Look Back in Anger

1959

Drama

2
Rotten Tomatoes Critics - Certified Fresh 92%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience - Upright 78%
IMDb Rating 7.2 10 2714

Synopsis


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Cast

Richard Burton as Jimmy Porter
Claire Bloom as Helena Charles
Gary Raymond as Cliff Lewis
720p.BLU 1080p.BLU
823.81 MB
1204*720
English
NR
23.976 fps
1hr 38 min
P/S 0 / 14
1.57 GB
1792*1072
English
NR
23.976 fps
1hr 38 min
P/S 1 / 7

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by James Hitchcock 7 / 10

Dilutes the Power of Osborne's Play

John Osborne's "Look Back in Anger", first performed at London's Royal Court Theatre in 1956, is often cited as marking a theatrical revolution. The British theatre of the early fifties, dominated by playwrights like Noel Coward and Terence Rattigan, was widely regarded as genteel, well-mannered and middle-class. Osborne's play can be seen as a deliberate reaction against those values. Its plot is conventional enough. It centres around the stormy marriage of a young couple, Jimmy and Alison Porter, who separate after a series of quarrels. Unknown to Jimmy, Alison is pregnant at the time, and he starts a relationship with her best friend Helena, an actress. Six months later Alison, having lost her baby, returns, and Helena ends her affair with Jimmy so as to allow the couple to be reunited.

What was shocking about the play was its social setting and the attitudes displayed by the characters, especially Jimmy. He is from a working-class family and, although he has a university degree, has turned his back on the sort of well-paid white-collar job that such an educational background would normally have led to in the fifties, working as a trader in the local market, running a sweet stall with his friend Cliff. He and Alison, with Cliff as a lodger, live in a dingy bed-sit in a large Midlands town. Alison herself is from the wealthy upper middle classes (her father is a retired Indian Army officer) and her family resent her marriage to Jimmy.

It was in the late fifties that the term "Angry Young Man" was coined by the critics to describe not only writers such as Osborne, Kingsley Amis and John Braine, but also their characters such as Jimmy Porter and Amis's Lucky Jim, characters who were seen as the mouthpieces of their creators. Jimmy is, to borrow the title of a famous film of the period, a rebel without a cause. He is instinctively suspicious of any form of authority and of the establishment. He is hostile to religion and to the growing conservatism of fifties Britain. He dislikes Alison's family, especially her mother, because he sees them as part of the traditional British ruling class. He does not, however, himself really subscribe to any alternative system of values such as Communism or Socialism. A frequent theme of his complaints is that there are no longer any good causes to fight for; he envies his parents' generation who could fight the anti-fascist battles of the thirties and forties. (His father was a veteran of the Spanish Civil War).

Jimmy's relationship with Alison is a complex one, perhaps best expressed by the cliché that they can neither live with one another nor without one another. On the one hand, the differences in their personalities and their social backgrounds is the cause of constant friction between them. On the other, they have a deep emotional need for one another, shown by their game of "bears and squirrels". To an outsider such as Helena this is mere sentimental whimsy; to them, it is a way of expressing their mutual love.

The British cinema was undergoing a similar revolution in the late fifties to that which was happening in the theatre, with an increasing emphasis on films about working-class life in what became known as "kitchen sink realism". It was, therefore, perhaps inevitable that "Look Back" would be filmed. It is, however, not a very cinematic play. Apart from its plot, it is traditional in another respect, in that it observes two of the three classical unities, those of place and action. The film-makers clearly felt that this structure would not work in the cinema, because they took pains to "open it up". The action moves out of Jimmy's flat- there are scenes set in a jazz club, in the market where Jimmy works and in a theatre where Helena is appearing. Characters, such as Mrs Tanner, who are only referred to in the play actually appear in person in the film. The writers have added a sub-plot, not found in the play, about Jimmy's struggles with an unpleasant market inspector and his attempts to prevent an Indian trader from falling victim to racist discrimination by the other stallholders.

At 115 minutes the film is already shorter than the normal running-time of a stage production of this play, and the insertion of these extra scenes meant that even more of the original text had to be sacrificed. Those who know the play from the theatre, therefore, will find the film version very truncated. Many of Jimmy's lengthy speeches, in particular, have been cut, and the centrality of the relationship between himself and Alison is diluted by the introduction of new characters and new sub-plots. Although "opening up" works when some stage plays are transferred to the screen, in my view this is not one of them. In my opinion the film would have worked better as a piece of "filmed theatre", sticking closer to Osborne's original text.

