Wednesday, September 28, 2022

if....(Lindsay Anderson, 1968)

 

Lindsay Anderson’s if…. feels as freshly daring and unprecedented now, and as bitingly relevant, as it must have done in 1968; no doubt the details of Britain’s lack of fitness for purpose have changed, but their essential corrosive porousness continues. The boundaries of Anderson’s film (set entirely within and around a boys-only private school) are often unclear: some scenes (such as the caning of Malcolm McDowell’s Mick Travis and his two partners in rebellion) are presented in excruciating real time, but other moments (such as all of those involving the most prominent female character, identified only as “the Girl,”) are infused with reverie and fantasy, with the shifting between colour and black and white embodying the underlying instability. Anderson’s portrayal of the institution isn’t entirely without grudging affection: one occasionally feels the strange allure of succumbing to this self-contained world’s insular rituals. But it’s a place where regressiveness and hypocrisy run rampant, powered by often petty and sadistic rituals rooted in notions of tradition and discipline (any nods to modernity consisting of mere platitudes), with little tolerance of dissent, the teachers seeming mainly like hollowed-out drones; the film contrasts the beauty of same-sex attraction in its natural intuitive state with the warped, predatory version of it that prevails in the structure of the younger boys being at the beck and call of (and, as we see in one scene, “traded” between) the older ones. The film’s famously nihilistic ending, a memorable spectacle on its own terms, resonates all the more for its embodiment of a society sowing its own destruction; the WW2-era weapons used by Travis and the others to shoot up the school all lying forgotten in its recesses, falling into their hands as part of an imposed punishment (which, in handing it out, the headmaster spins as an opportunity to do good). But for all its pessimism, there’s not a scene in the film that isn’t ventilated and lifted by observational and behavioral finesse and razor-sharp creative finesse.

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Lola (Jacques Demy, 1961)

 

Jacques Demy’s beautiful cinema dissolves one’s usual sense of directorial continuity and evolution – watching Lola, his debut, it feels as if his other great works must have already existed and be in conversation with it, that the Lola who leaves with her reclaimed love at the end is in some sense already the Lola lost in Model Shop’s America, that the music score is nodding backwards to Umbrellas of Cherbourg rather than anticipating it, that some of the recurring Nantes locations are already haunted by the tragic events of the much later Une chambre en ville, that one story of separation and regret might on some celestial plane be intertwined with another. In Lola’s extremely concentrated narrative, the distinction between hours and years dissolves – in just a couple of days, long-lost love objects are rediscovered (even by multiple searchers) and perhaps then lost again, life yields moments and encounters that one knows are destined to remain in the memory after much else has been erased. The film’s intense sense of place exists in equilibrium with the pull of elsewhere: one character is headed for Johannesburg; another has returned from making his fortune on an island in the Pacific; another, a sailor, is from Chicago (although one character questions this, pointing out that only gangsters come from there); it’s mentioned twice that to go and work as a dancer in Marseilles might cause one to end up in Argentina. But any exoticism attached to these prospects is heavy with resignation, a sense that the contours of one’s world will still be defined predominantly by the unattainable heart’s desire. Anouk Aimee’s Lola, if perhaps not quite one of cinema’s greatest beauties, is certainly one of its most singularly wondrous presences: extraordinarily vivid and present, yet with a sense of distracted fragility that, at least in a Demy film, renders future heartbreak and displacement all but inevitable.

Thursday, September 15, 2022

From Noon till Three (Frank D. Gilroy, 1976)


