Tuesday, September 16, 2008

A snob concedes

We received the film version of "Look Back in Anger" somewhat accidentally, as I let our Netflix backlog of classics creep up into the top three, normally reserved for contemporary indie movies about disillusioned, balding literature professors and their damaged families. (I think we've seen about eight of these so far.)

Being a snide neo-absurdist, I've harbored a slight disdain for John Osborne for, you know, all the stock reasons. But watching "Look Back" last night, I was shocked out of my abstract stance by a work that strikingly concentrated on the here and now, without any artificial accentuation of hope or despair: a true piece of realism. And I was struck by the excellence of Osborne's writing. It really made me want to read the thing again.

As a snob, I used to scoff at this play for being what seemed like a long personal political rant tacked on to a stock love story. The film version gave it air, moving a lot of the action outside the flat and put some of Jimmy Porter's snarling in different locations that made it seem more varied and even stronger.

Is it better than a play where you don't know anyone's name or their names change or you never find out why they are where they are? I don't know. High marks have tended to go, at least in the last 60 years, to those writers who give less. But Osborne's naked, loquacious work struck me right in the heart last night. And that may be all that matters: what echoes the challenges, with equal sadness and joy, that we face in our lives.

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