Thursday, July 3, 2008

WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? (Mike Nichols, 1966, USA) The pugnacious spirit of Virginia Woolf haunts this viscous drama bout the dissolution of reality and the emotional and intellectual walls we hide behind in our relationships. As children, we are taught that “sticks and stones will break my bones, but names will never hurt me”. This is not true: words are terribly destructive and are the most insidious instruments of torture. After a night of partying, George and Martha invite a new couple over their house for a nightcap. The verbal barbs and violent behavior shocks Nick and Honey (who was once puffed-up) as the married couple rips and tears into each other, their sweaty booze soaked words polluting the atmosphere. At first it seems a bit embarrassing but soon becomes obvious that these two people loathe each other and will stop at nothing to destroy themselves…and those caught in their path. Nick and Honey are drawn into this madness with games like Humiliate The Host, Get The Guest, Bringing Up Baby, and Hump The Hostess. As their resolve diminishes, the guests begin to join in these sadistic games until they are fractured and broken pawns manipulated by George and Martha to be witness and participant to the debauchery. The acting is first rate and, though Sandy Dennis and Liz Taylor won Oscars, I think it’s Richard Burton who really plays the heavy. His performance is like a riptide, calm on the surface but with a violent undertow. Mike Nichols direction is perfect because he is able to film in close up and move the camera around the tight and intimate spaces. After a night of total war, George and Martha embrace in one of the most touching and sublime endings in movie history. “Who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf? I am, George. I am.” (A+)

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