Charles Bronson’s body of work (at least the name above the title portion of it) hasn’t worn too well as a whole, but contains a few highlights, including Richard Fleischer’s Mr. Majestyk (amid all the threat and carnage, it’s oddly touching how all the guy really wants to do is harvest his melons) and Frank D. Gilroy’s From Noon Till Three, perhaps the most lightly subversive of his starring roles, and a nice riff on mythmaking and printing the truth versus the legend (a kind of Woman who Loved Liberty Valance). Bronson plays Graham, a low-grade outlaw forced to sit out the gang’s latest bank robbery, instead meeting and falling in love with Amanda, a wealthy widow (Jill Ireland, of course). The gang is wiped out, and in trying to evade the fate of his colleagues, Graham ends up in jail under a different name, assumed dead by Amanda. When he gets out, he finds that a romanticized book version of the Graham and Amanda story has become a best-selling global sensation, with the town now largely devoted to related tourism; the myth of a tragically deceased, supernaturally handsome Graham is so strong that the man himself can’t persuade anyone, not even the love of his life, of his real identity. The film is fairly irresistible in its conception and execution, although nothing about it cuts very deep – the two main characters are thinly conceived, and no one else registers more than fleetingly. One winces at the device of having Graham, within about an hour of their meeting, get Amanda into bed by feigning impotence and eliciting her sympathy. Still, the depiction of a community crassly denying the objective facts of the present, for the sake of perpetual surrender to an emotionally soothing past, is eternally relevant; no less the final note, of a society that can no longer distinguish (and doesn’t even care to try) between truth and madness.


Tuesday, September 6, 2022

Arrebato (Ivan Zulueta, 1979)

 

Ivan Zulueta's Arrebato is a wildly singular film, its inspiration so boundless and multi-faceted that one could imagine a lifetime of energy and blood being poured into it (Zulueta's otherwise sparse filmography sadly supports that general impression), possessed by a startling unifying conviction. Although to attempt a plot summary is even more hopeless here than it usually is, the film contrasts the personal and artistic efforts of Jose, a professional filmmaker stuck in the horror genre, and Pedro (the indelible Will More, a stand-out among a uniformly relishable cast), a way-outside-the-system visionary in search of his notion of cinematic rapture (which he often expresses in terms of finding the right "rhythm"). Through mechanisms carrying elements of mysticism, hypnotism, vampirism and whatever other -ism you might want to nominate, Jose becomes consumed by Pedro's personal journey, his own life (largely made up of drug-taking and sparring with his girlfriend, vivaciously played by Cecilia Roth) dwindling away. The film teems with movie-love, from the physical tangibility of cameras and projectors and film stock to the related culture of posters and memorabilia (there are some nice shots of marquees displaying then-current attractions such as Superman and Phantasm), and has passages of giddy playfulness, but it's all tinged with a delirious hopelessness, a sense of a cinema that demands complete submission whatever that might entail, or else that one go crazy in the attempt (Pedro's mother, insisting among other things that a black and white film on TV used to be in colour, further adds to the sense of a medium mutating beyond human control). Zulueta's brilliant last shot, with the sound of gunfire suddenly erupting on the soundtrack, somewhat reorients everything that's gone before, suggesting that the film's silence on political matters was perhaps, all along, a deeply despairing form of engagement.

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Love Streams (John Cassavetes, 1984)

 

Perhaps John Cassavetes’ strangest and most inexhaustible film, Love Streams confounds any notion of the director as being primarily an excavator of everyday emotional truths, embracing the heightened artificiality evident in all his work and pushing it to the point of near psychosis, such that by the end, characters are motivated by dreams (and further, dreams taking the form of operas) as much as by realities, and a character that appeared to be a dog temporarily reveals itself as a man. The title refers to the preoccupation of Gena Rowlands’ character, Sarah, with love as a “continuous stream” that doesn’t stop, a philosophy that as she enacts it consumes her in excessive behaviour and impulsiveness and recurring breakdown; Cassavetes plays her brother, Robert, whose relationship with love, or with humanity more generally, might better be represented as one of endless pivoting and zig-zaging, losing himself in shallow or short-lived connections, his self-absorption (albeit shrouded by a general air of formality and courtliness) often tumbling into cruelty (on being tasked with looking after his eight-year-old son for the first time ever, he flies the kid to Vegas and leaves him alone in a hotel room all night). The film’s final act represents a series of high-stakes substitutions: Robert now forcibly alone, constrained by a somewhat absurd bunch of animal care obligations, symbolically further isolated by darkness and storm; Sarah heading off to spend the night with a guy she just met, with some supposed new understanding with her divorced husband lying beyond; the fabric of the film seemingly heaving and splitting. Much of the film was shot in Cassavetes/Rowlands’ own house, evidencing a lived-in solidity that couldn’t likely have come from Robert, but for everything that feels strangely personal, the film provides an offsetting cavernous abstraction (confining its glimpses of Sarah’s European trips to concrete hellholes); it sometimes feels like the entire human condition flows (or snarls) through the film at one point or another.

