The late Alan Bates had many "bests" (if one may be permitted to say so)because of the constant intensity he brought to every role. He made acting something of a physical sport. In this case, his neurotic Butley uses language as a fencer's epee, yielding nothing to putative antagonists in the tight confines of an English department office in a major university as the camera follows him doggedly thrusting and parrying without pause. I especially liked the puns and double entendres (obviously). This sort of thing is not for everyone, of course, and I do not blame the viewer who is easily bored by such verbal jousting.
Did I mention the superb camera work? It is a tour de force to take a stage play like this one and make it come alive on film. Great acting and great direction would be lost without due attention to the medium, and this one has it par excellence. As depressing as the theme may be, and as unlikeable the fictional characters, this production succeeds in demonstrating just how powerful a film can be in spite of itself. It reminded me instantly of "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf" in that regard. And it is uncanny in its recognition of all the unhappy details found in any college English department office.
The nicest touch, of course, was in making Butley a T. S. Eliot specialist, with a photo of the lugubrious poet pinned to the wall. Much comic relief if one knows how to spot it.
Drama / Romance
Drama / Romance
A day in the life of Ben Butley. But definitely not a day to remember for this T.S. Eliot scholar at the University of London. Let's take for example Anne, his already estranged wife: today is the day she has chosen to tell him she is leaving him for good, and for a man Butley despises, and what about Joey Kingston, whose close friendship Ben is losing, maybe forever today? Decidedly, all the odds are against him. Will Butley, the bitter misanthropist, the unrepentant alcoholic, the teacher who bullies his students, his friends, and his colleagues, in other words, the self-destructive nihilist, survive this horrible day? —Guy Bellinger
Uploaded By: FREEMAN
September 22, 2021 at 02:24 AM