Sunday, June 01, 2008

Movie review: Suddenly, Last Summer

Without realizing it, I've come to like Tennessee Williams. His psychological dramas are intricate, and this is no exception.

Supposedly taken from his own life, Suddenly, Last Summer, involves a widow named Violet Venable (Katharine Hepburn, who consistently dominates her films), grieving for her son, Sebastian, who had died in Europe the previous summer in the company of his cousin. She is trying to convince a psychosurgeon to perform a lobotomy on her niece Cathy (Elizabeth Taylor) - the cousin who was with her son when he died.

Cathy has been confined to a psychiatric hospital since her return from Europe. Violet claims Cathy has been spouting nonsense, vile and vulgar lies about her son. The doctor (Montgomery Clift) is in a quandary. Mrs. Venable will give his psychiatric hospital a new surgical center if he operates. But only if he operates. And Cathy doesn't seem insane to him, although she's obviously traumatized by whatever happened in Europe.

Clift seems a bit stiff and out of his element in the film. Taylor plays the histrionic Cathy perfectly, and Hepburn plays Mrs. Venable with haughty condescension, even though it's her own sanity that ought to be in question here.

The ending is creepily tragic, and not entirely unforseen. I'm told it's different from the end of the play, but it's affecting, nonetheless.

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