Thursday, July 2, 2009

Funnier Games

Whose Afraid Of Virginia Woolfe?(1966)Directed By Mike Nichols

George: "You take the trouble to construct a civilization, to build a society based on the principles of... of principle.You make government and art and realize that they are, must be, both the same. You bring things to the saddest of all points, to the point where there is something to lose. Then, all at once, through all the music, through all the sensible sounds of men building, attempting, comes the Dies Irae. And what is it? What does the trumpet sound? "Up yours." "Has taken the smile on my face from "His Girl Friday" and turned it upside down.Took about 15 minutes for it to get started, but after that, it was a train wreck of an argument, that makes you want to leave the room at times, but just to watch the fireworks from around the corner at a safer distance. I enjoyed that the most important character in this, the "son" remained off screen.Of course we all know why now, but this for me was the heart of the story, the shit talking ("His Girl Friday", in reverse) was just the icing on the cake.
I like how Elizabeth Taylor(as Martha) and Richard Burton(as George) defended each other in private, but could not stand each other in company.The couples really are mirror versions of each other, Sandy's hysterical pregnancy, and Liz's hysterical everything.
Martha: "You're all flops. I am the Earth Mother, and you are all flops."
It's about relationships and marriages, and the illusions we create around ourselves to function.
Each character here has their public facades destroyed and their private fears and anxieties made manifest.
At first I thought Burton's final act, was cruel and spiteful, and it was, but it was also the closest he could come to a true act of kindness.
Taylor isn't afraid of Virginia Woolf, she's afraid of being alone, and having to live outside her fantasy, no matter how destructive it may be, and so is Burton.
Martha: "I swear, if you existed, I'd divorce you."
See how quickly Taylor makes George Segal,(as Nick) into her "houseboy", all these people have is their labels, the ones Sandy likes to pull off of her bottles.
The direction and cinematography was awesome, the perfect blend of close ups, long takes, and handheld work, the best bieng the dance of destruction in the bar scene where the gun gets waved around, standing out particularly strong.
Nick: "I'm tired, I've been drinking since nine o'clock, my wife is vomiting, and there's been a lot of screaming going on around here! "
The performances are inspired, their the glue that holds this together(it being a play after all, and one I'm glad I knew nothing about going in), and I especially liked that they characters played drunk genuinely well (not just in speech, but in posture and mannerism).
We are drawn into the vortex of their fantasies, their lives rushing in through the cracks in the expressions, as the night wears down, in real-time fade to hangover. The dawn comes with a funeral right, a reburying of the corpses and skeletons still freshly dug up, from their nightly dance. I could go on about this, but just see it yourself, it's the first American film to feature profanity, and explicit sexual suggestions:
George: "And that's how you play "Get the Guests"."

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