Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Man of La Mancha

MAN OF LA MANCHA from 1972 seems a curiously overlooked musical, despite O'Toole and Loren I never wanted to see it at the time and when I got the dvd I just had a cursory look and filed it away, but some good comments at IMDB got me intrigued, so time for a proper look.

Locked up in a dungeon, awaiting a trial before the court of the Inquisition, Miguel de Cervantes tells his cell mates a story (created by his fantasy) of a nobleman of La Mancha, Don Quixote, who, inspired by the ancient tales of chivalry, attires himself in dilapidated armor and departs, riding a bony nag, in the company of an impromptu squire named Sancho. Don Quixote wants to renew the splendors of the knights errant; he fights windmills which he mistakes for giants; he meets a humble scullery maid whom he calls Dulcinea and elevates to the rank of sweet damsel; he takes a beating from some merchants whom he had ordered to recognize the incomparable beauty of Dulcinea; He makes an innkeeper, whom he mistakes for a lord, equip him as a knight, and at last returns hom where Dulcinea joins him to bow lovingly over his deathbed. 
Based on the hit Broadway musical of the same name by Dale Wasserman the film was greeted with negative notices but like many musicals of that era, posterity has been kind - its not quite the bomb its reputation would suggest, even if a little heavy-handed in parts. The colour scheme is drab throughout, all browns and beiges, so when Loren picks some vivid green plants its a stunning burst of colour. It is really another one-song show (FIDDLER ON THE ROOF?) and "The Impossible Dream" is undeniably effective. O'Toole is dubbed but brings a nice sweetness to Don Quixote, an addled old man here. Sophia, though, dominates the film, when her Aldonza spits out her rage she is a real woman who has been abused, "a wounded animal in pain" as a friend says in his IMDB review. 

The cast is the thing here, as directed by Arthur Hiller (PLAZA SUITE, THE OUT-OF-TOWNERS, LOVE STORY etc: There's that man again - Brian Blessed (see recent  FLASH GORDON, review, below) as the beefy mulateer with the hook for a hand, left.
(Brian did a Christmas panto season at my local theatre here a year or two ago, and was also in THE TROJAN WOMEN with Hepburn, Redrave, Papas & Bujold). There is also Ian Richardson, Rosalie Crutchley, Harry Andrews, John Castle (from BLOW-UP and LION IN WINTER). Unlike bloated musicals like CAMELOT, STAR! or HELLO DOLLY this seems a minimal, pared-down musical showing Don Quixote's story to be the ultimate in human heroism, a tragic man of courage struggling to see and live life, not as it is, but as it should be. To dream the impossible dream indeed ... career highlights then for Peter and Sophia, who is certainly stunning here.To think its 40 years old !

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