RogerBW's Blog

The Dead 07 January 2022

1987 drama, dir. John Huston, Anjelica Huston, Donal McCann: IMDb / allmovie. Everybody is miserable (in Dublin in 1904).

And while it's jolly impressive that this is John Huston's last film, and the look and feel are superb, I at least can't help but notice that the first three-quarters of this film depict a bunch of people with nothing in common at a party. They have nothing to say and they're not interested in what anyone else might have to say, and there's a comedy drunkard.

Which is, I suppose, the point, but it's a point made at great length in a way that I find viscerally unpleasant; that's why I don't go to that kind of party. And then for the last quarter of the film we get some genuine emotion: a couple realising that they feel no particular passion for each other. But the story ends there, rather than go on to look what they might try to do about it rather than simply fading into decrepitude and death (admittedly, this being Dublin in 1904, their options are quite limited). (And it ends with narration rather than a filmic showing – admittedly the ideas would be difficult to convey any other way, but nobody forced Huston to film this particular short story.)

I suspect that Huston (who'd gained Irish citizenship in the 1960s and lived there for some years) found Ireland and its people intrinsically fascinating in the way that some Americans do, and we in England mostly don't.

There are things that do work well here: visually it's remarkably interesting given the rooms and clothing in shades of brown, and the acting is decent. It's just a shame that it's all in service of a story that doesn't really have anything more to say than "Rage, rage, against the dying of the light".

Once more if you want more of my witterings you should listen to Ribbon of Memes.

Tags: film reviews

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