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Death Laid an Egg (Giulio Questi, 1968)

 

Whatever its other claims to fame, Giuilio Questi’s Death Laid an Egg can safely be categorized as one of cinema’s most chicken-centric works (it was also released under the title Plucked!), a large part of it taking place in a poultry plant with thousands of good-looking, cooped-up two-footed extras, punctuated with ample shots of eggs in various states of motion or breakage, samples of chicken-themed art, and (most indelibly) brief glimpses of a laboratory-bred mutant chicken which lacks a head or wings and develops exceptionally quickly (a concept perhaps ahead of its time, for better or worse). Against all of this, in less than ninety minutes, Questi puts together a story of intersecting murderous designs, corporate intrigue, and weird erotic fetishes, starring Jean-Louis Trintignant at his most furtively inscrutable, playing Marco, a poultry association executive married to the owner of a massive breeding plant (Gina Lollobrigida, used far less interestingly), with an apparent sideline in murdering whores at a roadside motel, and a desire for his wife’s cousin (Ewa Aulin), who however has something going on with a publicity man hired by the association. Questi confidently breezes past all holes and improbabilities, with a torrent of eye-catching framing and cutting and a sporadically plausible feeling of scientific seriousness; at the end (which, following a series of extremely rapid twists, consists of a guy eating an egg) one may judge the experience to have been oddly meaningful (although in a way beyond articulating). Passing concepts include a “room of truth” stripped of all furniture and distraction, in which the occupants may unlock emotions otherwise denied them – it doesn’t really relate to much else in the film, but illustrates its odd, quasi-experimental streak (as it happens, nothing unlocked in the room of truth appears to relate directly to the chickens though).

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Chinese Boxes (Christopher Petit, 1984)

 

In a way, the title of Christopher Petit’s Chinese Boxes sums up the odd feeling of lost-in-time absence that permeates the movie, not just through the structural clue it contains (that one layer of apparent explanation will be forcibly removed to reveal another, and so on) but also through the evocation of China as abstract exoticism, not then seeming relevant to any immediate economic conversation. Marsh (Will Patton), an American in a still-partitioned Berlin, is the main inadvertent box-opener: a dead business associate leading to a teenage girl overdosing in his apartment, leading to a mysterious American called Harwood who says he’s a customs agent (Robbie Coltrane) but doesn’t act like it, to mysterious assignments apparently connected to drug trafficking, and to further killings and revelations.  The film treats genre expectations with enjoyable minimalism, depicting a car crash simply by cutting to the stunned passengers inside the upside-down car, dispensing with scenes of gun- and fist-play so glancingly that they hardly register at all, and allowing Peggy Lee’s “Is That All There Is” (maybe a too-obvious choice) to make some meaningful-seeming dialogue largely unintelligible; much the same goes for the film’s depiction of Berlin, predominantly consisting of anonymous locations that might be anywhere. It’s still a resonant choice though, with Harwood’s primary concern turning out not to be drugs at all but rather the prospects for increased commerce between East and West; he even presciently anticipates the possibility of reunification (as a matter of economic if not political logic). The choice of aspect ratio reinforces the sense of “boxiness” and confinement, of things perpetually on the verge of inwardly collapsing. A key character’s final rejection of a free ticket out, finding the prospect of leaving Berlin unimaginable, underlines all that the movie leaves untapped, a sense of further boxes (or of entire sets of boxes) not yet opened, or even dreamed of.

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Ordet (Carl Dreyer, 1955)

 

