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Saturday, May 24, 2008

THE LION IN WINTER (1968)


Monstrous gargoyles stare at us during the credit sequence as John Barry's fine, malevolent score pounds away like Stravinsky in Symphony of Psalms mode. (Though the actual theme is suspiciously like the Aegamemnon 'motto' in Strauss's ELEKTRA.) Then Douglas Slocombe’s atmospheric lensing kicks in and, for a while, the dynastic struggles of Henry II, Eleanor of Aquitaine & Co. make for tasty drama. If only James Goldman, scripting off his own play, wasn't so determined to undercut his best story instincts with hip, ironic or comic tags substituting for wit & substance. The plots & infighting grow progressively pointless and there’s precious little to show for all the braying & barking. The whole contraption starts to feel like a tease. Even so, the film is cleverly produced, Peter O’Toole & Katherine Hepburn get a welcome chance to display their preternatural film acting chops and the little known supporting cast (Timothy Dalton, Anthony Hopkins, Nigel Terry & John Castle) now looks lux indeed.

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