This is another of those movies I’d never heard of, but was pleased to find it’s a comedy. Once again a romantic comedy which is regarded as a valid piece of cinema due to its age?
Watching it, I can see some art to the direction, some weirdness about the plot, the structure of how he imagines what he will do about his supposedly cheating wife. The batshit premise of the film is quite at home with current comedy movie scripts, in that respect there’s very little has changed. This is one of those old ‘movie as play on screen’ productions, with lots of long scenes of dialogue between two people in one room.
What I really enjoyed about the film was the acting and the script. There’s some gorgeous long interchanges, some snappy one liners and some laugh out loud moments. It’s tight. Honestly? It reminded me of a Shakespeare comedy, with lots of misunderstandings, miscommunication, overly elaborate plots and long metaphors (especially the scene where Alfred describes a movie about a dog to Daphne but it’s all about how he knows she cheated on him.)
“For me no one handles Handel like you handle Handel”
The costuming and sets are very beautiful as well, reminiscent of all the high class inner spaces of All About Eve. It’s a stunningly beautiful film, and the black and white seems to emphasise that beauty. The gorgeous long takes of speech and action help as well.
Does it make me love the people? Absolutely. Alfred’s sympathetic if a bit extreme in his reactions. I feel for Daphne more than him, but it’s the kind of film where people are generally likable and sweet.
The sequence where Alfred is trying to set up his perfect murder is just… incredible. Like those sequences in infomercials where everything goes wrong? It’s like that but writ large, hilarious! I watched it with Jo and the two of us where laughing so hard we were tearing up.
Bechdel test: Barbara and Daphne talk to each other a lot, but I rather think it’s always about either August or Alfred.
August: You keep repeating ” keep an eye on your wife,” as if it had some special meaning. Well, you see Alfred, being a little nearsighted, I couldn’t keep an eye on her from Palm Beach. Nevertheless, I did not fail you.
Alfred: Again, something’s happening to my back hair. I don’t recollect saying anything to you at the airport except possibly good-bye. But if I did say keep an eye on my wife for me, I meant see if she’s lonely some evening. And if she is, take her to the movies, you and Barbara.
August: But you didn’t say that. You said, ” Keep an eye on my wife for me.”
Alfred: Well, supposing I did, how could you do it from Palm Beach?
August: With detectives.
Alfred: With detectives! You stuffed moron!
August: Control yourself, Alfred. Control yourself. This is entirely uncalled for. Kindly release my scarf.
Alfred: You dare to inform me you had vulgar footpads in snap-brim fedoras…sluicing after my beautiful wife?
August: I believe it’s called ” sleuthing.” Kindly let go of my shirt. You’re tearing it.There’s nothing to be so upset about. I merely had her tailed.
Alfred: You merely had her what?
Alfred: I give you my solemn word, August: if I don’t regain control of myself in a few minutes, concert or no concert, I’ll take this candelabrum and beat that walnut you use for a head into a nutburger, I believe they’re called!
Alfred: what would you think if your wife had been untrue to you?
Jules: Untrue to me, sir? Oh, I think it’s most unlikely. First of all,
where would she find anybody, sir? And in the second place, if she’d wanted
somebody better looking than me… she could’ve had him easy enough. – I was awful ugly when I was young, sir.
State of Mind: genius, I loved that. Bright and funny and a lovely ending. The characters are interesting and witty and the script zings. According to the internet this is one of Quentin Tarantino’s favourite movies, and whether that’s a recommendation or not I’m not sure, but I can see how it would appeal to him. There are definite homages to this film in his works and his scripting is very much in this style.