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Saturday, June 15, 2013

The Balcony (1963)

While a political revolution rages in an unnamed fascist country with destruction and bloodshed everywhere, it's business as usual in a brothel. When some of the country's leaders are assassinated or executed, the brothel's madam (Shelley Winters) suggests to her lover, the chief of police (Peter Falk), that some of her regular "Johns" pose as government officials. Based on the audacious (for its day) absurdist comedy by Jean Genet, the film version has eliminated much of Genet's more shocking language but is pretty much faithful to the source material. As cinema, it's not particularly vital as remaining faithful to the play's roots necessitates the stylized acting, the proselytizing dialog and rigid setting. The section dealing with the whores and their customers is rather amusing most notably the Judge (Peter Brocco) and the thief (Ruby Dee) but the film weighs down with the political rhetoric of the chief of police, the Judge, the General (Kent Smith) and the Bishop (Jeff Corey) which, of course, are essential to Genet's themes. The director Joseph Strick was a specialist in taking controversial "unfilmable" works like Genet's THE BALCONY, Joyce's ULYSSES and Henry Miller's TROPIC OF CANCER and making films of them. Here, he seems content to let Ben Maddow's adaptation of Genet do the work for him, clearly a man who respects the written word. With Leonard Nimoy, Lee Grant, Joyce Jameson and Arnette Jens.

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