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.

Friday, 9 May 2014

Huston & Finney's Volcano ...

UNDER THE VOLCANO, 1984, follows the final day in the life of a self-destructive British Consul Geoffrey Firmin (Albert Finney, in an Oscar-nominated tour de force) on the eve of World War II. Firmin stumbles through a small Mexican village during the 'day of the dead' fiesta, as he drinks all he can, and tries to re-connect with his estranged wife (Jacqueline Bisset). John Huston's ambitious tackling of Malcolm Lowry's towering novel was compared with his greatest works and the film also gives Finney one of his best roles.  As the blurb says.

Another interesting late John Huston film then - we like a lot of his 50s/60s output, as per label - and despite some of the rubbish items he directed and acted in, he did turn out the occasional gem like FAT CITY or WISE BLOOD and of course THE DEAD in his later years, then of course there's ANNIE, that football comicstrip, and its fun seeing Huston having fun in DE SADE or MYRA BRECKINGRIDGE. But for me his best glory years were the MOULIN ROUGE, MOBY DICK, HEAVEN KNOWS MR ALLISON, THE UNFORGIVEN, THE MISFITS, NIGHT OF THE IGUANA years. 
It was great seeing him in person at the BFI when FAT CITY came out in '72, this was the man who had made some of my essential films like THE MISFITS! His best acting role is surely in CHINATOWN (where his monstrous Noah Cross is the corrupt heart of the film). Huston had that literaty bent too, often tacking "difficult" novels (like McCullers' REFLECTIONS IN A GOLDEN EYE) and so it is with Malcolm Lowry's UNDER THE VOLANCO, a novel I don't know but is highly regarded, about that alcoholic British Consul in Mexico and that last fateful day on the Day of the Dead festival. Huston has form with Mexico too with TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE and of course NIGHT OF THE IGUANA. The local colour is plentiful here and we get to see veteran Kathy Jurado, and also English character actor James Villiers. 
Albert Finney IS the film and his performance towers over all, making his co-stars seem lightweight by comparison. Jacqueline Bisset looks never better than here and is sheer tailored elegance as his wife who returns; Anthony Andrews is a curious choice as the half-brother but this was a few years after his enormous success in BRIDESHEAD REVISITED. It seems an under-written part though, as indeed is Jacqueline's. The hell of alcoholism is vividly depicted but the ending when it comes is sudden and brutal and not just for Albert! and not what one was expecting. Not an unqualified success then, but certainly a curiosity worth seeing now. 

No comments:

Post a Comment