The Dead DVD
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Directed by John Huston
Produced in 1987
Main Language - English
Countries & Regions - British Film, American film
With its poetry recitals, musical interludes and
restrained political debate, The Dead is rich in
drawing room culture. And for a film so brief, its
recreation of an early twentieth century, upper class
Irish dinner party is deceptively leisurely. It seems
a world away from the director’s more grandiose
excesses (Moby Dick, The Red Badge of Courage, even
The Bible), yet it is a milieu John Huston conjures up
with agreeable assurance.
Huston was well known for his cigar chomping
ebullience and reckless appetite for adventure. But he
was also a man of refinement, a raconteur, and by the
time he made The Dead he was preparing for death
himself. (He needed lungfuls of oxygen from an onset
tank between takes). How fitting then that he created
a civilised wake of a film instead of a tired
throwback to his more energetic movies. For The Dead
is about remembering and lamenting - favourite songs,
respected actors, old friends and relatives. It may be
an anomalous ending to a long and rickety career, but
it is a remarkably dignified one.
As the dinner party closes, we are presented with a
sensitive vignette that brings into focus the tainted
marriage of Gretta and Gabriel (Angelica Huston and
Donal MacCann). Preparing for bed, a weeping Gretta
confesses her inability to forget a long-dead lover.
This is the sober aftermath to a tasteful evening’s
entertainment, the film’s raison d’etre, a poignant
reminder that all good things come to an end. “One by
one we are all becoming shades,” says a melancholy
Gabriel, staring out into the dark snowy night. As he
filmed this scene, no-one must have felt the sentiment
more strongly than Huston himself.
Julian Upton on 4th April 2006
Author of 150 reviews
A vignette from Joyces 'Dubliners' about a family's dinner party gathering in New Year 1904, Huston's final film, while lovingly distilling the warm spirit of its characters, period and occasion, is a delicate meditation on memory and lost love. One for curling up to by the winter fireside, with snowflakes softly drifting.
Length: 80 mins
Aspect ratio: 16:9
Cat No: 7952432
Format: DVD Colour
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