Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Transcription: Review of John Huston's Under the Volcano

It would be unfair to criticise the film too much for being a stripped down version of the novel. After all by choosing to adapt Under The Volcano and turn it into a 2 hour Hollywood film John Huston was at a disadvantage from the beginning of its inception, no matter what direction he took the film in. Excusing the films lack of thematic depth compared to the novel the films achievements are notable. Albert Finney in the role of the Consul plays a fine performance, possibly as many critics (including Chicago Sun-Times esteemed Roger Ebert) argue, one of the finest and most poignant drunk performances ever commited to film. Perhaps what is most noticeable to me is the subtle cinematography and directorial nous that John Huston clearly brings to the film. He demonstrated his ability to make workable films out of unfilmable novels with his 1979 adaptation of Wise Blood and he achieves the same feat again with Under The Volcano. Only someone with his experience and awareness of the challenges of film-making could possibly pull off Under the Volcano as a film.

The opening scene as the Consul walks through the street fiesta as the street dogs follow him is beautifully lit and wonderfully choreographed. This attention by Huston to capture at the very least the essence of the book is evident throughout, as the film manages to bring to life the mix of fantasy and reality, dark and light that is the town of Quauhnahuac, while the lingering Popocatépetl in the background remains a poignant symbol of the unpredictable and dangerous nature of the situation that the Consul finds himself in.

Tom Beg.

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