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Thursday, April 30, 2009

THE VORTEX (1969)

Noël Coward’s first stage success, a veddy Freudian mother/son drama, is remembered, if at all, for Coward’s role as the drug addicted son, a ‘lost boy’ for the 1920s. But the central role and story line really belong to the boy’s mother, a woman who gives her limited stock of love & attention not to her own flesh & blood, but to her current lover, a man barely older than her son. As played by Margaret Leighton in the BBC production, she’s something of a Tennessee Williams gorgon, a proto-Blanche Dubois fighting a losing battle against the ravages of time and clinging to illusions from the past. The form of the play is familiar from the drawing room comedies Coward would soon revitalize, but here it’s effortlessly repurposed into society drama. And, except for some last act speechifying that finds a best friend over-masticating just what’s at stake, it holds up surprisingly well. Though, it certainly gets little help from the formulaic tv shooting technique that turns every edit into an unintentional jump cut.

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