Thursday, May 28, 2009

Quartet (1948): 9.0/10

Quartet (1948)
Grade: 9.0

The only awesome thing it terms of legitimate quality that Amanda and I have watched besides Cousins. What a breath of fresh air this was. And vignettes to boot! I ended up buying this from Video Visions actually. W. Somerset Maugham introduces the film which includes 4 short stories, collectively known as Quartet, each done by a different director, each a half an hour. This British film literally has everything going for it; its’ only flaws are a false feeling ending to the third story, an almost universal hatred towards women and a corny at times introduction and conclusion by Maugham himself (but it’s so deliciously random that I cannot fault it).

Each story contains a unique story in which the modesty within is so charming. The first story called “The Facts of Life” involves three wonderful surprises. The first is that at first one thinks that the story is going to be about an old man whereas it is actually about that man’s son. The story revolves around a young man going to Monte Carlo for a tennis tournament and the son’s experiences with the things that the father warns him against. The second surprise is that the old man tells his son to stay away from gambling, lending people money and women. Since the father warns the son about three things, we have no idea which is going to take the lead in the trouble that he will get into. The third surprise is that the father’s perspective is somewhat skewed and his worry at the events of the story are misleading which leads to a delightful ending. Overall this story surprised me in many lovely ways which felt refreshing overall and its’ protagonist Ralph is adorable and likeable.

The second story, my personal favorite titled confusingly, at least to me, “The Alien Corn” is about an aspiring pianist played by a young Dirk Bogarde whose uptight family makes a deal with him upon hearing about his desired profession; live in Paris for two years as he wishes with a small allowance to develop his skills. After that, a trained professional will listen to him play and their his/her opinion will be the deciding factor to whether or not he has any potential as a first class pianist. If yes, he can continue; if not he has to give up his profession. He agrees and…well I won’t tell you what happens. It all coincides with a subplot involving his cousin being in love with him and her efforts to discuss the matter. However, he is so wrapped up in his potential career, he never even notices her being around. This story was my favorite, only slightly because of its hinted upon complexities and the really impressive levels of the story that are available to be read into by viewers. Creepy incest aside, fantastic half an hour.

The third story, “The Kite” was my least favorite only because of the end which I really hated. Apparently if I remember correctly, it is supposed to be the narrators’ idea of how the story might have ended but I do not even care if it was an interpretation. I hated it. The character of Betty is also The Devil. Holy god what an evil woman. My lack of sympathy for the characters because of their supposed love even though they don’t know what the others hobbies are until they get married made me care less. I really loved the introduction of the story though and how they make you completely sympathetic towards Herbert after hearing the story. Even though that seems contradictory to what I said before, Herbert is somewhat sympathetic given the situation if only because the other characters are just not sympathetic.

The fourth story was an absolute delight mainly because of the utter awesomeness of the female character Mrs. Peregrine. I also liked that the story is told from the Colonel’s point of view starting with his lack of fascination to his annoyance to his stubbornness to his paranoia all leading up to the revealing confrontation he has with his wife that will hopefully start them on the road to a better marriage.

Overall I had very few problems with this film; all of them quite minor in retrospect. This was an utter delight of a film with four stories that all offered something different to the overall product. A refreshing relatively obscure gem.

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