Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|A Delicate Balance|
Actors: Katharine Hepburn, Paul Scofield, Lee Remick, Kate Reid, Joseph Cotten
Director: Tony Richardson
Studio: Kino International Release Date: 07/22/2003 Run time: 132 minutes
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Edward Albee's play on the terrifying angst of modern life
Lawrance M. Bernabo | The Zenith City, Duluth, Minnesota | 08/12/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"There was a period in her career when Katharine Hepburn seemed to be making a point of making movies of plays by some of the world's greatest dramatists. While she only performed Shakespeare on the stage, she filmed plays by Tennessee Williams ("Suddenly Last Summer"), Euripides ("Trojan Women"), and most notably Eugene O'Neill ("Long Day's Journey Into Night"), in which she gave her greatest dramatic performance. Edward Albee's "A Delicate Balance" would be thrown into this mix as well, but all things considered this is a smaller play and a smaller film. Albee won the Pulitzer Prize for his 1966 play "A Delicate Balance," and he does the screenplay here as well. There are those who see this particular play as a second-rate "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" which truthfully surprises me because I see little in common between the two plays. Albee's earliest and obviously greatest work was at its heart a dramatic rejoinder to Eugene O'Neill's "The Iceman Cometh," and a statement about the importance of fantasy when confronted with a harsh world. "A Delicate Balance" is about the angst of contemporary living, and while this might be a counterpoint of sorts to "Virginia Woolf" it is most definitely not rehashing the original argument.Hepburn's name appears first in the credits and her character of Agnes opens and ends the play, but ultimately she is not one of the pivotal characters in the drama. The play begins with Agnes and Tobias (Paul Scofield), enjoying what passes for a quiet evening at home, which includes an encounter with her heavy-drinking sister Claire (Kate Reid). Whereas Agnes speaks to the long-suffering Tobias, Claire actually engages the man in conversation. The only thing the two sisters have in common is apparently the ability to bring out the worst in each other. The play gets to the root of the matter when Harry (Joseph Cotten) and Edna (Betsy Blair), the best friends of Tobias and Agnes, arrive unexpectedly. Clearly upset, they finally explain that they were at home when suddenly they both became terrified. Fleeing their home they have come to stay with Agnes and Tobias (although it takes a while for everyone to understand Harry and Edna are moving in). The couple take up residence in the room of Julia (Lee Remick), who returns home after the failure of her fourth marriage to discover somebody else in her room, which forces Julia into her father's room and Tobias to move back with Agnes. However, Julia is very upset that "her" room has been given away and finally says what the audience has been thinking: How can her parents just let this couple move in?There are explanations, haltingly provided by Harry and Edna. We might want everything to be explained by Claire with her forthright way of speaking or Agnes who belabors a point to death, but Albee is here to show and not merely to tell. There are very few moments, brief at best, that ever show the entire cast assembled. Director Tony Richardson knows he is limited to a few sets and these actors, and frames them accordingly, trying to provide visual reinforcement of the interpersonal dynamics.The biting wit and memorable one-liners from "Virginia Woolf" are not here, but the characters are clearly in as much pain. The pivotal moment comes down to Scofield and Cotten, when Tobias finally speaks to the matter at hand, only to be told it is too late. The question then becomes whether or not the audience has gotten Albee's subtle point.Hepburn's recent death may spark a small revival of interest in this film, although Albee's play remains overshadowed by both "Virginia Woolf" and his more recent success "Three Tall Women." However, it will be the performances of Scofield and particularly Reid that will demand the viewer's respect. Tobias is the lynch pin of these drama and Claire is the one that prods him into the final realization of what has to be said and what must be done."
Great Acting Indeed
Ken Schellenberg | Arlington, VA United States | 07/28/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The acting is phemonmenal in this play, and the play itself is one of Albee's best. It does suffer, however, from being a bit stagy as a film. A deeper (and perhaps insoluble) problem is that film (a very realistic medium) is not really suited for this work, which while being wonderfully written and deeply insightful is hardly realistic. I don't fault the director necessarily; it's more that this particular work is simply not nor never will be cinematic.The extras are quite good; however, there's a bug on the Kino menus. When you try to access the Tom Stoppard interview or the other extras from the menu, the disc stops playing. In order to see them, you have to change title number via your remote."
