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Saturday Night Cinema: Look Back In Anger

3

Tonight's Saturday Night Cinema is a taut, tough to watch film, Look Back in Anger. And with this film began the  British realism movement. Richard Burton plays "the principal character in this ferocious account of the
emotional vandalism committed by what is popularly known as an 'angry
young man.'" Burton is, as always, larger than life. He is scary (even to most adults) juxtaposed to Claire Bloom's sweet, ethereal (pathetic) sweetness as the abused mistress. Burton is delicious to watch, He is so damn manly and smoldering hot that even when he is cast a total bastard, you can't help but lust after the brute.

Love affair: Richard Burton and Claire Bloom in 'Look Back in Anger' (1959)

Love affair: Richard Burton and Claire Bloom in 'Look Back in Anger' (1959)

On a side note, Burton and Bloom had a torrid five-year affair. It adds a certain titillation for the viewer (at least it did for me. )

The NY Times film review: Look Back in Anger (1958) By Bosley Crowther, September 16, 1959

THE fury and hate that John Osborne was able to pack into a flow of
violent words in his stage play, "Look Back in Anger," are not only
matched but also documented in the film that the original stage
director, Tony Richardson, has made from that vicious play.

In a rush of pictorial reinforcement that leads one to suspect Mr.
Richardson was just itching for the cinema medium to fill the background
and heighten the fever of the play, the passion of the characters now
comes at you through the drab and depressing milieu of a genuine British
midlands city and the sweatiness of an ugly slum.

The film, produced in England by Harry Saltzman, opened here last
night at the Forum and Baronet Theatres with benefit showings for the
March of Dimes.

In our eyes, the principal character in this ferocious account of the
emotional vandalism committed by what is popularly known as an "angry
young man" is still a conventional weakling, a routine crybaby who
cannot quite cope with the problems of a tough environment and, so,
vents his spleen in nasty words. And the two women who let him run over
them, his wife and his mistress, still seem to us to be strangely
gullible creatures, a little self-piteous themselves.

But, at least, in this caca-phonic picture, which has a sort of
metallic clatter and bang and a throbbing, eccentric jazz tempo that is
picked up from time to time on the sound track. Mr. Richardson does
provide us with a sense of the dismal atmosphere the prevalence of
social stagnation, that helps to frustrate our young man.

The long accumulation of middle-class smugness against which he
fitfully rebels by blowing a jazz trumpet at a Saturday-night hot spot
and blasting the Sabbath dawn is brilliantly illustrated by shots of
people going to church in the rain and by glimpses of rows of ugly
houses and streets in which grimy youngsters play. And the piteousness
of his occupation as the keeper of a candy stall is conveyed in a
stinging little drama of discord with the market superintendent.

Mr. Richardson uses his camera in a hard, crisp documentary style
that recalls the way Carol Reed used one in his memorable "The Stars
Look Down."

In getting performances from his actors, Mr. Richardson repeats the
quality of the play. Richard Burton is frenzied to the point of mania as
the husband who hates the agony of life. His tirades are eloquent but
tiring, his breast beatings are dramatic but dull and his occasional
lapses into sadness are pathetic but endurable.

Mary Ure make a touching slavey as his nerve jangled, fear-cluttered
wife, representing the female frustration that can come in a tortured
atmosphere. And Claire Bloom is delightful, sharp and catty as the
neighboring friend who won't take the blowhard's guff—until, by a
curious reversal, she succumbs to his pathos and falls in love with him.

Gary Raymond, as a genial, weakling Welsh friend, is the most
agreeable actor in the film, and Edith Evans is amusing but mystifying
as an ancient huckster's wife.

The jazz score provided by Chris Barber and his band and the trumpet
playing Pat Halcox does on behalf of Mr. Burton are exciting and helpful
to the whole.


The Cast

LOOK BACK IN ANGER, screen play by Nigel Kncale;
based on the play by John Osborne; directed by Tony Richardson; produced
for Woodfall Films by Harry Saltzman; distributed by Warner Brothers.
At the Forum Broadway and Forty-sixth Street, and the Baronet. Third
Avenue and Fifty-ninth Street. Running time: 100 minutes.

Jimmy Porter . . . . . Richard Burton

Helena Charles . . . . . Claire Bloom

Alison Porter . . . . . Mary Ure

Mrs. Tanner . . . . . Edith Evans

Cliff Lewis . . . . . Gary Raymond

Colonel Redfern . . . . . Glen Byam Shaw

Mrs. Redfern . . . . . Phyllis Nellson-Terry

Hurst . . . . . Donald Pleasence

Mrs. Drury . . . . . Jane Eccles

Kapoor . . . . . S. P. Kapoor

 

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