In Memoriam 1942 – 2013 “Roger Ebert loved movies.”

RogerEbert.com

Thumb_large_nqau8oyqozqla1fhyl0htrfn4yf

Stray Dogs

Tsai Ming-Liang's first feature in five years is a mysterious and alienating series of tableaus about the fragility of flesh and the smallness of humanity.

Other Reviews
Review Archives
Thumb_xbepftvyieurxopaxyzgtgtkwgw

Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

Thumb_jrluxpegcv11ostmz1fqha1bkxq

Monsieur Hire

Patrice Leconte's "Monsieur Hire" is a tragedy about loneliness and erotomania, told about two solitary people who have nothing else in common. It involves a…

Other Reviews
Great Movie Archives

Stray Dogs

Tsai Ming-Liang's first feature in five years is a mysterious and alienating series of tableaus about the fragility of flesh and the smallness of humanity.

Other Articles
Blog Archives

Reviews

Staircase

  |  

Stanley Donen's "Staircase" is an unpleasant exercise in bad taste -- in taste so bad, in fact, you wonder how Donen, who directed "Singin' in the Rain" and "Bedazzled" (1968) could have directed it. The fault isn't with the subject matter (the decay of two homosexual hairdressers), but with the style. And style is usually Donen's strong point.

But here he gives us no warmth, humor or even the dregs of understanding. He exploits the improbable team of Rex Harrison and Richard Burton as a sideshow attraction. We're not asked to watch a movie about homosexuals, but a movie about Harrison and Burton playing homosexuals. They play them with embarrassing clumsiness.

I wonder if that was deliberate. Harrison minces about in a parody of homosexual mannerisms -- not that many (or perhaps any) homosexuals ever acted as he portrays them. Maybe he's trying to tell us he's so straight he can't even play a homosexual. But he doesn't even play a character. Neither he nor Burton is believable for more than seconds.

The action vaguely involves a week or two in their lives. Burton cares for his aging and bedridden mother. Harrison worries about a court date after being arrested for soliciting in drag. They go for a picnic. They squabble. Burton has blood-pressure trouble. He makes a great deal of his bald head. Charles Dyer, the author, throws in a lot of crude theatrical symbolism; apparently we're being told that if Burton would only take those towels off his head and face the fact that he's bald, he wouldn't be queer anymore. Or at least not unhappily queer.

There's doubtless supposed to be pathos and tenderness in the way Burton cares for his arthritic mother. But these scenes are the most distasteful of all. In one, he changes her gown by pulling it up over her head, causing her to raise and bend her arms painfully. She screams. He dresses her in a clean gown. More screams. After her years of arthritis, shouldn't it have occurred to someone to use a gown that wasn't a pullover? Or is he being deliberately sadistic? No, that's not established either. So the scene is simply cruel without dramatic purpose.

So is the film. We never believe that any relationship, homosexual or otherwise, exists between Harrison and Burton; they carp at each other self-consciously, coasting through roles they obviously don't take seriously in a film they don't respect. The result is hideous.

Popular Blog Posts

There's Something About "Blade Runner"

A new look at the role of hero and villain in Ridley Scott's "Blade Runner."

The Unloved, Part Ten: "The Village"

Part ten in Scout Tafoya's The Unloved series tackles "The Village."

The strength of Robin Williams

An appreciation of the actor's perseverance through age 63 despite depression.

Different rules apply

White privilege, lived.

Reveal Comments
comments powered by Disqus