15 November 2004 | film-critic
King of night vision, king of insight.
Needless to day Galileo, look where we are now. I applaud your work and your dedication to the truth it has changed my future immensely. Sadly, the same can't be same for this film. If there was ever a film that you needed to use as a weapon of mass destruction against an unknown foe, Joseph Losey's Galileo would be my number one pick. By doing this you would ensure victory to your team by forcing your opponents to fall asleep. Galileo was the dullest piece of film I have ever encountered. From the acting to the irritating boys singing before every scene was just pure rubbish. This biography did nothing but uproot past High School science reports about this genius. It presented nothing new and nothing exciting. It was genetic cross between a classic British mini-series and one of those friends that never seems to get the hint that they are talking way too much. It was a disaster that would probably, in today's standards, put Galileo back into house arrest.
The role of Galileo was played an interesting actor by the name of Topol. New to this generation's work, I wasn't sure who Topol was until I watched this film. For those of you who do not know, he is a mix between an insane street urchin and a bearded John Belushi. His actions in this film seemed random and rabid at the same time. I never knew what he was going to do or say next, half due to the poor quality in sound, but also because Topol never looked scripted. I guess this is a good thing because it gave some realism to the scene, but it destroyed his character. I kept seeing Galileo as insane instead of brilliant. I know some will argue that Galileo was insane, but when I read about him I just couldn't picture him as one of those screwball geniuses. I always felt he was the real deal, just misunderstood. Topol's delivery of Galileo is longwinded in the sense that he talks more about his actions than just doing them. There seemed to be a lot of this going around in the film, but I will get into that later. Honestly, I wasn't impressed with Topol's performance in this film. I need to see him in more before I make my final decision on his acting ability, but Galileo was not his cup of tea. Outside of Topol, I didn't care about any of the other characters or really fully understand who they were. The lack of character development (odd in a three hour film) and poor sound (outside of the singing kids) only pulled me further away from the rest of the cast. They were just not up to quality standards.
While researching this film, I read by another reviewer about the reasoning for the American Film Theater to make this style of movie. In the mid 70s the organization released several of their plays to the silver screen for their members. As a chance to capture more people to their plays, they offered these subscriptions with six tickets to other films that they had released. The strange aspect about these movies is that they are not filmed as if the actors are on a stage, nor do they carry a lavish budget. They use some fancy (for the time) camera work to highlight some emotions in the characters, but that is it. The rest is cheap and claustrophobic scenery that would immediately turn the novice moviegoer away. Perhaps during this era this was considered amazing cinematography and set design, but in my eyes it just seems shoddy and poor. For this film to work well there needed to be less conversation, more involvement by other characters, and less singing. I didn't see this film labeled as a musical (and I understand why the kids sang to help guide the audience throughout the film as in a play), so I didn't need the twenty minute sexually driven dance sequence in the middle. It was as if it was put in there for the men in the audience that had patiently been waiting through this film (forcing their eyes to remain open) as an added benefit. Suddenly everyone was awake, just in time for the second act. GRRRRRRR.
Overall, this film put me to sleep several times before it was over. It was not the biography I was hoping for on this acclaimed scientist. As a period piece film it failed and as a 'courtroom drama' it failed as well. The actors seemed like they were overacting for film because they were used to the theater productions. Infants did the camera work and the singing kids who introduced the scenes should have been put out of their misery. At least wait till someone has hit puberty to get them singing! Jeesh. If the American Theater wanted this to attract others to their productions, they should have filmed it on a stage, it would have created a better atmosphere and tone. Topol, I hope to see you in better down the road, but until then, stay far away from science.
Grade: * out of *****