Carol Reed directs Ralph Richardson, Bobby Henrey and Michèle Morgan in this drama told from a child’s point of view, where his beloved butler finds himself entangled between a shrewish wife, a doomed affair and, eventually, the suspicions of the police.
Great movie. Featuring a one-of-a-kind child performance. Reed kept the camera rolling on the lad, hoping that like a stopped clock, a mixture of restlessness and off camera stimulus would illicit the needed reactions for each scene. That patience worked an absolute treat. Little Bobby Henrey got bored with filming midway through the shoot and started misbehaving allegedly. It doesn’t show here, but it is in keeping with his character, who like all children is a curious little sociopath capable of callous strops and unguarded obsessions. And completely getting the wrong end of stick when trying to fathom the adult world. A trip to the zoo and snake’s hiding place (“McGREGOR!”) both lean into visions of being trapped and caged… in a way, the little tyke wants to keep his hero Baines in much the same captivity. Not realising the poor bugger, lovely and dedicated as he is to his young ward, is constantly stuck behind bars from the off, seen and unseen.The adult performances are somewhat secondary to our protagonist but quite compelling. We never truly plumbs the ultimate depths of these tragic figures and their squalid little love triangle, though Sonia Dresdel’s spurned tyrant is particularly affecting. Set mainly in a vertiginous diplomat’s townhouse, this could easily have felt like a mere filmed play. Reed explores young Philippe’s mini fiefdom with his trademark flair for the askew, meaning the interiors feel infinite and fantastical. Truly cinematic, well worth seeking out.
Perfect Double Bill: The Remains of the Day (1993)
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