Thursday, June 12, 2008
The L-Shaped Room (Bryan Forbes, 1963) A-
I'm usually not a huge fan of 60's British cinema, which usually looks so dated now that it's almost unbearable to sit through, but The L-Shaped Room works exceptionally well because, stylistically, it's straight out of 1940's Hollywood. Leslie Caron plays a young French woman who gets knocked up and decides to keep the child (much to the chagrin of everyone around her) without the help of the baby's father. She moves into a boarding house and becomes friends with her neighbors, including eccentric musician Johnny (Brock Peters), lovable former actress Mavis (Cicely Courtneidge) and a nice young writer Toby (Tom Bell). The first 30 minutes or so are solid, if nothing groundbreaking, but you quickly realize that it's just setting the groundwork for a fantastic final 90 minutes. The material is pure melodrama, but director Bryan Forbes doesn't go for trashy, instead steering The L-Shaped Room towards an effective Sirkian drama. I also loved the impressive deep focus photography that really heightened the emotion, especially the scene on the stairwell between Caron and Bell during an enormous fight. It takes a while to warm up to Caron, but once you do, she'll sucker punch you with how good she is. Caron is definitely a limited actress, but Forbes and The L-Shaped Room play to her strenghts (most importantly, her de Havilland-like quiet strength) and she gives an immaculate performance. I also loved Cicely Courtneidge as the former actress who lives downstairs. She's quirky, dramatic and a lesbian in the 60's- why the hell wasn't she nominated for an Oscar as well?