Outstanding, Intelligent and Challenging
James Morris | Jackson Heights, NY United States | 11/10/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I saw this film in 1973 and loved it so much that I ran out and purchased the soundtrack - yes, there was a soundtrack released. It came in a three-record boxed set, and it included every single word of the screenplay. I then bought a copy of the play (which was slightly different from the screenplay) and read it and listened to the record until I had memorized a good deal of the dialogue. You see, I love the English language, and there are few things more joyful to me than encountering a book, play or movie that uses language in clever ways. This is why I am a great fan of Broadway lyricist Stephen Sondheim, Screenwriter James Goldman (who wrote Lion in Winter), Simon Gray (who wrote Butley, and whose use of the language rivals Albee's here) and the plays of Edward Albee. Mr. Albee uses language in ways that few others can. For some reason I don't understand, few people can seem to mention A Delicate Balance without referring to a certain play that Mr. Albee's also wrote, which was far more sensational and extremely successful. And that's a real pity, for this work stands quite well on its own.
Tobias and Agnes are an upper-class couple nearing retirement in their comfortable Connecticut home. Their best friends, Harry and Edna, arrive for a visit one evening, driven from their home by an unnamed terror. Albee's play clearly spells out what the terror is, without attaching a precise name to it - it's the fear of growing older in an uncertain world, rather like the main theme (which many people missed) in James Goldman and Stephen Sondheim's brilliant musical, Follies. Of course, Tobias and Agnes must take their dear friends in, thus threatening the "delicate balance" that holds the routine of their lives together. What follows is a careful dissection of the obligations of friendship, the meaning of loyalty, the responsibility of family and the appearance and practical application of "proper" etiquette. All in all, Mr. Albee takes on quite a bit. The actors are all up to the task, but above all is Kate Reid, who turns in one of the finest screen performances I have ever witnessed.
Kate Reid plays Claire, Agnes' alcoholic sister. Although labeled an alcoholic, especially by her sister, Claire doesn't seem to drink any more or less than the other characters in the piece, who are always mixing each other cocktails. And then there is their daughter, Julia, who is coming home from her fourth failed marriage. Harry and Edna have taken over Julia's room, and she doesn't like it at all.
Yes, the story moves very slowly, but I was glad that it did - it takes time and patience to absorb Albee's delicious wit, and even the very intelligent will find the language difficult to follow in parts. The film generally requires more than one viewing to ingest, but lovers of good drama will find their patience rewarded. I had the good fortune to also see the 1996 Broadway production with Rosemary Harris and Elaine Stritch as Agnes and Claire, respectively. That production did benefit from a slightly increased pace, but, on the whole, I find I still like to savor the drawn out lazy unwinding of this most articulate film.
Great play, good adaptation
algabal | 09/05/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I saw this film as a devoted follower of Edwards Albee's plays, as well as someone who usually greatly enjoys the films of Tony Richardson. Katherine Hepburn is the 'name' performer in this film, and surprisingly she comes off perhaps the worst in the film. There is plenty of acting going on from her, and apparently she didn't understand the play. In the final scene, when Hepburn opens the window and says 'It's a new day', it comes out totally wrong. This part is supposed to be bleak and ironic, but it comes out as overly enthusiastic and optimistic. As Albee himself stated, Kate personally resembled the character of Agnes, therefore her performance does have its goood points.
The three best performances in this film are from Kate Reid, Joseph Cotten and Lee Remick. Remick's performance is made all the more strong given that the character of Julia is almost always acknowledged as the weakest character in the play. Joseph Cotten underacts here to great effect, and Kate Reid threatens to dominate the film with her amazing performance as Claire. Kate Reid's performance helps to alleviate the anger one feels when hearing on the DVD extras about how Katherine refused to work with the legendary Kim Stanley (who was going to play Claire).
The film looks very good, although I wouldn't say this is Richardson's best work, and overall the production is a winner."