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Saturday, January 25, 2014

The Designated Mourner (1997)

A bourgeois academic (Mike Nichols) is estranged from his wife (Miranda Richardson), the daughter of a respected poet (David De Keyser) in literary circles. As a political revolution occurs with a seeming anti-intellectual agenda and intellectuals and artists seem to be arbitrarily executed, the three focus on their personal tribulations. Based on the play by Wallace Shawn and like his MY DINNER WITH ANDRE, the film has only three characters who sit and talk for an hour and a half. If MY DINNER WITH ANDRE was not your thing, it's best to avoid this adaptation. The focus is on Shawn's dialog and the three central performers who, for the most part, play to the camera with a rare interaction among themselves. There are no concessions to cinema (unless you consider Richard Hartley's minimal underscoring). But Shawn's dialog is rich and descriptive and more often than not, amusing. Personally, I loved it but I can see why it wouldn't be every one's cup of tea as nothing "happens" though, of course, something is happening but it's cerebral rather than visual. Directed by the playwright David Hare (PLENTY).

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