Thursday, August 09, 2007

The Pumpkin Eater

Peter, Peter, pumpkin eater,
Had a wife and couldn't keep her.

When I wrote about the Romance section of the Summer of British Film I looked forward to seeing The Pumpkin Eater. I have now watched it.

Like a lot of intelligent films from the 1960s (The Servant. Bunny Lake is Missing) it lacks a rounded plot with a simple resolution. But there are many things to enjoy in it.

Fine performances from Peter Finch and James Mason. Wonderful cameos from Maggie Smith and Yootha Joyce.

Above all there is a marvellous central performance from Anne Bancroft. She carries the film, and the power of that performance owes as much to her powerful, radiant face as to the way she speaks her lines, though her English accent is impeccable.

Beyond that, The Pumpkin Eater resembles the next film Jack Clayton was to direct - Our Mother's House. Both are scored by Georges Delerue and feature a tribe of children. In The Pumpkin Eater, because of its time scheme, each child character is played by two different child actors. We never really work out who is who, but that just adds to the sense that Bancroft has an unfeasibly large brood.

Among the child actors is Fergus McClelland, who was later to star in Sammy Going South, and Elizabeth Nicholls, who was also in Our Mother's House. In the latter film at least she is instantly recognisable as the Phoebe Nicholls who played Cordelia in Brideshead Revisited.

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