THE DEAD
DIRECTOR: JOHN HUSTON
AMERICA 1987
CAST: Angelica Huston, Donal McCann, Dan O'Herlihy
BASED ON: James Joyce's The Dubliners.
ONE WORD: The dialogue and interplay


Outstanding film, if you can stand an acting showcase. If not, don't see this film.

There are few things about James Joyce's works that make it nice reading. The one I like the most is the 'stream of consciousness', which is a nice way to admit that the characters 'think out loud' for our benefit. This is not good for film, and has never translated very well to film. It forces the visual medium to revert to narration, or a one sided point of view, or in the case of Hollywood soap operas, intrusive camera, and no point of view what so ever.

THE DEAD starts a bit inauspiciously, in that we don't know whose story it is, or whose story it is going to be. By the look of things, it appears the nice and well meaning hostess of the party is the one who lets on what we are seeing. Later, we find it isn't at all, and another character takes over the events, and then another, ending with one of the characters, whose observations are the most interesting, and the least affected by the traditionalist Irish family rituals, which have degraded into a family bashing for those who hadn't succeeded in the eyes of either the matriarch, or patriarchic, figures, who rule the household.

If anything, James Joyce's easy to read work, tells us that this business is dead, and falling apart, because of the ruler's massive pride and ego. And the times have changed people, but not those that were separated from the world, which very often Ireland is accused of being. As a line in the film says, it must be the good whiskey.

The film, is actually very nice to watch, and gets a bit better as it wears on , but still lacks the liveliness to keep us interested, unless we are the type who loves to nose in another's affairs, which we are not. Specially nice looking in this film is Angelica Huston (John's daughter) whose appearance fits, and yet it doesn't. Her looks alone, set her apart from the family which is rather plain looking. And her 'love life' is a failure, as is that of the man who adores her but has not the courage to tell her how much he cares. In a society where marriages are still arranged, these two have yet to find their niche together, and the sentiment is that they will not.

Traditions die hard, and they usually take families with them. The fate of this family is written in stone. One brother is failed in love, the other is a drunkard, a sister is a very good piano player, but too insecure to perform and take it to another level, as is all their personal lives.

It really is a sad, and brutal, exploit of the Irish mold, some of which still exists today, a society that has to fight for its independence and freedom, and have been forced to split up, and unite along the lines of cultural differences which they do not specially care for. James Joyce merely points out that even then, some 75 years ago, this was the situation. The only question left is, will they change with the new age of technology, and the new age of the media, with its inherent ability to invade cultures altogether.

GOOD FILM

INTELLECTUAL EVENING AT THE MOVIES. FOR SERIOUS MINDED INDIVIDUALS, OR LITERATURE MAJORS.

3.5 GIBLOONS

 

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