Look Back in Anger DVD
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Directed by Tony Richardson
Produced in 1958
Main Language - English
Countries & Regions - British Film
Such was the seismic effect on the cultural landscape of John Osborne’s stage play Look Back in Anger, that a star name was required to play the protagonist Jimmy Porter in Tony Richardson’s big screen version. For the role of the frustrated, apoplectic, working class university graduate, raging against the world from his pokey, Midlands flat, thoughts turned to Richard Burton.
Burton certainly had the intensity to enliven Porter’s vehement monologues, targeting everything from his inert wife to the staid conventions of the typical English Sunday. But above hung the question, was he too intense? Burton’s Jimmy Porter is forceful and virile; anger oozes from him, venom coats his tongue. Surely, many thought, Porter should be more inconsequential. Yes, he has a chip on his shoulder – about his class, his education, the social mores of fifties England – but his rages are largely impotent; he is pissing against the wind.
Fifty years on, however, Burton’s performance seems to capture everything Look Back in Anger – and its author John Osborne – was really about. His overbearing aggression was prescient – it foreshadowed the ugliness of Osborne, who became more vitriolic and more embittered with the passing years, lashing out at wives, critics, anyone in his sights. For all his Bohemian passion and class-fuelled indignation, Porter’s (and Osborne’s) hatred is self-hatred, and Burton (who shared the sentiment) captures this sublimely. Jimmy Porter isn’t a hero; he’s an appalling man, cruel and abusive to his wife. But he also has a devastating turn of phrase, a capacity for dazzling insight. Somehow, the 1950s needed someone like him before it could become the 1960s.
Tony Richardson had directed the play on stage, and he stays faithful to its theatricality here. But there are attempts to open out the action, and a lot of what the film achieved set the tone for the New Wave, ‘kitchen sink’ cinema of the next decade. To his credit, Richardson retains Mary Ure from the stage version. As Porter’s long-suffering wife – glacial, pained and silent – she steals a few scenes from under Burton’s nose.
Julian Upton on 1st August 2009
Author of 150 reviews
Richard Burton gives an intense performance as angry young man Jimmy Porter in Tony Richardson's film version of John Osborne's ground-breaking stage play, adapted here for the screen by Nigel Kneale. A powerful, gritty film, based in class antagonism and the attitudes of alienated youth.
Publisher: Optimum Releasing
Length: 95 mins
Cat No: OPTD1631
Format: DVD B&W
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