The Birthday Party

Screening on Film
Directed by William Friedkin.
With Robert Shaw, Sydney Tafler, Patrick Magee.
UK, 1968, 35mm, color, 123 min.
Print source: Disney

Paranoia, sadism, and collective guilt invade a British seaside resort when two strangers make it their business – or perhaps it’s their pleasure – to destroy the mental stability of a lonely boarder whose fragile vulnerability is wonderfully played by Robert Shaw. Pinter’s stylized dialogue, which includes lines censored for the play's 1958 British debut, is energized by Friedkin’s relentlessly invasive and intelligent camerawork. The Birthday Party, along with Friedkin's other 1968 feature, The Boys in the Band,  revealed his great talent  as a director of filmed plays, a reputation which he would deliberately and radically break from with his next film, The French Connection.

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