Dir: Pierre Rouve | Cast: James Mason, Geraldine Chaplin, Bobby Darin, Ian Ogilvy, Moira Lister | Comedy Drama | UK, 104′
I wish I love the human race; I wish I loved its silly face;
I wish I loved the way it walks; I wish I liked the way it talks;
And when I’m introduced to one; I wish I thought “What jolly fun”.
Sir Walter Raleigh (1861-1922)
This rather cynical and satirical portrait of Sixties Britain is held together by an impressive James Mason as a disillusioned and often drunken ex-barrister reflecting back on his life, tormented by a mindless wife and a directionless daughter who holds him in contempt.
The Swinging Sixties was a time when parents were not your close friends but the older generation. That said, the scenes with the younger generation feel rather silly and dated and are much less enjoyable that those with Mason who holds court in a well-pitched sardonic turn, and gets the best lines, all of them drily amusing and satirical. Moira Lister is superb too as his sister, and Ian Ogilvy as his nephew. Even Yootha Joyce makes a small appearance in the court scene.
Based on Georges Simenon’s book of the same name, this was the only film Bulgarian writer and broadcaster Pierre Rouve directed and scripted. And it’s extremely entertaining. Flushed with success after producing Antonioni’s 1966 cult classic Blow-Up, he went on to script Diamonds are for Breakfast (1968). Geraldine Chaplin was still honing her craft and it shows. She is dating a Greek ‘immigrant’ Jo Christoforides who is implicated in a murder of one Barney Teale (Bobby Darin). And after insulting her father, Chaplin begs her him to defend Jo in court. There’s some well-observed comedy scenes such as the one on the escalator between a shopgirl and her boss. And the Southampton streets scenes bring the era flooding back to life. Musical choices are redolent of the era as is Tony Woollard’s iconic artistic direction. A BFI flip-side not to miss. MT
OUT ON DUAL FORMAT WITH SPECIAL FEATURES FROM 25 FEBRUARY 2019 | BFI