Monday, February 5, 2024

Darling redux

Many's the year ago that I took along a videorecording (VCR; DVDs hadn't quite come out yet) of an Oscar-winning film as an AV addition to the scholarly paper I was giving. The movie was Darling (John Schlesinger, 1965), and the reason for my need of it was the appearance, in a cameo role, of Hugo Dyson, the Inkling I was giving a paper on. Dyson gave a lot of academic talks to camera, but he wasn't otherwise much of an actor, so this was an unusual appearance. In the movie, Julie Christie plays a model who forms an extramarital alliance with a radio & tv interviewer played by Dirk Bogarde, and he takes her along with him on an interview with a famous elderly writer, and that's Dyson's part.

That's fairly early on in the movie, and while I watched quickly through the rest at the time just to know what happens, I didn't pay close attention. It was only recently that, coming across the cast list, I noticed that it includes a couple actresses who went on to appear in Patrick McGoohan's The Prisoner. Intrigued, because it's always fun to spot a performer you know in a different role, I decided to watch the film again more closely.

This was tricky, as it's not available streaming. However, a couple of public libraries still have DVDs of it, so I got it from one of them.

Dirk Bogarde's character is supposed to be a deep, book-reading man, but in fact he's a twit. He does programs like man-on-the-street interviews of What's Wrong with Britain. The answers turn out to be things like traffic, people wanting sumpfin for nuffin, and the rising tide of homosexuality (yes, really). But it's because Dirk is so deep and stuffy that Julie gets tired of him, which she expresses by insulting his character. She runs off to experience the glamorous life in continental high society. Here is where we meet the Prisoner actresses. Georgina Cookson (Mrs. Butterworth) plays a catty woman who exchanges elegant insults with Laurence Harvey. Then Annette Carell ("B" from "A B & C") plays a sculptor - she's always talking about the shape of people's heads - who lures Julie into a strange party game which involves taking off most of your clothes, putting on somebody else's, and then performing a sarcastic imitation of them.

Eventually Julie accepts a marriage proposal from a wealthy widowed Italian prince, but finding herself alone and lonely in his spacious mansion, she suddenly decides that Dirk was the man for her after all and rushes back to London to meet him. But guess what, he's had enough, he doesn't want her any more, and he bullies her into getting on a plane back to Rome.

I can't say I believe any of this, or am very interested in it. Everybody's cretinous - except Hugo Dyson, he's a nice old man - and none of what they say makes much sense. Even during the halcyon period when Julie and Dirk are supposedly happy together, their love talk is nonsensical blither, their usual response to any question of what they want is "I don't know," and they keep being more meta-concerned about their state of happiness than actually experiencing it.

I had to watch parts of the movie three times through to catch the people I was looking for, because I kept falling asleep. Now I have perhaps conveyed what it's like to suffer through it.

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