An aging heiress isolates herself from the world, courted by Death, fighting against the dying of the light. Joseph Losey directs this Tennessee William’s melodrama with technical brilliance, utilizing subtle tracking shots and deep focus compositions, allowing Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton to create in the moment: artists composing Art...but not always good Art.
Taylor plays Flora GoForth, a woman whose emotional polarity opposes Capote’s delicate heroine Holly GoLightly, heir to the misfortunes of millions of dead and millions of dollars. She is surrounded by the booming sea atop a steep cliff, like Zeus perched upon Mt. Olympus and just as disconnected from the world. Into this delirium stumbles Angelo Del Morte, subtly characterized by Burton, a struggling artist whose desires to force emotional contact with the aging and tumultuous Madame. The story becomes one of intent, good or evil, as the consequences are predetermined.
Taylor’s performance is aggressively exaggerated, infusing GoForth with a despicable intensity that is difficult to overcome. But her soft eyes betray a frightened humanity hiding behind the power of abuse and entitlement. Taylor wanders too close to Camp instead of forthright melodrama but Burton eases into his role with elusive charm, grounding the film before it careens out of control entirely. Though their synergy is electric and shocking, the fault lies in the fact that Taylor is too young for her role and Burton too old! The story begins to make sense if imagined as HAROLD AND MAUDE instead of WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLFE, as GoForth should be much older than her suitor whose jeweled intentions are often questioned and condemned. He is Death given flesh: a harbinger of doom or angel bringing peace?
Final Grade: (C)