Carl Dreyer’s Ordet occupies a unique, unnervingly singular cinematic space, acknowledged in a sense by the absence of any credits; if taken at face value, the film dramatizes the transformative power of Christian faith, and doctrinal religious matters occupy a large portion of the screen time, and yet Dreyer seems to reach beyond even that, to an untapped capacity innate in humanity (and, by extension, in the art of cinema). The film focuses on the prosperous Borgen family, a patriarch and three sons – the oldest, Mikkel, not a religious believer; the second, Johannes, mentally unbalanced to the extent of pronouncing himself to be the second coming of Jesus; the third, Anders, in love with a girl he can’t have, because she belongs to a different, more rigid sect. When Mikkel’s beloved wife dies in childbirth, the family is shaken to its core, but then Johannes, citing the power of faith, brings about a miracle; or if not that, then an event lying far beyond any rational available explanation. Dreyer ends the film on an intense observance of this event, showing enough of the reaction to suggest that local religious differences and their consequences may now be swept away, but withholding those of the priest (who has earlier discounted the possibility of nature’s laws being broken in the modern age), the rational doctor whose efforts failed, or even of Johannes himself, as if nothing that follows could ever be of comparable significance or interest; as if in contemplating faith (as perhaps with love, and again, the act of cinematic witnessing) the anticipation of what follows can only undermine our joyous immersion in the divine moment. The film is always vividly present, its characters very particularly conceived and observed, set in a specific time and place (a 1925 on the edge of modernity, with telephones, but with horses not yet fully displaced by cars), but almost feeling like a science-fiction-type portal to a paradigm beyond the grasp of 1925, or 1955, or of any year since.

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Mass Appeal (Glenn Jordan, 1984)

 

Glenn Jordan’s Mass Appeal depicts American Catholicism as being a largely complacent, flaccid and hypocritical institution that strangles the few pockets of passionate and commitment that may dwell within it, but fatally undermines its ability to drive home those points by evidencing much the same faults, cinematically speaking. Jack Lemmon plays Father Farley, all too comfortably established in his Connecticut province, mostly wise-cracking his way through the sermons, dispensing shallow homilies and comforts and strategic white lies and evasions to paper over his low-level alcoholism and essential hollowness; he crosses paths with Mark Dolson, a volatile young seminarian (Zeljko Ivanek) to whom he becomes an involuntary supervisor, and, of course, his faltering attempts to shape the younger man’s path cause him to reevaluate his own. The film suggests that homosexuality is common in the church, while rendering it a distanced abstraction: two seminarians are expelled for suspected sexual contact (but we never even get to see them); Dolson admits that he’s had sex with men (but also with women, and it’s all in the past); there’s a passing suggestion (but no more than that) that Farley may also be gay. The film’s debates on these and other hot issues, such as the ordination of women, are hopelessly glib and packaged, undercutting any real sense of personal suffering or deprivation; likewise, Farley’s evolution from seeing Dolson mainly as an exasperating threat to ultimately proclaiming him as something close to the future savior of the Church, whatever the cost to his own job security, is set out in arbitrarily lurching terms. Compared to some directors of that period (see Tribute’s Bob Clark), Jordan holds Lemmon’s mannerisms in relative check, drawing out some moderately moving moments of self-awareness and breakdown, but the film’s imperfectly underlined ending doesn’t provide much to subsequently reflect on.

Thursday, July 28, 2022

The Witches (Pier Paolo Pasolini Mauro Bolognini Vittorio De Sica Franco Rossi Luchino Visconti, 1967)

 

One of the stronger entries from the 60’s spate of European anthology films, The Witches is a five-part showcase for Silvana Mangano (which might admittedly seem, across this time and distance, to be a peculiar undertaking). Two of the segments barely register – Mauro Bolognini’s is a one-joke thing (albeit a well-handled one), and Franco Rossi’s barely even that. Luchino Visconti’s opener, a frostily languid look at a celebrity’s spiritual malaise hits mostly familiar beautiful-people-in-crisis notes. Pier Paolo Pasolini’s is the most formally and thematically intriguing – a zany, sometimes Chaplinesque comedy in which a bereaved man and his son search (mostly through urban wasteland) for a new wife/mother, striking out with the likes of whores and shop dummies before settling on a lovely deaf girl (Mangano at her loveliest), who utterly suffices until she dies from slipping on a banana peel while standing on one of the upper levels of the Colisseum (yep), which isn’t a problem because she returns from the beyond and things go on as before, yielding the motto that being dead and being alive are the same thing (some other Pasolini films might not lead one to interpret this premise as positively). It’s at once the most frivolous chapter and yet the most socially-anchored and spiritually questioning. The film ends with a Vittorio De Sica piece in which the star plays a bored, frumpy-looking wife, her marriage drained of passion, trying to buck up her low-energy husband while living a much more exciting inner life, all of which is considerably lifted by the fact of the husband being played by a (dubbed) Clint Eastwood in one of his all-time loosest, most game performances: it’s one segment that you might wish had been longer. With the added bonus of its strenuously nutty opening credits, it’s a diverting if inherently odd package, generally boosting one’s appreciation of Mangano’s range.

