25 April 2002 | rsoonsa
Sufficient wit at the expense of imagination.
Based quite loosely upon a play of the same name by Jean Anouilh, this film has been designed not merely as a showcase for the oversize comedic talent of Peter Sellers, but also, due to excessive producer interference, as a sex farce where character predominates over language, after the manner of a well-wrought and linear work of theatre. A droll script by Wolf Mankowitz transposes the action from post World War II France to early 20th century Sussex, arranging the characters in the story-propelled manner of the playwright, whose intensive exploration of the spirit becomes increasingly prominent as the work runs its course, greatly assisted by sensitive performances from Sellers, as the libidinous General Leo Fitzjohn, and by Margaret Leighton as Emily, his suffering wife. The plot spirals about the freshly retired General Fitzjohn and his longwhile Gallic inamorata, Ghislaine (Dany Robin) who have, as seen in a series of flashbacks, never been able to complete their love, but who are apparently finally going to be able to do so; that is, if a series of latter-day obstacles might be overcome. The picture is directed smoothly by John Guillermin, and there are excellent performances from Cyril Cusack as Dr. Grogan, the General's best friend, and John Fraser as a naive subaltern assigned to Fitzjohn, while a magnificent score is contributed by Richard Addinsell, one of his best for the screen, notable for its unreserved use of a minor key to accompany romantic and comic events. Unlike his Absurdist contemporaries, Anouilh never abandoned a sense of existential despair throughout his dramas, and this production succeeds in creating tension between Fitzjohn's sense of loss of place and his ability to forge forward after his natural urges, as evidenced by the delicious ending.