Monday, March 01, 2010

Movie Log: The Importance of Being Earnest (1952)

The Wife and I saw the more recent Importance of Being Earnest movie in the theater, back eight or so years ago, but we hadn't caught up with this very stagy Anthony Asquith-directed version from fifty years ago until this very snowy February. Asquith's Importance of Being Earnest announces itself as a stage production from before the opening credits, with a well-dressed late-Victorian couple settling into a box seat, and then does the obvious thing by having a curtain rise.

It settles down after that to just showing the play, filmed on a few sets, though thankfully Asquith doesn't bolt his camera down to simulate the viewpoint of an audience, but lets it move about the set like any other director of his era.

Otherwise, Asquith -- who is also credited as writer -- seems to have just ported Wilde's words to the screen without any noticeable emendations or deletions, which is greatly to his credit. Wilde's play is one of the great pieces of arch, witty theatre, and so Asquith's version maintains those advantages without trying to put his own stamp on it.

The cast is wonderfully full of themselves in that very Wildean way; the women -- Joan Greenwood as Gwendolen Fairfax and Dorothy Tutin as Cecily Cardew -- are particularly tart in their scenes together. The modern movie is good in its way, but this version is timeless; it'll be as good, and true to Wilde, in fifty years as it is today, and I'm not sure if the same can be said for the newer version.
Listening to: Anna Ternheim - No Subtle Men
via FoxyTunes

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Lovely Review! Took all the words out of my mouth!

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