Saturday, July 18, 2009


THE NIGHT OF THE IGUANA (John Huston, 1964, USA) A defrocked Reverend defrocks a young Sunday school teacher then berates the vapid congregation, their wrinkled faces like mindless lizards, for believing in sacred myth before human nature. In a fit of caustic truth (which has no place in church!) his tirade chases them out the doors and into the pouring rain, finally purging himself of Christian hypocrisy and embracing Humanism. But this is a spiral into deep emotional depths, his Dark Night of the Soul, and he is detained in an asylum for a nervous breakdown. Eventually he finds himself as a tour guide for a broken down company, a retreat for wealthy mannequins whose plastecine religiosity grinds him further into the abyss while he allows another nubile Lolita to seduce him. Director John Huston films on location in Mexico, which adds an authentic sweating narrative tension. The beautiful black & white cinematography captures the mountains and jungles, and tracks through the action with minimum edits, keeping the foreground details and background expressions in perfect focus. The photography is equally vibrant aboard the cramped tour bus, tracking up the isle and holding upon the elderly participants as they sing, or from the Reverend’s POV while preaching from his perch, the same stupid expressions apparent on the mindless assembly. The screenplay seethes with humor and sexuality, as Ex-Reverend Shannon commits himself fully to human frailty: he is kind to those he despises (to keep his job) but treats those he loves with verbose contempt. Then two people serendipitously stumbles upon his Costa Verde Hotel retreat: Hannah Jelkes a middle-aged artist and her elderly companion who awakes from his stupor to recite his final life-affirming poem. It’s Ms. Jelkes who tethers the psychologically meek Mr. Shannon to reality, and the cafĂ©’s owner Maxine who is maximum sensuality, a woman who sees her happiness slipping away: three people at the end of their ropes…like the Iguana tied to the banister awaiting the slaughter. After a stormy night of barbed accusations they each find inner peace by showing kindness and decency, not relying on mythical intervention for guidance. Shannon recognizes the beauty of Hannah and Maxine…and most importantly himself. (B+)


Encore Entertainment said...

Night of the Iguana is something special. Which performance is your favourite in it?

Alex DeLarge said...

I love Burton's slow descent into self destruction with the light in his crazy eyes, but Judith Fellowes as the repressed lesbian is a visciously grand performance too.