FROM THE LULLING CROWD
John Schlesinger’s self-possession is often injurious to his movies. He’s so deliberately controlling in pace and style that he’s nearly always in danger of killing off lasting interest audiences may have. This is especially true when he does the classics—like Nathanael West’s The Day of the Locust and Thomas Hardy’s Far From the Madding Crowd. (Not true with the novelesque Sunday Bloody Sunday, but that’s subject matter he’s much more connected to.) With West, he’s a respectful stranger looking in on a Hollywood he seems too poised for. With Hardy, he’s mounting considerable due diligence, he’s closer to the locales of Wessex and the overly polite, bottled up emotions therein, but what’s problematic for viewers is that, despite a strongly appealing cast—Julie Christie, Alan Bates, Terence Stamp and Peter Finch—he’s a lulling English Lit professor petering out before climax, pumping the blood of the story too slowly to course through the characters. Far From the Madding Crowd was once dared as a roadshow—very early Masterpiece Theatre before it became de rigueur. Schlesinger and photographer Nicolas Roeg have colored the movie in earthworn greens (take note of those tree trunks in one scene), browns, dingy whites and grays, not inappropriate, just a little dull. Thank the Gods for the weathered if homely faces of all those Dorset extras. Christie is far from the maddening anxieties exhibited in Darling and Doctor Zhivago—she looks and sounds comfortable doing the “big” acting bits, and she handles a ditty surprisingly well, yet we’re always immersed in her unambiguous, archetypal 60sness and suggestive mouth to be confidant that we’re impressed by what she’s doing. Bates looks like a Leprechaun early on and regrettably stays that way; Stamp is mostly panache as the grenadier (even when kissing a corpse); Finch’s Jamaican tan, sometimes oily, steals some of his scenes, except the last one of him awaiting his fate. Richard Rodney Bennett’s score Oscar-nominated. National Board of Review: best film—English language, best actor (Finch). 168 minutes. In Panavision.
ROLL OVER IMAGE
Text COPYRIGHT © 2003 RALPH BENNER All Rights Reserved.