The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea


Drama / Mystery / Thriller

IMDb Rating 6.3 10 1095

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Kris Kristofferson as Jim Cameron

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by Mikew3001 9 / 10

Seducing and dark love story

This is a British drama from 1976 about a shy and lonely widow Anne (Sarah Miles) raising up her 13-year-old son in a small English seaside city. When she meets the American sailor Jim (Kris Kristofferson), she falls in love with him and wants to marry him. Her son, being a member of a fascist secret circle led by the charismatic pupil "Chief", doesn't agree with that liaison and uses his radical friends against his possible stepfather...

The German title of this brilliant movie was called "Der Weg allen Fleisches" which means as much as "The way of all flesh". This is a suitable title as love, loneliness, seduction, longings and sex are integral elements of the story.

The director uses surreal scenes to support the emotional side of the movie. There is a beautifully shot sex scenes between Anne and Jim, and an outstanding masturbation scene of Anne in front of a mirror, secretly watched by her son. There are strange dream sequences, spiritual moods of the sea and a cruel scene where the gang's leader rips off a dead cat to present his totalitarian theories to his worshippers by its testicles.

Sarah Miles ("Blow-up", "Venom"), Kris Kristofferson ("Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid", "Convoy") and also the children actors are doing a fine job here. The touching score was written by Johnny Mandel, and Kris Kristofferson added his chilling "Sea Dream Theme". This film is more than just a love drama but an outstanding and forgotten tale about love, sex and death at the seaside with great locations and a very strange ending. Watch it if you get the occasion to do so!

Reviewed by paul_johnr 7 / 10

The boy is troubled, Cap'n

Compared to other projects like 'The Great Santini' and 'The Mechanic,' this 1976 drama was a bold endeavor for writer-director Lewis John Carlino. 'The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea' is Carlino's adaptation of a novella set in post-World War II Japan by Yukio Mishima, a prolific 20th century author who tried to revive the Bushido code of samurai honor and committed ritual suicide in 1970. Mishima was a grand literary force, considered several times for the Nobel Prize and was lauded as the 'Japanese Hemingway' by Life Magazine. Indeed, it says a great deal about his writings that Carlino was able to transport the novella's ideas to a modern English setting.

'Sailor' focuses on Anne Osborne, a lonely widow and antiques dealer played by Sarah Miles. The middle-aged woman lives with her sea-loving, teenaged son Jonathan (Jonathan Kahn) in an English coastal town. Well into the rebellious phase of life, Jonathan finds himself without an adult male influence and backs a schoolmate known only as Chief (Earl Rhodes), who runs a secret club with four other boys as his underlings. This club is not the usual fun-and-games of children, however; Chief is the precocious son of a town surgeon and looks to teach the four members his nihilistic points of view (morality, for instance, is just rules that adults invented to control the world). So dedicated is the boy to his values that he even autopsies the family cat to prove an idea about existence.

Providing Jonathan with another outlet is Jim Cameron (Kris Kristofferson), an American sailor who arrives into port and has a change meeting with Anne. The two fall in love almost immediately and Jonathan discovers a man who fits Chief's description of 'a heart of steel' - a man who travels the Earth and overcomes great odds. However, Jonathan feels betrayal as the love affair between Anne and Jim thickens; his hero decides to stay in England and remain tied to the soil. It's only Jonathan and his friends who can restore Jim's 'grace' with the sea from which he came, leading to one of the most outrageous conclusions in film history.

As a person who has seen numerous films and read quite a few novels, 'The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea' was a very strange experience. The film doesn't fit any one particular genre, nor does it really generate one clear emotion. The love story between Anne and Jim functions as an obvious work of erotica, while the dark portrayal of adolescence reminds me of writers like Aldous Huxley and Patrick McCabe. The story's meaning is intentionally unclear, although it seems to imply that each person is given a specific destiny and that the feelings of children, by necessity, are of equal value to those of adults. There is also a certain sexual philosophy judging passion as the destroyer of good things, in this case the strong bond between Jonathan and his mother.

One of Sailor's technical strongpoints is its broad, languid pacing that has a feel similar to waves of the sea. Cinematographer Douglas Slocombe offers breathtaking images of ocean, sunrise, and house interiors that compare with still-life paintings. Adding to the rich visuals is a lean, chilly score by Johnny Mandel (with themes by Kristofferson) that captures the film's underlying ideas. The entire cast is superb, especially the children headed by Jonathan Kahn (who had a brief screen career). Sarah Miles conveys a wide range of emotion and has a physical elegance that is ideal for her role. Kristofferson was an excellent choice for the Jim Cameron figure, a rugged, brooding individual whose tales of sea life feel authentic. Of vital importance is the chemistry between Miles and Kristofferson, which must be strong for the film to work. Unlike inferior films that produce a cardboard love affair, Anne and Jim's rapport is solid and nothing less than convincing.

Anyone who is put off by graphic sexuality or cruelty to animals will best avoid this film. Miles and Kristofferson are involved in two explicit sex scenes, with Kahn watching through a peephole to sate his teenaged curiosity. Miles is also viewed masturbating at her dressing table, but all of this material was filmed with great sensitivity. The cat 'experiment' is highly unpleasant, although not exceptionally graphic, and Chief blasts apart an overhead seagull by tossing a firework stuffed inside pieces of bread. The end credits mention that no real animals were harmed in the film, a rare disclaimer in the 1970s.

'Sailor' deserves good DVD treatment for its photography alone, if not for its fine acting. Image Entertainment has come through with a 2003 disc that presents the film with respect, undoing years of mistreatment by TV broadcasts and full-frame VHS tapes. The film is presented in widescreen with immaculate visuals and Dolby enhancement of the original mono track. Unfortunately, there are no extras, with chapter stops offered as the lone feature. Another minus is its auto-play of the film when loaded into a DVD machine, which is inconvenient if you need a few moments to settle in. But for admirers of this film, IE's new disc restores the vibrant imagery seen in cinemas thirty years ago. Moving, shocking, and at times repugnant, 'Sailor' is one of the most bizarre film experiences you will ever have.

*** out of 4

Roving Reviewer -

Reviewed by bodnarhd 8 / 10

Should be considered a classic

I really enjoyed this movie back when it came out in 1976. It never showed up at the major theaters though. I saw it in one of the Dollar theaters. How it got away with an R rating back then I will never know. I had seen x-rated movies that had showed less. And the love scenes were a spread in Playboy. My girlfriend said is was because it had a plot. I do remember she was in a state of shock when we left. She was an 18 year old Southern Bapist Sunday School teacher at the time. Kris Kristofferson was never highly rated as an Actor but I think he did an excellent job in this movie. The child actors were completely believable. It was written by a Japanese gentleman and I am amazed at how well some examples of Japanese literature and movies translate to the US. The Magificent Seven ( AKA the Seven Samarai) and " A fistful of Dollars".

If you can find it on DVD I would highly recommend it.

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