Terence Stamp took off his shoes as he sat down to be interviewed about his choice of film for the BFI Screen Epiphanies series, “how many of you bastards have already seen the film?” he asked in a perfectly reasonable tone.
Not many of us had and, in fairness, not many of us would have if it hadn’t been on his recommendation.
He has always maintained a connection with this film over his career and the searching, spiritual core of the story reflects his own journey, particularly after 1969 when, as he says, the business “gave up” on him and the “Cockney spiv” from Plaistow came back stronger and deeper almost a decade later.
He could have talked all night for most of the audience, but before the subject of the conversation could be over-looked (and the Donner cut of Superman 2 delayed…) we had to roll the film.
So was film rather more about nuanced emotion than the linear narrative I’d (lazily as always) expected… it’s not “deliberate” or specific and leaves a lot of room for interpretation by audience and performers alike.
Then there’s the moment when Isabel turns and reveals the precise nature of her life and love to Somerset Maugham (Marshall): she has married a man she likes but she’ll only ever love Larry. Such directness is possibly symptomatic of a post war film – life had to lived quickly and to the point – but Tierney slaps you right in the face with it: a more delicate Joan Crawford, but every bit as fierce. She will do what she must even at a cost and as her life goes on she loses her way more to pragmatism.
|Fritz Kortner and Tyrone Power|
He turns down the chance to join friends as a stock-broker and instead aims to “loaf” until he has found himself. At first Isabelle indulges him, prepared to wait for this process to pass but, finding him in Paris a year later he is still only beginning his journey and material concerns make her break off their engagement.
|The great Clifton Webb|
This is an interesting aspect of the film; it’s spiritual but it doesn’t seem to be to be aligned to any specific religion just the need to find grace and “goodness”.
As Larry heads off to find a guru, things begin to turn dark at home as his childhood friend, Sophie MacDonald (Anne Baxter) loses both husband and child in a car crash. This begins a downward spiral that sees her addicted to most known vices – Baxter acts her socks off and you can understand how she won the best supporting Oscar.
|Anne Baxter acts her way to an Oscar|
Through this all drifts the author, gently involving himself as part of the plot but only once revealing his feelings as he tells Isabelle how much he appreciates her beauty. He seems wise but then “writers” always have the benefit of hindsight, a smart performance from Herbert Marshall.
|Herbert Marshall appraises Gene Tierney|
Larry returns and uses his new-found spiritual awareness to help cure Gray of his post-crash depression. He tries to save Sophie from her death-dive into destitution and it is here that Isabelle’s morality is put to the test…
|It's a journey...|
The BFI had secured an excellent print which was a joy to view on the big screen. DVDs are available in all the old familiar places...