Based on Muriel Spark?s best-selling novel, the film The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie earned a Best Actress Oscar for its star, Maggie Smith, in 1969. The theme song, ?Jean? written by Rod McKuen, was also nominated for a Bes... more »t Song Academy Award. An inspiration to the young girls she teaches and a challenge to the 1932 Edinburgh school who retains her services, Jean Brodie (Smith) espouses her wisdom on art and music, defends fascism, and otherwise encourages fiercely independent thinking in her students. As she engages in ongoing battles with the school?s rigid heads and bewilders two men in love with her, Miss Brodie also faces the biggest trial of her life when her career and livelihood become threatened.« less
"Here's a film whose reputation seems to have declined over the years. Highly regarded and hugely successful when it first came out, it now seems a bit static with a plot that is a tad too predictable. The main attraction of the film was always the mesmerising and award-winning performance of Maggie Smith. But today some people might find her acting overly mannered or too theatrical. However, I am not one of them. I have always thought that Maggie Smith was one of the finest actresses ever. And a genuine eccentric.
The film consists of lots and lots of dialogue delivered in quaint Scottish accents. (The accents are not as much a problem for American audiences as they are in other films such as Gregory's Girl.) There is an occasional glimpse of old Edinburgh but, for the most part, the settings are confined to interiors. The film is directed and photographed professionally and unobtrusively. The 1930's period is nicely byt subtly evoked. The one discordant element is the rather twee musical score by Rod McKuen. The emphasis, as in a play, is on the characters.
The supporting cast are just that but most of them manage to have their moments. Robert Stephens (married to Maggie Smith at the time) is quite good as a slightly bohemian art teacher. Gordon Jackson steps somewhat out of his usual typecasting to portray a wimp of a music teacher. Celia Johnson is positively evil as the jealous and strait-laced headmistress. Best of all is Pamela Franklin as Miss Brodie's pet pupil - a nicely shaded and slightly underplayed performance that both contrasts and complements Maggie Smith's flamboyant turn.
And it is Maggie Smith that you will be mostly watching. Demonstrating all the emotions from dreamy idealist to dedicated teacher to fliratious lover to frustrated spinster to defiant victim. Every line of dialogue is delivered perfectly - every move of her body is exactly appropriate to her character. She dominates the film without overpowering it. In many ways, it is basically a stage performance but she manages to make it work in the context of a film. In the end, you may not entirely love her character, but you will certainly understand her. And that is what great acting is all about.
I have seen The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie many times and have often found myself wishing that Maggie Smith's brilliant performance had been in a better film. But it's hardly a bad one. Old-fashioned and somewhat stagebound perhaps. But you forget all that whenever Maggie Smith is on the screen."
One of the top ten movies ever!!!
Cowboy Buddha | 05/30/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Maggie Smith, who in my opinion is the most talented movie actress of the age, delivers here her greatest performance. Her acting and this movie are a triumph. There's simply nothing like it in the whole of cinemotography. No one can really "become" the character as successfully as Mrs. Smith. The film depicts the story of a Scottish schoolteacher who essentially teaches fascism and the ideals of romantic and artistic beauty to her "girls". Notice as you view the film Ms. Brodie's teaching method is not only very advanced but also very modernly autocratic. She takes her opinion as the only plausible and reasonable standard fit to hold and impresses her philosophy upon her girls. Though you feel the intensity of Ms. Brodie's humanity, you cannot but accept the dangerous quality of her thoughts and actions. I don't wish to bore you by recounting the plot- the film does that well enough itself. Let me just further explain the movies method of intensification. One, Ms. B is an extreme contrast to her fellow teacher's and her environment's standards. Two, Sandy's- and the others'- initiation (growing up) is in a dilemma: live life by Mrs. Brodie's values or by her own. The film really is superb and should be seen by anyone who enjoys fine storytelling intertwined with superior acting and complex characterization and themes. Other films that I strongly recommend are "Darling" (1965), starring Julie Christie in an Oscar-winning performance, "Tom Jones" (1963) with Albert Finney (another Oscar-winner), "The Third Man" (1949) starring Cotton and Welles, and "The Seventh Seal" by Ingmar Bergman- the Shakespeare of cinema."
Cowboy Buddha | 12/31/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"First you must understand that I am not an easy critic, I notice all the little things in a movie that others might overlook or just choose to ignore.
That said, this is a brilliant (but not perfect)movie.
The acting of Maggie Smith is superb beyond words. She starts out as a heroine, just the type of teacher we would all like to have. As the movie progresses, the character of Miss Brodie moves closer and closer to a breakdown. What's brilliant is that this peril is obvious to the viewer, but not to Miss Brodie herself, a most difficult task for a screen-writer, a director, and an actress to accomplish.
The depiction of Edinburgh in the 30's is so realistic that you really feel as though you've been put into some sort of time machine- this is one of my favorite aspects of the film, and also the beautifully haunting soundtrack. I truly admire when a film is able to transport you to another place and time and make you truly feel it.
The movie is quite different from the book to be sure (aren't they all?) but the location filming, and the truly brilliant acting overcome any drawbacks.
The film is also notable for the performance of Pamela Franklin.
If you've only seen her in Disney movies, be prepared for a very different Pamela Franklin this time around.
I have watched this film over 10 times now and still do not fully understand it. Is Miss Brodie the Miss-understood heroine? Or is she truly a dangerous person intent on using others so that she can live vicariously through them? Is the film a warning to all of us that evil lurks where least expected? Or is it a trip inside our souls, in those deep somber moments where we have all been betrayed by our dearest and most trusted friends?
