Under the Volcano follows the final day in the life of self-destructive British consul Geoffrey Firmin (Albert Finney, in an Oscar-nominated tour de force) on the eve of World War II. Withering from alcoholism, Firmin stumbles through a small Mexican village amidst the Day of the Dead fiesta, attempting to reconnect with his estranged wife (Jacqueline Bisset) but only further alienating himself. John Huston’s ambitious tackling of Malcolm Lowry’s towering “unadaptable” novel gave the incomparable Finney one of his grandest roles and was the legendary The Treasure of the Sierra Madre director’s triumphant return to filmmaking in Mexico. —The Criterion Collection
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
Whereas Lowry's masterpiece creates an internal, often overwhelming world of madness and pain, and one that is only tangentially linked to alcoholism, Huston's film is concerned with recounting the simple drunken events of the book. It contains a brilliant sozzled performance by Finney, in lieu of creating a language which can accomodate Lowry's Dantean vision.
¿Qué delicias y horrores nos habrían deparado las moiras del cine, de haber dejado este proyecto fílmico en manos de Buñuel? Acaso don Luis le hubiera dado un giro infernal a la admonición que resume la ironía de todo: “¿Le gusta este jardín, que es suyo? ¡Evite que sus hijos lo destruyan!”