• U.S.

Cinema: Bad Manners

2 minute read
Stefan Kanfer

“Ambiguous,” appropriately, has definitions. It means “capable of understood in two or more senses.” also means “uncertain, especially obscurity or indistinctness.”

A Severed Head leaps for the category and lands in the second. Novelist Iris Murdoch adapted her farce for the stage with wit and observation. Intelligence shone in scene. The film version, written by Frederic Raphael, transfers some of the but none of the craft. Instead, it presents a plot giggling at itself.

A wine merchant, Martin (Ian caroms from mistress to wife, only find that Mrs. Wine Merchant (Lee Remick) plans to run off with her (Richard Attenborough). Wife shrink plan no abandonment of Martin; instead they demand his love and understanding, which they will return interest. Indeed, they are so that eventually Martin apologizes them for his “piece on the side.” make a long story unendurable, piece eventually takes up with brother, and Martin falls in with the doctor’s half sister. Honor Klein Bloom), an exotic cabalist on the of Charles Addams’ Morticia.

On one level, Director Dick attempts to analyze the instability the modern temper. Supercivilized Martin airily accepts his wife’s peccadilloes, and in the next second goes round bend, hurling Honor to the floor beating her. On another level, A Severed Head is a comedy of — but they are all bad manners: mixed with Pinteresque pauses, attenuated satire of psychoanalysis with gross sight gags — like Martin’s groping for the phone when is only the (guffaw) doorbell.

The principals of the picture are a cast but a miscast; Lee Remick is barely on speaking terms with her English accent, and Bloom’s occultivated consists of stares loaded with blanks. Attenborough is an echo of the project: empty smugness, satisfaction without self. Only Ian Holm, as the passive hero, seems to grasp the thematic apperception: modern man and his society are in a schizoid clash where and brain, instinct and intellect, struggle for primacy. He alone defines ambiguity in the loftiest sense. Clement & Co. founder in the lowest. S.K.

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