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Written on the Wind (Douglas Sirk, 1956)

 

Douglas Sirk’s Written on the Wind contains some of the most deliriously striking pictorial compositions, within one of the most jaggedly disturbed psychological structures, in all of classic Hollywood cinema; every moment (from the astoundingly dynamic opening credits) is a submission to a startling spectacle, to a degree that feels personally destabilizing. On a trip to New York, dissolute oil heir Kyle Hadley (Robert Stack) rapidly falls for one of his company’s executive secretaries, Lucy Moore (Lauren Bacall); he marries her, cleans up his act, and brings her to the family’s Texan home base, a setting dominated by his unhappily promiscuous sister Marylee (Dorothy Malone), whose behaviour is at least partially driven by her unrequited love for Kyle’s best friend and fixer Mitch Wayne (Rock Hudson), who can only look on her as a sister, and who in turn is in love with Lucy (Sirk weaves in a rich number of Freudian threads, including Kyle wishing that Mitch’s father had been his own). Stack and Malone both give heightened, physically unrestrained, often almost gargoyle-like performances, their great wealth and potential power only accentuating their personal inadequacies – when, in Kyle’s case, the symbolic inadequacy appears to become a primal medical one, such that he believes himself to be sterile, there’s no recourse except inwards, into drunkenness and madness and beyond. At times, the film feels like Gothic horror, the vast family home seeming almost demonically possessed (for example, in the cross-cutting of Marylee feverishly dancing in her bedroom and her despairing father taking a fatal fall down the stairs). It follows then that Mitch and Lucy, the representatives of relative normality (to the extent that anything about the fifties seems normal in retrospect) can only find closure by fleeing the site of trauma, leaving Marylee as the inheritor of familial power, the final shot laden with unresolved sexual threat.

Tuesday, July 12, 2022

Shozo, a Cat and Two Women (Shiro Toyoda, 1956)

 

Shiro Toyoda’s Shozo, a Cat and Two Women often feels rather trifling and (at two and a quarter hours) protracted, but ultimately achieves a bleakly stubborn persuasiveness. As the film starts, Shozo’s wife Shinaka is more or less hounded into leaving him by his dominating mother, who wants him remarried to his younger mistress Fukuko, mainly because of the accompanying financial benefits (Fukuko’s father also holds the mortgage on their house). Shozo’s erotic attraction to Fukuko (especially, it seems, to her legs) is made clear enough – the film is quite ribald at times (and striking in its portrayal of Fukuko’s proud sexual self-determination, for which we’re told she’s even made the newspapers in the past) – but his only real emotional affinity is for his aging cat Lily, disliked by Fukuko, and only of interest to Shinaka as part of her plot to get Shozo back (her options otherwise looking grim). All of this entails a fair amount of repetitive histrionics, but one driven by real anxieties about basic survival – Shozo’s immaturity and general inability to engage with reality (left to his own devices, it’s clear that the little store from which he makes a meagre living would hardly function at all) seem like a defense against a hard-edged post-war landscape he otherwise finds impossible to engage with. Lily being a cat, it’s a recurring mystery over whether Shozo’s elevated view of her is at all reciprocated, not least at the end, when he basically leaves the two women (by then seemingly headed for a domestic version of mutually assured destruction) behind and bets everything on her, leading to a strikingly desolate ending. The film’s philosophical strands are clunkily underlined by Shinaka’s brother-in-law, supposedly obsessed by philosophy, which as manifested here basically just consists of dropping words like “existential” into everyday sentences (to his wife’s understandable bemusement).

