Friday, 27 February 2015

Capital Celluloid 2015 - Day 73: Sat Mar 14

Far From the Madding Crowd (Schlesinger, 1967): Barbican Cinema 3, 4 & 7.30pm

This film's re-release got its premiere at last year's London Film Festival.

BFI introduction to LFF screening:
1967 saw Julie Christie and Terence Stamp immortalised by The Kinks in ‘Waterloo Sunset’ and cast as lovers in Thomas Hardy’s epic love story. Headstrong and independent, farmer Bathsheba Everdene is among the most modern of 19th-century heroines and Christie’s performance beautifully underlines her as a woman at odds with the conventions of the time. The film contains a number of stand-out set-pieces, such as Stamp’s seductive, almost Freudian display of swordsmanship. But what resonates so deeply is the way in which Schlesinger and cinematographer Nicolas Roeg frame the passions and tragedy at the film’s heart with the patterns of rural life and the harsh, sodden beauty of the Dorset landscape. Almost 50 years on, this restoration reveals the film as an immersive piece of cinema with Hardy’s cruel ironies and bleak lyricism fully intact.
Robin Baker

John Patterson wrote an excellent article in the Guardian on this re-release. You can read the full article here. This is an extract:

Schlesinger’s Hardy was derided back then for its casting of Julie Christie and Terence Stamp, mere months after they’d been name-checked in the Kinks’ Waterloo Sunset, and who then seemed more Swinging London than Wailing Wessex. Time and distance have eradicated that feeling, however, and I delighted in the credits as they unfolded: not just Terry and Julie, but Peter Finch and eternal peasant-pagan Alan Bates, all perfectly cast; Stamp in particular, as the vile Sergeant Troy, whose name should really be “destroy”.

But behind the camera too, there is joy to be had. Frederic Raphael’s screenplay, tied to Hardy as it must be, keeps the screenwriter’s more irritating locutions and “sparkling dialogue” tendencies in check, and serves Hardy admirably in terms of scale and pacing, while making hay of double entendres such as Troy’s leering “I’ll unfasten you in no time”. But perhaps the heart of the movie is the relationship between production designer Richard Macdonald – the man responsible for Joseph Losey’s eye-popping “mise-insane” films during the 60s – and cinematographer Nicolas Roeg, at the height of what I think of as his Red Period as a cameraman. Best of all is to see a large-scale British period movie in which millions and millions of MGM’s dollars are clearly and effectively visible on the screen.

Here (and above) is the trailer.

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