Watch the film and decide for yourself. Either way, you will have a beautiful journey thru the very mind and soul of a most complex character, in a nostalgic era, brilliantly portrayed by Maggie Smith.
I HIGHLY RECOMMEND THIS FILM !"
Only-A-Child | 09/29/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"You only begin to understand what the writer and screenwriter of "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie" is trying to say when you realize that the student who ultimately becomes the most like Miss Brodie (Maggie Smith) is Sandy (Pamela Franklin), and that the story is really being told from Sandy's point-of-view. She learns to be as judgmental and irresponsible as her teacher, full of misguided ideals and grievances, and totally confident that the world is as simplistic as she wants it to be. Which is why the film begins with a shot of Miss Brodie on her way to the school and goes out on a shot of Sandy leaving the school, with a Brodie voice-over about her teaching philosophy.
Once you understand that the Sandy transformation is the principle dynamic, the rest of the story fits together rather smoothly. The on-going struggle between Miss Brodie and the headmistress is almost a Hitchcock McGuffin, providing a lot of character motivation but ultimately of little importance.
Another key is the use of Tennyson's "The Lady of Shalott". "When the Moon was overhead, Came two young lovers lately wed; "I am half sick of shadows," said The Lady of Shalott."
In the poem she is a magical being who lives alone on an island upstream from King Arthur's Camelot. Her purpose is to look at the world outside her castle window in a mirror, and to weave what she sees into a tapestry. She is forbidden by the magic to look at the outside world directly. Looking at the world in a mirror and depicting it in a work of art is an allegory for the life of a teacher viewing the world from an ivory tower and interpreting it for her young students. And Miss Brodie's often fearless lifestyle is much like the heroic action taken by Tennyson's lady which leads to her doom.
Finally there is the irony of the betrayal by the one student who is the most like her, the only one in whom she really confides. But the film illustrates the disconnect between Miss Brodie and Sandy, who gets her back up that Miss Brodie considers Jenny the ideal. Brodie is too self-absorbed to pick up on Sandy's growing disenchantment just as she does not have the insight to realize that Mary McGregor's brother was fighting against (not for) Franco in Spain.
In many ways Miss Brodie is a wonderful teacher and most young girls would have benefited from membership in the Brodie set, mostly because of her encouragement to openly explore the possibilities life offers. She contrasts the word "education", derived from the Latin "educere" (to lead out)-seeing her role as leading out her students' own ideas by encouraging them to think for themselves with the conventional teaching style of "intrusion"- the stuffing of heads with required information.
Which adds a lot of complexity to the production and makes it quite unique. One on level it is a rebel teacher fighting the repressive system to give her students a better education. While on another level it is clear that she is going a bit too far and messing up some of her charges.
The film covers a five-year period and the 18 year-old Franklin believably manages a transformation from a mousy 12 year-old to a sexually liberated young woman. Her nude scene in the artist's studio shocks the viewer because the passage of time has been handled quite casually and because it is really a reverse striptease, starting nude and slowly putting "on" her clothes.
The DVD has a commentary feature by Director Ronald Neame and Pamela Franklin. It too is quite unusual as they were not together in the studio and their voices alternate throughout the film without having any interaction. Neame tends to digress too often to other events in his career but the commentary still manages to provide some useful information.
Ultimately this is a depressing but interesting story with Miss Brodie's colorful outfits standing out in the grays and browns that dominate the production design.
Then again, what do I know? I'm only a child."
IN HER PRIME AND HOLDING HER OWN ON DVD
Nix Pix | Windsor, Ontario, Canada | 07/06/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Maggie Smith is the elegantly pert Miss Brodie, a 1930s Edinburgh school marm of immense panache, charm and wit in a film that's sort of a cross between a female version of "Goodbye Mr. Chips" and "To Sir With Love." Smith's performance easily commands "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie" beyond cliche and its theatrical trappings as she becomes the ultimate self-deluding spinster to whom Mussolini is a treasure on par with the Mona Lisa, and passionate love is but a taboo. Dame Brodie marks her existance on over-inflated romantic notions about art and beauty. Adapting from the novel by Muriel Spark, director Robert Neame keeps the pacing sweet and nimble, touching on all the right points without dwelling on any of them. Also in the cast are real-life husband, Robert Stephens as Jean's married lover and Celia Johnson who is marvelously insideous as the hostile headmistress. The film score by Rod McKuen may have been Oscar nominated but it betrays its 60s origins and really pigeon-holes the film as a production of that decade instead of seeming a vital tableau of the 30s.
THE TRANSFER: Fox has done a marvelous job remastering "Miss Brodie" on DVD. Colors are lush and nicely balanced. Black levels are deep and solid. Contrast and shadow levels are bang on. Some of the long shots suffer from pixelization which breaks up fine detail and there is also a very small trace of age related artifacts. These do not necessarily distract. The audio is stereo. Though dialogue does not sound natural it is nevertheless very clearly presented. The score - in all it's twinkle-twinkle get down of 60s flashback is amply displayed.
EXTRAS: An audio commentary and very sparce stills gallery. It really is a mystery to me why Fox's continues to benchmark certain catalogue titles as part of their Studio Series when their attention to suppliments continues to grow more scant by every release. Just call this a general release and be done with it. There's nothing special apart from the film to recommend such titles as part of a special series.
BOTTOM LINE: Recommended."