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Joseph L. Mankiewicz
The Rev. T. Lawrence Shannon has been living in Mexico for two years, working as a tourist guide for a cut-rate travel agency. Shannon lost his church and was defrocked after taking liberties with one of his parishioners. He's now accompanying a group of middle-aged ladies from Texas whose leader, Judith Fellowes, is keeping a close eye on her teenage ward, Charlotte Goodall, who definitely has an interest in the former priest. After Charlotte and Shannon spend the night together, Fellowes is out to have him fired and to keep her from communicating with his employer, Shannon strands them at a remote hotel run by his good friend Maxine Faulk. It's the arrival of Hannah Jelkes and her elderly grandfather that has the greatest impact however. Her approach to life and love forces Shannon to deal with his demons and re-evaluate his life.Written by
This film, all and all, only gets better with each viewing. I first saw it as a child, and thought it odd and amusing. Yet even then I sensed something magical was going on in it, though I lacked then the adult realism to penetrate the world of Tennessee Williams. Subsequent viewings have only reinforced my feeling that this film may be the greatest film of the twentieth century. I say that not because it is an epic, or because William's play is so grand, but just because this play seems to so perfectly capture the age in which we live. We live, just as the Reverend Shannon does, torn between the desire to believe in an absolute, and the perils of such belief, between a reductionist 'realism' and an equally reductionist indulgence. The actors Kerr, Gardener, and especially Richard Burton, have sensed this, and their roles are so nuanced as to make one believe that what one is seeing is REALITY and not a theatrical performance. The emotional climax of the film comes at the moment when the old poet completes his poem and asks over and over again, in a paroxysm of painful joy---"Is it good? is it good?"---- Then he dies. Only the genius of Tennessee Williams come make such melodrama seem utterly convincing. For the artist who wrote this play has been complimented by the artists who directed and acted it. Great art leaves everything opened but nothing settled--- creating the sense that justice has been fully achieved. Here, all too rarely for the art of cinema, both grace and justice have indeed been fully achieved.
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