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Thursday, April 14, 2016

Providence (1977)

During a long long night, a dying writer (John Gielgud) in great pain from cancer uses his family as characters in his new novel: his son (Dirk Bogarde), daughter in law (Ellen Burstyn), illegitimate son (David Warner), even his deceased wife (Elaine Stritch). Directed by Alain Resnais (LAST YEAR AT MARIENBAD) from an original screenplay by David Mercer. Although the film is very dark, it's also quite witty. The exploration of the creative process while peppered with such other themes as death, moral codes and familial bonds provides a stimulating  film in both content and style (of which there is a lot of). There's often an artifice to both the brittle dialogue and the sets which are both real and stage bound. The film is anchored by a powerhouse of a performance by John Gielgud in what is possibly his best film role. I appreciate the efforts of the rest of the cast because Mercer's dialogue is almost impossible to deliver naturally (this is not a complaint). It's narrative structure is often splintered so to attempt to follow it logically is futile. Kudos to Ricardo Aronovich's precise lensing and to Miklos Rozsa's killer underscore. American critics were hostile during the original film release but it did much better in Europe where it won 7 Caesars (the French Oscar). With Tanya Lopert, Kathryn Leigh Scott and Cyril Luckham.  

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