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Joseph Losey was no fly by night director. This film won the coveted prize at Cannes and 4 BAFTA awards. The story is quite simple but elegant in its manner as is the society/time it depicts. Some have commented here about the Legrand score but I fully disagree. Look at the beginning of the film. You see rain on a window and the camera follows it down the window. The music also takes us spiraling down at the same time heralding the change in the story and society that an ominous change will occur This theme is repeated as the letters between the doomed lovers are exchanged throughout. There is also another doom that will befall our main character which will last a lifetime. Everyone will be affected by their choices whether knowingly or innocent. The music brilliantly reflects that parallel of the story. Legrand loved writing and playing jazz. Here he changes course and goes for a classical approach. Thank God Columbia records decided to release it as a suite years later with another Legrand opus, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. So listen carefully and see how nicely it conveys the emotions centered in this story.
I loved this movie when it came out in the early 70's. That said, my sisters hated it! I know that the reviews talk about how it represents the class system in Britain during a particular time and place, but when I first saw it I was wasn't aware of the larger political meanings. It caught my heart because of the systematic destruction of a young boy who was living in a world he did not understand for the summer and was used for selfish ends. It destroyed his life as well as others in the picture. Maybe enjoy is the wrong word for this movie, but I have always loved it.
It has its limitations: Of its time. But this is one of three collaborations between Joseph Losey and Harold Pinter, exploring the social mores and customs that are so much part of English social culture. And should be considered a classic of the form. (Downtown Abbey, et al are very pale and trivial pastiche in comparison.) The music is very bad, but the acting is wonderful; the dialogue very sharp and precisely observed (by Pinter) The movie is of its time ( I mean it has meanigful dialogue you have to follow, nuance and subtelty of manner and appearance; and the setting is about being of its time (1900 and the state of upper middle class society as England and Europe headed towards WW1. There are others of this genre that are also worth watching - The Shooting Party comes to mind. The earlier Losey/Pinter collaboration The Servant, with Bogarde is more sadistically psychological, but covers the same ground of master/servant upper, middle and "other" class sentiments. Highly recommended. I seem to remember this got the palm D'or at Cannes. Shame about the awful music. But the movie is very engrossing. I think Losey got the flash forward wrong. He'd have done better just telling the story as it unfolds. Not sure seeing the aftermath 50 years later adds much except to reinforce how uncongenial Julie Christie's character actually is. I though she did well here and Bates was always a treat to watch. The Young Edward Fox hasn't a lot to do but was also perfect in his character. Highly recommended if you like stories with plot, dialogue and a point of view.
Though I like the base storyline, the whole entire story depicted in this film seems to be somewhat evasive, out of focus, and didn't make a clear point of the theme. I saw the 2015 version of this film (TV Movie) first and understood the writer's intent and message much better. Acting by the entire cast of this movie was rather sub-par and disappointing considering the caliber of the actors in it. Cinematography also failed to capture the lushness of the hot country summer setting.
Unfortunately it is ruined by an over-whelming score by Michele Legrand. Oh, it's so distracting these banging chords to spell out dramatic moments- completely unnecessary. I don't know how it got by Joe Losely. I just cringe! A beautiful film ruined. A film not appreciated by American audiences, yet it won all the European prizes. There is a new version for BBC TV which is obviously influenced by the languid cinematography of the 1971 version. I think Julie Christie is a lot prettier than Johanna Vanderham, who portrays Marian as rather shallow. I like both films and they stick to the book in dialogue. Each has their weaknesses and beauty.
Reviewed in the United States on September 1, 2017
I saw this film when it first appeared. I am happy that it is now available on DVD. The theme is that of loss. The time of the story is in two periods: before World War I and much later after the war. In the earlier period the "go-between" is a young adolescent; in the later period the same character is in late middle age and again asked to communicate now a healing message from the same fascinating woman he had idolized as a youth. Thus loss of youth, illusions, and the fulfillment of personal emotional achievement.
Read the book, and loved the movie. Especially the sensitive performance of Dominic Guard, who played the "go-between"...about a naive adolescent from a middle class family, spending the summer with a upper class family on their estate. He falls for a bad case of puppy love for the beautiful elder daughter, who involves him in her secret affair with a handsome tenant farmer. Wish this was on DVD.
First, the non usa format was not an issue for me since my player will play all formats correctly. I had seen this many years ago on PBS up in Chicago and had recorded it on VHS but wanted a DVD version. I was not at all disappointed and the DVD of course is much clearer and vivid than a VHS copy. I do believe there might have been some editing when it was broadcase on TV also so a few scenes were missing. This is a classic movie that should be seen and presented more often. Perfecting casting. Alana Bates was always one of my favorites. Too bad he is no longer with us. I don't think you'll be disappointed in this vintage film from the other side of the pond.
5.0 out of 5 stars‘THE PAST IS A FOREIGN COUNTRY: THEY DO THINGS DIFFERENTLY THERE.’
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on April 21, 2020
This is a review of the 2019 Region B2 Blu-ray from Studiocanal’s 'Vintage Classics' range. The 1971 film has been superbly restored, and there are artcards and an informative booklet. This is a seriously classy product.
