7 January 2019 | TheLittleSongbird
Quartet of life
One can understand why W Somerset Maugham's writing is celebrated (though can understand if people feel his writing hasn't aged well), have appreciated always his sharp prose, insight and charm. It is interesting to see his work adapted on film, which it isn't enough in my view. Good examples are the three films comprising 'The Aesop's Fables Maugham Concerto Trilogy', three anthology/portmanteau films of three or more segments important in popularising this particular format (especially 'Quartet').
1948's 'Quartet' is the first of this particular trilogy, the other two being 1950's 'Trio' and 1951's 'Encore'. It is not an even film all the way through (anthology films seldom are, in a number of the numerous ones seen there is at least one segment that doesn't work as well as the others), but it is very good with not an awful lot to criticise as an overall whole. Of the three films, 'Quartet' is perhaps the best, though all three are worthwhile and more in their own right. Found a lot to like about all four segments, named "The Facts of Life", "The Alien Corn", "The Kite" and "The Colonel's Lady".
As said, there is not an awful lot wrong at all. For my tastes, "The Kite" ended slightly anti-climactically and "The Alien Corn", while still well done in its own way, beautifully acted, insightful and quite touching, has a different, darker tone than the rest of the lighter, more subtle stories and it slightly jarred in comparison.
There is an awful lot to like in 'Quartet'. Will agree with those saying that "The Colonel's Lady" is the best of the four, found it very insightful, beautifully subtle and very moving, the ending being an especially poignant touch. Loved the twists at the end of each segments, the most surprising being the one for "The Alien Corn", and the thoughtful hosting of W Somerset Maugham himself. 'Journey's End's' RC Sheriff adapts the stories with intelligence, refreshing lightness and respect for Maugham's writing, with a nice mix of emotion, thought-provoking subtlety ("The Facts of Life" being the most subtle and gentle perhaps), real insight into the subject matter, charm and offbeat amusement ("The Kite" particularly).
'Quartet' is beautifully filmed and directed, especially in "The Colonel's Lady", as well as evocatively scored throughout. The cast range from good to brilliant, with the best performance coming from Cecil Parker. It was interesting to see a pre-stardom Dirk Bogarde and he is also very good, as is Honor Blackman
Concluding, very well done. Worth seeing for especially "The Colonel's Lady", which gets my personal vote of the best segments of all three films in the trilogy. 8/10 Bethany Cox