Catholic education, in my experience, gave me the most intelligent and well-read adults who unfortunately aren’t good teachers.
Smith in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, the movie where she won her first Oscar, gave me high expectations. I want to dismiss her performance. Her Jean Brodie is intentionally a caricature and I’ve seen deluded done better. Sometimes she slows down and lowers the pitch of her voice thinking that she’s fooling both the other character and the audience that she’s being profound. The character’s interesting, as she ‘educates’ nine year olds about her lovers is an education. But hey, she talks about Flanders field and quotes Robert Burns – THAT’s an education, right? This talk about ‘intruders’ and ‘do as I say’ eventually leads to more vulgar discussions and at one point I was wondering when should one girl stand up and put an and to her.
Sandy (Pamela Franklin) comes to our rescue, and is this movie’s best in show. Jean calls Sandy dependable, faint praise for calling someone boring, and Sandy does seem boring since other girls are assigned by Miss Brodie to be more interesting. But she takes of her glasses – a cliché yet an effective one thanks to her – and does the best reverse striptease, showing how much a girl of the 1930’s has to put on. And young Sandy owning a 43-year old Mr. Lloyd. ‘You could go on painting. You don’t need a model,’ indeed. She does the simplest but most effective things. Again, Brodie is right in saying that any girl she teaches is hers for life, as Sandy can change one thing around her, and can do it again in her future.
I almost forgot that Celia Johnson gives a deceptive performance as Miss Mackay. While talking to the girls about how artistic and musical Miss Brodie is, I wonder if she’s jealous of Brodie or letting the girls think that she’s ‘cool,’ warming up to them so they can tell the truth.
After this movie, TVO showed Elephant, obviously.
Marcia (Patricia Neal) is all smiles in this dank jailhouse but for some reason, she looks at a drunk prisoner Lonesome Rhodes (Andy Griffith), both moved and saddened. I watched this movie cold and for the first time. This movie begins with bucolic acoustic guitar music, the first scene acted out in this room. Misinterpreting Elia Kazan’s reputation as a theatre director and ‘Budd Schulberg’ meaning this movie was probably based on a play. It would also be a challenge to the filmmakers to create cinema in such theatre-like spaces. Mix those Rube Goldberg tangents with how I liked the way these characters are in this scene, I was assuming that this movie’s gonna stay put in this room and in this small town. But nooooo…..
Kazan was the closest thing North America ever had to a Roberto Rossellini, or is he?
This is what I imagine every pre-1967 B-movie would feel like.
Then he became a sellout douche. The best comparison I can come up with for this director and movie is Richard Brooks’ Elmer Gantry. This movie’s also about the advent of television and celebrity politics, with the TV set within the frame.
But here is my best shot, even if it doesn’t encapsulate the film. None of my best shots yet are like that. It’s probably yours too, which makes it boring, but I hope my write-up seems more ‘original.’
I call this the Reverse Norma Desmond Shot. Marcia reminds me of Norma’s insane, destructive impulses. A member of Rhodes’ sound crew blurted out how he would like America to see what the real Lonesome Rhodes is really like, or more correctly, has become. This little wish turns into a sinister idea that possesses her, thus the obvious but probably one of the most effective noir-like close-ups ever put to film. There’s also a little of Joe Gillis in her in wanting to unmask the truth to and about a delusional person, yet what she does to him is more cruel that what Joe says to Norma in person. She destroys him, and in doing so has to both lament and defend that rash decision.