Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Quartet (1948)

This fascinating piece of film history is based on four different short stories by W.Somerset Maugham, with an introduction and conclusion by the author himself.  His comments on writing are interesting (especially to a fellow writer [albeit unsuccessful one!] like myself), and the four stories, each introduced by the first sentence or two from the story being read, are quite intriguing.  Each story looks at part of the human psyche, with moments of intrigue, comedy and just downright weirdness.  There are a plethora of stars featuring here, including Cecil Parker, Honor Blackman, George Cole and many others.

The four stories featured in Quartet are:

The Facts of Life - a young man travels to Monte Carlo for a tennis tournament, with three specific pieces of advice from his worried father - don't gamble, don't lend money to anyone, and don't get involved with women.  The young man of course manages to break all three, though not altogether intentionally.  He turns out to be a very lucky young man however, though his father is still not a happy man... Whimsical and simply told, it nevertheless holds great interest in its characters and has a killer last line.

'The Alien Corn' - this one features Dirk Bogarde as a young man intent on pursuing a career as a professional pianist, much to the dismay of his family.  The young woman who loves him (who disturbingly appears to be his first cousin) tries to help but is also looking for her feelings to be reciprocated.  The ending has a "that's can't really be what's going to happen, can it?" feeling to it.

'The Kite' - George Cole is a young man with a passion for flying kites.  He ends up in prison and his life in tatters; a prison visitor tries to get to the bottom of what has happened.  A feud between his mother and wife are mainly to blame.  The happy ending does seem a bit contrived, but it is only presented as a possibility so doesn't lose plausibility as a result - in any case this is very surreal and just a little disturbing.

'The Colonel's Lady' - the wife of a retired colonel has a boring marriage, but when her book of poetry is published, things are about to get a lot more interesting...  It turns out that this mild-mannered housewife who wouldn't say boo to a Goose has more fiery passion in her than anyone - especially her husband - ever imagined.

The four stories cover the innocence of youth, two cases of obsession and trying to regain lost youth in that order, so the stories int he film have a nice symmetry to them.  The 2003 DVD restoration does a cracking job apart from a couple of rare errors on the soundtrack.  The link below is for the DVD collection we have which has Quartet along with two other films based on "W.Somerset Maugham's stories (Encore and TriO), which I haven't yet seen.

CaptainD - Movie Reviews Blog

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