29 July 2003 | MGMboy
Taylor's Beard For Burton's Hustler
`Boom' is a blast! This is one of the most fun of the Burton - Taylor films. "Boom" is also a gassy misfire that draws one into the veiled world of aging homosexual desire disguised as a heterosexual struggle between an aging, dying woman and the unattainable youth in the angel of Death.
This is story wearing a beard. Taylor's role is really that of an aging rich gay man who is trying to hang on to youth and the beauties that great beauty attract. After all, her name is `Sissy'. Burton's role is that of the hustler who is all that is left for the old queen to attract. But as with so many Williams works it all must be encrypted and coded so that the America of the late 50's and early 60's could handle his true intentions, the soft underbelly of his plays. Burton is too old for the role that was written for a man in his twenties and Taylor is too young and too healthy looking to be the dying Sissy. But despite that, the story of a struggle of great wealth against the inevitable grows from loopy strangeness to a compelling and moving ending. Here Taylor gives one of her oddly finest post Virginia Woolf studies in a dramatic/comic performance. There is in fact so much subversive humor in her performance that she is at times hilarious. Her vocal range dances from the shrill to the silly to the grand dame and all to serve her imperious and ultimately terrified Sissy Goforth. In the last desperate half hour of the film she does some of her finest work. Burton is rather cool and distant at first but builds his Angelo De Morte into a truly fine character study. In particular, listen to his fine delivery of the speech about the old man in the sea.
Particular note should be made of the cinematography, which is gorgeous, and the stunning sun washed bone toned opulent glamour of the sets. I understand that the Burtons owned the house in Sardinia for a while after the film was completed. The spare and haunting score by John Barry is an added delight to his impressive repertoire. And for you jewelry fans there is plenty of Miss Taylor's own jewelry on hand. So get out your copy of `My Love Affair With Jewelry' my Elizabeth and thumb along as she parades her diamonds in the Mediterranean sun.
Campy? Yes! Great? Maybe we will know about that in another 40 years. Is it worth your time? Only if you like a challenge and are willing to let the Burtons take you into the world of Tennessee Williams camp classic.