Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Dead (1987) ***

John Huston's final film The Dead, an adaptation of the James Joyce story, nicely evokes the melancholy tone of Dubliners.  An all Irish cast recreates Joyce's moving tale of a Christmas night in Dublin shortly after the century turned.  Although the film looks more like a theater production at times, the quality of the acting and source material are well worth watching.

Few directors have taken on Joyce; however, Huston made a career of adapting great works of literature into film such as The Maltese Falcon, Moby Dick, and The Red Badge of Courage.  While Huston never had a specific style per se, he remains one of cinema's best storytellers.

There's not much of a plot to The Dead.  It's more of a portrait than a story.  The two main characters are Gabriel (Donal McCann) and Gretta (Anjelica Huston), a bourgeois couple somewhat at odds with their Irish homeland. The guests are treated to a piano recital, a poetry reading, and dancing.  As evening turns into night, Gretta will reveal a deep secret about her past to Gabriel - changing both of them forever.

Huston gets the essence of the story right.  Times were changing and old traditions (good and bad) were fading.  Minor characters appear ghost like, as if they're walking memories. They are reminders that the snow the falls on the living and the dead.

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