Monday, December 12, 2005

Day 33: "The Browning Version"

Director: Anthony Asquith 1951
You could call this film "Good Riddance, Mr. Chips"--at least until the final scenes. Michael Redgrave is superb as the aloof, demanding classical scholar who is leaving a distinguished British boarding school after 18 years of teaching. His heart is weak, his wife unfaithful, and his colleagues refer to him as the "Himmler of the fifth level." But he cares about his students, no matter how much they revile him. Terrence Rattigan adapted his play. The movie is old-fashioned in the best sense of the term. The structure is tight, the characters clear, the dialogue true. Asquith's direction is crisp. There is nothing sentimental about the story. Watch Redgrave’s reaction to a gift from a student (it's the Robert Browning prose adaptation of "The Agamemnon"--hence the title). He is overwhelmed, yet fights to control his emotions. Then watch as his shrewish wife tells him the gift means nothing, that the boy is just brown-nosing. It's a lie yet it produces the pain she wishes to inflict. The supporting cast is terrific. And "The Browning Version" is a fine film.
Remade in 1994 with Albert Finney.


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