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Friday, January 31, 2014

251 of 1001 Movies: The Dead (1987)

There are two reasons to watch this movie, and neither apply to me. If you're a huge John Huston fan, or if you're a fan of the James Joyce short story included in his collection The Dubliners. I've seen some good Huston films, but I wouldn't call myself a fan, and I've only read one Joyce story and it wasn't something that really caught me. So I didn't have a lot really going for me, but for those who enjoy these types of  movies that have a lot of obscure character analysis then this might be one to watch.

Summary: Gretta and Gabriel Conroy area attending a Christmas party that in a way will be an epiphany for them. The dinner is put on by Gabriel's aunts who fill the evening with dancing and singing. Also an array of interesting characters show up including Mr. Brown, Freddy, and an array of other people Aunt Kate and Julia though are the focus of the party though as the guests respect them. There is something brewing though between Gretta and Gabriel that begins to reveal the rockiness of their marriage throughout the evening though.


Acting: This movie notably stars Angelica Huston, who is John Huston's daughter. Huston seems to only have been cast here because she was his daughter. The summary on the movie slip I got read that this was an all Irish cast, yet Huston isn't Irish. Her accent also is quite weak, and at sometimes when she is talking you can't understand clearly what she is saying. Near the end her struggle with the accent takes away from what is supposed to be a powerful, revealing scene between the married couple. Other actors work better though like Donal McCann as Gabriel, who has a powerful speech at the end. Really though there were so many characters, and such little time I felt like I was just sitting at a boring dinner party.

Filming: This is notably John Huston's last film. He was also very ill and old when filming this, and the idea shows through the movie. I think maybe if I was older I could appreciate this movie more as it is about the reflections between the older and the younger, and I assume what Gabriel foresees in their future as he watches his older aunts. This also gives the movie a dark vibe. Though they seem to be having fun at this party and having a good time the underlining struggles the characters have make it something that just makes you really dread getting old. For Huston fans though it will be an admirable work as the director is trying to translate his own feelings toward his circumstance through a shorty story by Joyce.

Plot: The plot is supposedly very closely adapted from the story. I wouldn't know as I haven't read the story that it is based on. I can tell that there is supposed to be deep revelations revealed within the dinner party. You can tell just by the way the characters peer at each other. Without much dialogue given to the problems that might plague Greta and Gabriel though I don't feel much attention is given to whatever is happening there, and by the end it blows up sort of out of nowhere. I saw them make some faces during the party and have some awkward moments, but nothing as explosive as what builds up at the end. I just wish something had been able to pull from the characters a bit more.

Overall, The Dead was thankfully not too long as I never felt involved or interested in what was happening with the characters. It seems many people really do love this movie though, but I have a feeling they could be hardcore Huston fans. I felt like I was at a dinner party I needed to escape though because it was a long ride to the end. In the end the themes explored are better meant for a book than a movie.

Rating 4 of 10.


The Dead (1987) on IMDb

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