Tuesday, April 3, 2012


I went to see THE DEEP BLUE SEA reluctantly. A friend suggested it but I wasn't in the mood to be depressed. I consented because so many critics had raved about it and about Rachel Weisz's performance. I can see why.

It's an unexpected film to find in 2012. Based on the early 1950s' play by Terence Rattigan (and reinterpreted by contemporary critics like much of Tenessee Williams as a closeted gay work, which to my mind is disrespectful to the playwright whether true or not) it is smart, sparse, self-contained and way too "slow" for a lot of today's audience.

But brilliant in its own way. I was all set to be disappointed, especially when the movie opens with a Samuel Barber composition that swells and almost overwhelms you with the manipulativeness that movie scores can sometimes have, and then, it became to insistently melodramatic it was almost Brechtian the way it called attention to itself and I surrendered. 

Not exactly emotionally, which may have been the intent, but intellectually. It is so intelligently and beautifully designed and directed and edited and shot and acted and written (adapted by the director Terence Davies) that though I never felt almost any emotional identification with the characters I felt totally intellectually engaged, more so than any movie I've seen in quite a while (I'm still in thrall with it as you can ell by the slightly tony vocabulary I seem to be still inhabiting).

I left it not emotionally drained, which I suspect one might have on seeing it on stage the first time, but more like I'd just had a very compellingly thoughtful theater experience, cerebrally if not soulfully satisfying. Really. One of the few emotional moments for me was how Davies employs the Jo Stafford recording of the early '50s and my boyhood of "You Belong To Me"—so that I kept thinking it's never sounded better (Jo Stafford was one of the few vocalists even Sinatra said he learned from and admired most).

One of the most disappointing moments though was the use of a group sing of the old Irish standby "Molly Malone" which it's hard for me to believe would have been sung by a class mixed group of Brits during the blitz when Ireland was indirectly siding with the Germans (by many in England's reckoning) by remaining neutral. It's a surreal moment, as one of the friends I saw it with said afterwards, as is the entire film in its way. Dreamlike and evocative in ways both precise and ambiguous at the same time.

As I said, everyone in it is excellent, but Weisz's performance is the most stunning, Oscar worthy in its mixture of complete and appropriate control (for her character's upper class and the standards of the time) with complete and utter abandon. I fell in love with her capacity, as is true in photos of her as well, to be at turns as perfectly attractive as a movie star lead or as ordinarily imperfect as the rest of us.


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