In Dublin in early 1904 as two elderly sisters. Miss Kate and Miss Julia Morkan, welcome guests to their annual dinner and dance, they express their concern that Freddy Malins will turn up drunk as he did in previous years. Gabriel Conroy and his wife Gretta are amongst the guests. Freddy arrives drunk with his mother, and a Protestant, Mr Browne, engages in teasing banter with the devoutly-Catholic Freddy. During dinner, Molly Ivors, a Republican, disturbs Gabriel with her complaint at his lack of commitment to the cause. Mr Grace recites a poem by Lady Gregory. Bartell D’Arcy, an operatic tenor, declines to sing after Miss Julia sings Bellini’s aria ‘Arrayed for the Bride’. As the guests are preparing to leave, Gabriel, who had earlier addressed a speech to absent friends, is struck by his wife’s attention as she listens to D’Arcy sing the ballad, ‘The Lass of Aughrim’. Back at their hotel, Gretta tells her husband about a love from her youth when she lived in Galway. The boy, Michael Furey, who was ill, came through the snow to see her on the night she was leaving. He subsequently died aged seventeen and Gretta still believes that he died for her. Gabriel acknowledges to himself as he watches Gretta’s tearful memories that he has never known love like that. (V). —Trinity College Dublin
Adventure in many forms is the theme of many of John Huston’s films. His characters are constantly searching for “the stuff that dreams are made of” (the famous closing-line of his debut film The Maltese Falcon). Huston glorified this chase despite its frequent disillusionment and false promise, since it represented a flight from the complacent virtues of ordinary life. Like Ernest Hemingway and Joseph Conrad, Huston regarded civilization as a false surface which thinly veiled a hostile nature. Only those who lived at the edge, on the margins of society were regarded by Huston as fellow travellers. In films as diverse as The Treasure of Sierra Madre, The Asphalt Jungle and Under the Volcano, Huston celebrated men who circled the abyss; characters who are driven to plunge head first into the void.
The son of the great theatre and film actor Walter Huston (who would win an Oscar under his son’s direction for his role in The Treasure of Sierra Madre) and crime journalist Rhea Gore… read more
A perfect gem that is currently flying to low under the radar given the Huston prestige and its status as his swan song. And what a song it is, delicately scaled just as the source material was before it. The film's many pleasures are encapsulated by an image featuring Anjelica Huston framed beautifully on a staircase. Huston was many things throughout his career, but for those few moments he is a true painter.
A curious attempt to adapt Joyce to the big screen and to recreate the life of Irish aristocracy in 1904, this movie fails at several levels, though it has some fine "poetic" moments that give life to all the characters involved. But Joyce is the most literary of all writers and some things are just impossible to adapt. In the end, we have the pilot episode of a well-made BBC series with medium production values.
It’s a rare thing to find a masterpiece of cinema crafted from a masterpiece of literature. But John Huston did that with his very last film, essentially directed on his deathbed. Huston left America… read review