One reviewer compares this film to "A Streetcar Named Desire", which can be seen as a piece of American "kitchen sink". There are certainly similarities between the two plays, both of which have at their centre an angry, outspoken working-class young man (Stanley/Jimmy), a milder friend (Mitch/Cliff) and two more genteel, middle-class women (Blanche and Stella/Alison and Helena). Both plays, when performed well in the theatre, can also provide a powerful emotional experience. The famous Marlon Brando/Vivien Leigh version of "Streetcar", however, is a better film than "Look Back" because it succeeds in preserving the power of that experience in the cinema. At times, Richard Burton and Mary Ure come close to capturing the impact of Osborne's play, but it is only at times. At other times that impact seems weakened. 7/10

Reviewed by bkoganbing 8 / 10

No Worlds To Conquer

Rebellious youth has always been a good subject for movie makers and Look Back in Anger for the United Kingdom became what The Wild One and The Blackboard Jungle were on this side of the Atlantic.

Though like Marlon Brando, Richard Burton should have been way too old to portray a rebellious youth, he certainly overcomes it with a bravura performance. Burton saw the play on the London stage and went to author John Osbourne and told him he wanted to do the screen version.

For the screen version the producers had the good sense to hire Osbourne to write all the additional scenes needed for a film. The play as presented on stage takes place entirely within the apartment of married couple Richard Burton and Mary Ure. He's a lower class youth who's married well beyond his station. Class and station are quite a bit more rigid in Europe than they are here. He's got a dead end job with a peddler's license in an open air market.

In generations gone by the character of Jimmy Porter would have been off for adventure in some faraway place with a strange sounding name that the United Kingdom had as a part of its empire&commonwealth. But the empire is no more and British society as a whole was adjusting to it in the post World War II years. So all Mr. Burton can do is play his raging trumpet and take out his frustrations on all around him.

Mary Ure repeated her role from both the Drury Lane and Broadway productions and she and Burton are joined by a good ensemble with Claire Bloom, Edith Evans, Gary Raymond in the main feature parts. Also look for Donald Pleasance in an early role as an officious inspector at the market, the kind of bureaucrat you love to hate.

Although the UK is still around minus the empire, Look Back In Anger is a fascinating look back to post World War II Great Britain.

Reviewed by rcraig62 6 / 10

Or Goldilocks And The Three Bears

"Look Back In Anger" is a mostly good reproduction of John Osborne's stage play about a college-educated Englishman trapped in a dank working class existence and lashing out at everyone around him. The performances are excellent all around; Mary Ure's I found the most moving as the fragile upper-class wife. My only complaint is the elements of staginess that were not expelled from the original incarnation: what Richard Burton does in this movie works better on the stage than it does on film. The screen is already larger than life, he doesn't need to expand the performance the way he does. As I was watching it, I found myself easily picturing Robin Williams performing the same material as a parody of gross overacting. For this, I blame the director Tony Richardson for not restraining him somewhat. I've actually liked Burton better in more modulated performances in lousy movies (the VIPs, The Comedians). Burton is a great talent, but he sometimes has the effect of a baseball pitcher with "great stuff"; he attacks the batters with pure heat and no finesse. There are also bits of business that should have been excised, like Burton and Gary Raymond's occasional breaks into Music Hall skits. That is exclusively a stage bit; it doesn't develop the characters and stops the dramatic flow.

Richardson, otherwise, shows good understanding of the film medium. The look of it is about right- the characters are the right distance from the camera to deliver their lines for maximum impact (in other words, the shots aren't cramped with close-ups in an already cramped apartment). And some scenes are shot exceptionally well: the last scene in the fog and mist with Burton and Mary Ure silhouetted is superb, as is the shot in the small doorway where Miss Ure must decide whether to join her husband or go to church with Claire Bloom's character, while Miss Bloom holds open the tiny door that exposes a flurry of street activity.

"Look Back In Anger" is a well-done film, although I think Richard Burton's assault of the audience as well as the other characters keeps it from true greatness. 3 *** out of 4

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