The Dead

Screening on Film
Directed by John Huston.
With Anjelica Huston, Donal McCann, Cathleen Delany.
Germany/UK/US, 1987, 35mm, color, 84 min.
Print source: HFA

Both a touching coda to Huston's long career and a valedictory tribute to his consummate skills adapting great, and famously "unfilmable,” literature, The Dead is remarkably faithful to the delicate balance between constrained social rituals and the infinite complexities of the interior world achieved by the celebrated longest story of James Joyce's The Dubliners.  Further poignancy is brought to Joyce's nuanced meditation on mortality by the fact that Huston heroically battled terminal illness to complete his final film, succumbing to emphysema and heart troubles only a few months after the end of production. The emotional complexity of Joyce's masterful story are beautifully rendered in Huston's masterful shift from the chamber music of the rambling and revelatory dinner party which occupies much of the film to the quiet twin arias that are its end. Gliding into central stage to perform the first of the two sustained monologues that conclude the film and Joyce's story, Anjelica Huston glows with stirring emotion as a wife whose sudden, unexpected grief stirs a brooding disquiet in her loving husband.

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