Time Out says
Tue Nov 28 2006Showing at the NFT as part of a two-month season of his work, ‘The Dead’ was the last picture to be directed by John Huston. It was a family affair: written by Huston’s son Tony, it features daughter Angelica among its ensemble cast. And as if to complete the personal, valedictory air of the movie, it’s a near word-for-word adaptation of a short story by James Joyce, hero writer of the country that Huston called home for much of his life.
Like its literary source, ‘The Dead’ is a beguiling chamber piece that seizes on the conflict between public and private lives. Huston immerses us in a dinner party at a well-to-do Dublin home in 1904. Our hosts are two ageing sisters, Kate and Julia Morkan, and their young niece, Mary Jane. The mood is lively: a friendly drunk, Freddy Malins, joins his frail mother; the house-servant, Lily, is continually flustered; and well-liked writer Gabriel Conroy (Donal McCann) attends with his contained wife, Gretta (Anjelica Huston), and gives a witty speech to the assembled reps of Dublin’s beau monde. The whirl is social, and Huston cuts between conversations. There are hints of lost dreams, not least when Huston’s camera wanders upstairs and rummages among Julia’s belongings, but most of the film is an easy dose of chat and dance. It’s only in the final act that Huston – and Joyce – leave this jolly gathering and ride back to a hotel room with the Conroys. Once there, Gretta punctuates Gabriel’s self-satisfaction with a memory that turns the film on its head.
Fans of Patrice Chéreau’s ‘Gabrielle’ should respond particularly well to both Huston’s superb handling of this interior drama and Joyce’s pointed lament for love lost or never found.
Author: Dave Calhoun
Fri Dec 1, 2006