Wednesday, July 6, 2022

How Green was My Valley? (John Ford, 1941)

 

Like Citizen Kane, which it famously beat as the best picture Oscar winner of 1941, John Ford’s How Green Was My Valley? is heavy with remembrance and regret, for a time of vanished coherence and beauty. Ford’s film is far more conventional than Welles’s, and looms far less large in the collective cinematic memory, but much about it is beautiful and moving, even if there’s little that doesn’t seem simplified and/or idealized (it’s in black and white, but still, one feels that the valley was never that green, that life was never in such perfect equilibrium). The film constitutes the childhood memories of Hugh (played as a boy, very sweetly, by Roddy McDowall), the youngest of six brother and a sister (Maureen O’Hara) growing up in a Welsh mining village. At first, all seems idyllic (the film rings with choral renditions of many Welsh-language classics), but many of the opening precepts are shown to be false or fragile: the economic relationship between the mine and the workers deteriorates more with each passing year, causing an inevitable outward migration and erosion of community; the centrality of religion is exposed as a ritualistic sham (Walter Pidgeon plays the local minister, ultimately all but driven out by cowardly hypocrisy); the inherent danger of the work floods the valley with loss, and slowly poisons those lush vistas. Saddest of all is the decision of academically gifted Hugh to follow his family into the mine rather than continue with his studies, speaking sad volumes about the imposed smallness of his world, his inability to grasp broader possibilities. The film may be at its weakest when Ford indulges his liking for boozy camaraderie, but impresses with the confidence of its storytelling, not least with how much its ending leaves unresolved, both for the individuals and for the world they inhabit.

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Lili Marleen (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1981)

 

Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s Lili Marleen isn’t typically ranked among his best films, but if it seems at times to play a little flatly, that’s not necessarily unsuited to its structuring ambiguities. Willie, a German singer, is barred from escaping into Switzerland at the start of WW2 because of machinations by the father of her Swiss boyfriend Robert (who actively works to help Jews evade the Nazis); needing to make ends meet, she keeps on pursuing her career, and chances onto the title song, the popularity of which lifts her to iconic status, bringing both rewards and dangers. The soundtrack is suffused in the song, while leaving it unclear whether it serves as a morbid sapping of positive will (as we’re told is Goebbels’ view) or as a unifying evocation of the heartland (Hitler’s view); the song is played to raptly listening soldiers in the trenches and to vast formal crowds, but there’s never any sense of the war as other than a losing venture, and near the end when a group of soldiers hear the song on the battlefield and head in its direction for refuge, it’s a Russian trap. The ambiguity extends to Willie herself (summed up in the character’s very name, and in the way her identity later becomes entirely intertwined with the song) – the film withholds any confirmation of whether she sleeps with Nazis as is rumoured, and while she assumes personal danger in some of her anti-regime activities, her motivation, and the depth of her convictions (if any) are entirely unclear (even her basic competence as a singer is the subject of debate). As such, the film continually returns to the unstable nature of cultural symbols and to the ideological regimes they may seem to support. Hanna Schygulla ably embodies Willie’s recessive qualities; the film also stars Giancarlo Giannini and Mel Ferrer, splashy casting befitting the film’s classically melodramatic ambitions.

Thursday, June 23, 2022

Providence (Alain Resnais, 1977)

 

Alain Resnais’ Providence makes it clear early on that the apparent initial narrative (a strange affair involving the mercy killing of an injured old man with a werewolf-like affliction, leading to a court trial, and then to a relationship between the accused and the prosecuting lawyer’s wife) is at least in part a representation of the work in progress that tumbles through the head of elderly author Clive Langham during a night of drunken pain, while leaving the possibility that elements might be rooted in external reality (Langham’s own son, daughter-in-law and even his deceased wife take on prominent roles in the narrative). To that degree, the film represents a  puzzle of sorts, although it never feels likely that a clear “solution” to these oddities and discontinuities is likely, or even desirable; it often plays like broad, destabilizing comedy, as Langham’s inner voice floods the soundtrack with scabrous vulgarities (delivered with relish by John Gielgud), often disappointed by his own imaginings, sometimes losing control over them (most charmingly involving a tangential football player character who keeps jogging into scenes where he doesn’t belong). The ultimate arrival point, once reality does assert itself (or so we might assume), is surprisingly bucolic, with Langham’s children coming to his country house for a birthday lunch, identities and realities clarified and softened from what was previously mooted. Langham drinks as excessively in daylight as after dark, and there are references to past transgressions, but the pervasive sense of present attack is gone, and one might even wonder whether such heavy tranquility more fully embodies the death of creative faculties. Despite the productive affinities with Resnais’ other work, the tightness of the conception, and the extreme Englishness of the setting, periodically generates a sense of a director being somewhat hemmed in; Gielgud aside, the actors only intermittently flourish. And yet, it does all linger quite deliciously in the memory…