This sumptuous British film, based on a 1953 novel of the same name by L P Hartley, was brilliantly adapted for the big screen by no less a writer than Harold Pinter, one of the true greats of modern British theatre and cinema. A Nobel Prize-winner for Literature, a Companion of Honour and a recipient of the Légion d’honneur, he was the screenwriter of some of the best-known serious British films of the era, including “The French Lieutenant’s Woman’ (1981) and ‘The Remains of the Day’ (1990). And with British-based American director Joseph Losey, he was responsible for ‘The Servant’ (1963) and ‘Accident’ (1967), together with this film.
Losey, a native of Wisconsin, left the USA permanently in 1953, a victim of HUAC’s anti-Communist witch hunts. Both alone, but particularly collaborating with Pinter, Losey used his films to carry out a devastatingly clear-eyed examination of aspects of the British class system. This film, sometimes erroneously viewed as simply a great romantic love story, is the epitome of this undertaking. Yes, a somewhat super-heated romance underpins the plot, but throughout, the film provides a scorching critique of perceptions, attitudes, behaviour, mores, relating to the British monied upper class of the era. And the result is not particularly edifying.
The monied family here is the Maudsleys, clearly hugely wealthy but not aristocratic, living in a vast country house in Norfolk, formerly owned by the Triminghams. Viscount Trimingham, played with his usual warm boyish charm by Edward Fox (who won a BAFTA) is a suitor for the Maudsley’s beautiful daughter Marian, played by Julie Christie. This is a woman who knows her own worth, and expects the world to worship at her feet. But, as Trimingham comments: “nothing is ever a lady’s fault”. The third person in this love triangle is local farmer Ted Burgess, played with muscular virility and panache by Alan Bates, at the top of his game. And the titular ‘Go-Between’ running messages for all and sundry, is 12 year-old Leo, naive, unsophisticated, totally besotted by Marian. He is played by Dominic Guard, in a wonderful BAFTA-winning performance that pulls at the heart-strings.
The film looks gorgeous. Melton Constable Hall, as the Maudsley’s Wren-style house in Norfolk, is handsome and atmospheric. The surrounding countryside, outbuildings, Ted’s farm, the village, are also a delight. This is rural England, bathed in summer heat, at it’s picturesque, bucolic best.
Losey described the film as having a “…coating of romantic drama, but…a bitter core”. However, he loved making it, his friend Pinter was on set throughout, and distinguished critic Professor Emanuel Levy has described it as "Losey's Masterpiece”. It is a film that works, brilliantly, on every level.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on November 23, 2013
I am thankful that my copy did not stick unlike those of some reviewers. I first saw this when it came out in 1970 .A wonderful film. Shows its age but nevertheless is an all time favorite of mine A slow burner of a film. Set in 1900 this is a marvelous evocation of a time and its manners. This is the society which will be changed by the Great War which will erupt fourteen years later .
Nothing seems to happen in the film yet everything happens beneath the surface.The clues are there but never spelled out. It depicts a society which is rigid and repressed; where emotions are not displayed but simmer until the final catastrophe.
Leo the main protagonist as a boy of twelve unwittingly becomes the deliverer of love letters between lovers forever divided by class.When the lovers are finally discovered their affair is ended.There is a suicide. Left permanently emotionally damaged by events Leo has to act as go-between once more fifty years later. He has to deliver one more message.
A film with a wonderful score which lingers long after the final credits. I remembered it forty years later just as I remembered the film. Today I watched it again on dvd. Wonderful
Still not everybody's cuppa. By modern film standards it is slow but again seen with the right frame of mind a film to linger over
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on December 17, 2013
I watched this film immediately after reading the book. This was natural enough, but one does tend to compare the two. I enjoyed the film very much. The period detail was perfect. The scenery,the house, the furniture, the good manners,the cricket-all were just perfect. As for comparison with the book,the film is more faithful than most films from books. In the book Marian and her mother are warmer people. I always find Margaret Leighton chilling, and Julie Christie is a bit hard. Everyone else was perfect, and Christie and Leighton were very credible. Alan Bates plays a nature boy very well, reminiscent of other parts. This is a remarkable story and excellent film.
4.0 out of 5 starsClassic slow-burning British costume drama
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on August 24, 2011
I first saw this film on a ropey VHS copy at school when I was studying the L.P Hartley book for A-level English. I was struck then by the heady unsettling atmosphere that the film managed to create - down in no small part to the langorous camerawork and Harold Pinter's trademark stilted and artificial screenplay. The film has remained a favourite since then. I was surprised to see a little-known British costume drama released on blu-ray, but kudos to Studio Canal to inclduing this hidden gem in their StudioCanal collection. The picture is the best it's ever likely to be - presented in the correct 1.85:1 aspect ratio for the first time (the DVD was 4:3 open-matte), some grain and scratches apparent but nothing unusual given the age of the film. The disc comes in nice cardboard packaging to fit in with the rest of the StudioCanal collection, complete with an essay on the film written by the son of director Joseph Losey and the editor of Sight & Sound Magazine.