11 August 2004 | rcraig62
Or Goldilocks And The Three Bears
"Look Back In Anger" is a mostly good reproduction of John Osborne's stage play about a college-educated Englishman trapped in a dank working class existence and lashing out at everyone around him. The performances are excellent all around; Mary Ure's I found the most moving as the fragile upper-class wife. My only complaint is the elements of staginess that were not expelled from the original incarnation: what Richard Burton does in this movie works better on the stage than it does on film. The screen is already larger than life, he doesn't need to expand the performance the way he does. As I was watching it, I found myself easily picturing Robin Williams performing the same material as a parody of gross overacting. For this, I blame the director Tony Richardson for not restraining him somewhat. I've actually liked Burton better in more modulated performances in lousy movies (the VIPs, The Comedians). Burton is a great talent, but he sometimes has the effect of a baseball pitcher with "great stuff"; he attacks the batters with pure heat and no finesse. There are also bits of business that should have been excised, like Burton and Gary Raymond's occasional breaks into Music Hall skits. That is exclusively a stage bit; it doesn't develop the characters and stops the dramatic flow.
Richardson, otherwise, shows good understanding of the film medium. The look of it is about right- the characters are the right distance from the camera to deliver their lines for maximum impact (in other words, the shots aren't cramped with close-ups in an already cramped apartment). And some scenes are shot exceptionally well: the last scene in the fog and mist with Burton and Mary Ure silhouetted is superb, as is the shot in the small doorway where Miss Ure must decide whether to join her husband or go to church with Claire Bloom's character, while Miss Bloom holds open the tiny door that exposes a flurry of street activity.
"Look Back In Anger" is a well-done film, although I think Richard Burton's assault of the audience as well as the other characters keeps it from true greatness. 3 *** out of 4