Monday, October 22, 2007

I Am a Mouth of Moss

Under the Volcano (1984)
directed by John Huston
rating: 3 out of 5 cravats
on DVD from the vaults

To see Welles recite Moby-Dick by the cabin-dim light of a homemade recording in Los Angeles (in the 1995 documentary Orson Welles: One-Man Band) is to realize that no novel cannot be adapted to the screen. Under the Volcano is no exception. In Huston’s hands, the bars of Cuernevaca wear gorgeous, bright posters where Lorre’s bald head, staring hideously at his fated, murderous creation, illumines a space that is never as terrible, or as sad, as the narrative of heartbreak and death it frames should, by all accounts, be. The director’s loosest interpretation of the source material is his decision to make Yvonne privy to Geoff’s awful fate, and then to have her share it, dead on a rainy road running towards him. One likes that the novel ends as it does, but Huston, knowing Lowry’s unhappy expiration, saw love differently. No less torturous, but a straighter way to the heart of the matter. In place of a book about so many things, Huston made a film about three people and a place. The acting, of course, is very good, but it’s more to Mexico’s credit (Mexico that sustained Huston and Lowry both through good years of sacrifice) that the landscape can accommodate all of them, and that hours in their company end, in spite of such desolate machinations, more warmly than forlorn.

More here.