Sunday, August 21, 2005

Suddenly, Last Summer


Dir: Joseph L. Mankiewicz (Ghost and Mrs. Muir; All About Eve; Guys and Dolls; Cleopatra)

Very silly melodrama about a wealthy mother protecting the memory of her departed son by sacrificing her niece to the perils of 50's mental medicine. But look at the talent in this film! Liz Taylor, Kate Hepburn, Monty Clift. Gore Vidal teams with Tennessee Williams to adapt his play. The leading ladies get lots of room to overact with a very metaphorical and theatrical script, and Mank provides lots of cariacatured, gibbering lunatics to add horror to the asylum. Eary violins pierce through all of Taylor and Hepburn's solliloquies about turtles and cymbals and all manner of stuff.

The movie is bad, but well worth watching as an artifact of psychoanalyis during the time. Every cliche of mental health is here. Repressed memory, Oedipus complexes, homosexuality as disease, hypnotism, and the crown jewel, lobotomies of completely lucid patients who show a little hysteria now and then after witnessing a death. The poorly kept state institution, the struggle between medicine and talk therpay, the magical quality of neural surgery, all are on display in this fun window of the times.

Watch the movie as a lesson in how far we have come in the cultural understanding of the social aspects of the unconscious. On TCM ON Demand now, for you Comcast folks.