough, the film is generally too colourful and soft-focus, while London in the late 1940s and early 50s seemed – via my own recollections of a middleclass background and upbringing there – altogether more sombre, dirty and impoverished. The film's clothes and the people wearing them invariably look too clean; the streets and bomb sites are too 'theatrically' arranged and not really squalid; the smogs and grime are missing: the glum and downbeat plot required monochrome! Weisz is too young and glamorous for the role of Hester, while the age-gap between herself and Russell Beale, playing her husband Judge Collyer, makes their earlier relationship (or 'backstory' if you prefer) altogether unlikely.

There's a flashback scene to the blitz with people sheltering in the underground, which, again, is too extended and extraneous and so seems wilful, artificial, quite the opposite of truly atmospheric. (Matthew Sweet's recent book West End Front tells fascinating tales of the toffs – among whom would surely be numbered the likes of Judge and Lady Collyer – holing out in the posher London hotels whose cellars and basements had been specially adapted for the comfort and convenience of the better-orf.) Further details are off-kilter also: jolly pub singalongs, dwelt on indulgently, ditto the opening and closing Samuel Barber stuff. Oh dear, and Weisz doesn't even smoke her cigarettes convincingly, the only minor (if important!) criticism one might make of her very fine performance…

Once again, as in my previous comments on Andrea Arnold, one must stress that every talented director has the right to come a cropper every so often! It's hard enough to raise funding for any film, fullstop, and creative spirits need to work. So the temptation to remake or adapt a classic, or some tried-and-tested vehicle for actors, must be ever-present. At least this is a watchable couple of hours, dull and a bit camp, but not out-and-out exasperating drivel like Withering Depths: try again lads and lasses, to find, fund and film something worthier of your considerable talents!

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