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The Oxford professor of philosophy Stephen has two favorite pupils, the athletic aristocrat William and the Austrian Anna von Graz. Stephen is a frustrated man, with a negligent wife, Rosalind, who is pregnant of their third child, and is envious of the Oxford professor Charley that has a television show. Stephen feels attracted to Anna, but William woos her and she becomes his girlfriend. Charley has a love affair with Anna but when things go wrong, Anna must leave town. Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
[reading from learned journal]
A statistical analysis of sexual intercourse at Colenso University, Milwaukee showed... that 70% did it in the evening, 29.9% between 2 and 4 in the afternoon and 0.1% during a lecture on Aristotle.
I'm surprised to hear that Aristotle is on the syllabus in the State of Wisconsin.
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Watching this film again in 2010, it is amusing to see how much they smoked and drank. Students would arrive for tutorials and the professor would pour out a generous glass of the hard stuff or at least sherry. Stephen's pregnant wife takes an afternoon nap with a bottle of beer on the bedside table. Charley arrives for lunch carrying a couple of bottles of liquor, which gets consumed in the afternoon. Not surprisingly William ends up passing out face down in the salad! Anyone playing the drinking game and trying to keep up with the characters would be out cold halfway through the film.
Everything about the film was note perfect, with the exception of Jacqueline Sassard's stiff performance. Her character was supposed to be Austrian, so why did she try to look like an Italian starlet with that dreadful eye makeup. Perhaps they could not afford Gina Lollobridgida! Not only did she not look the part, but her voice was flat and harsh. I spent the movie wondering what on earth any of the men saw in her. If only they had used Marianne Faithful, who would have looked like an Austrian and given off an air of unattainability, at least until her affair with Charley was discovered.
I could not help feeling that if Anna had been written out altogether and the object of desire had been the beautiful William, played to perfection by Michael York, it might have been more interesting. Perhaps there was an subtle undercurrent which I missed. Filmmakers were not quite so obvious in 1966. Other than that, the wonderfully atmospheric film beautifully conveyed the long hot humid summer days of the south of England and the polite banter of the elite academics disguising an envious loathing of each other as they drank their way through the day.
40 years on I have never forgotten one little quote in the film by the provost who, upon hearing that a study into the sex habits of students at the University of Wisconsin revealed that 0.01% had intercourse during a lecture on Aristotle, remarked that he was surprised to find Aristotle on the syllabus in Wisconsin. With snappy one liners like that, how can you forget this film.
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