Rust, Bones and the Wind: A Delicate Balance with Hepburn and Scofield (for Parterre Box)

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Paul Scofield and Katharine Hepburn in A Delicate Balance.


David Fox:
I first saw director Tony Richardson‘s starry 1973 film of Edward Albee’s A Delicate Balance when I was still in high school. At the time, I knew Albee pretty much only from Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, a play I devoured and knew to be brilliant—without, I’m now certain, really understanding it. Anyway, at the time, ADB (as we’ll call it for convenience) seemed to me the most sophisticated, elegant thing I’d ever experienced. Revisiting it 47 years later, I can’t quite say that; in fact, watching it again was a heartbreaking reminder of how much of Albee’s work now strikes me as pretentious posturing (more on that later). But the pleasures of it also came back, including some exceptionally fine acting by an intriguingly disparate group of actors. And it’s certainly full of verve and wit. And it’s visually stunning, set in a to-die-for New England estate. Taken purely as acquisition porn, it’s hard to beat ADB. In that moment I first saw it, there was not a corner of the set, a wardrobe item, or a moment of their luxurious lives I wouldn’t have sold my soul to possess.

Cameron Kelsall: Albee certainly understood that facet of the privileged class—the finely manicured surfaces obscuring emotional rot and pain—having grown up, unhappily, in those environs. Watching ADB now from an historical perspective, it’s easy to understand the play’s allure and initial success. Albee, an avant-garde playwright who successfully transitioned to mainstream theater with Virginia Woolf, blends the absurdist ethos of his early works into an uptown aesthetic with seeming ease. The way he conceptualizes and addresses the problems of the monied class are intriguing and disturbing. He also uses the theatrical technique of certain characters mirroring each other—something I equate heavily with experimentalism—as he also did in Virginia Woolf (and would continue to do throughout his career). But while I agree that the film is rendered nicely and strongly acted, the work itself packs much less of a punch than I’d hoped…

Click here to read the full post at Parterre Box.

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