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Written by / 5/25/2016 / No comments / , , , ,

PAUL SCOFIELD & ROBERT SHAW IN A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS

Orson Welles faced by Paul Scofield YEAR: 1966
Orson Welles, years after CITIZEN KANE, said the hardest role to play was probably that of Joseph Cotten's Jeb, a man so determined, honest, and stubborn, he doesn't have many rooting for him, but instead, the praise goes to the flawed leading man...

"God or sharkin?"
Orson Welles makes an appearance in the Oscar Winning A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS, kickstarting an accusation that would lead to the death of a priest who would not bend for anyone, not even the King of England, who, played by Robert Shaw, has a voracious laugh as rich as fool's gold. Here we see the connection of Paul Scofield's Thomas More... Without going into details, he was one of the most important priests in the Church of England, and to quickly summarize the plot-line: More was the sole person against the King divorcing his wife and marrying his dead brother's sister. Ironic that, though the King is mentioned throughout, he only (really) turns up in that one jovial scene, trying to change More's heart by simply being his friend. That's a lot what Charles Foster Kane did with Jo Cotten's Jedediah Leland...

Susannah York with Paul Scolfield
But SEASONS is, despite an aura of Catholic propaganda, like CHARIOTS OF FIRE could be misjudged for catering to Christians (despite the main character being Jewish) – especially to those who shy away from religious-friendly cinema – more or less a poetic, and extremely ancient-set mobster film in its backstabbing and backroom dealings; a Gothic Film Noir with eerie statues and shadowy boats stealthily skimming through night lakes to darkened castle locations; or perhaps a modernized Shakespeare, but with words that are much easier to follow, and yet still delivered by British actors who seem born to speak them. Especially Scofield, whose faithfulness to God is the reason; yet for the sake of the story, and the audience, the mellow cadence he carries throughout, with only a few words raised, is what makes his performance true and natural and not what could have been a pontificating sermon, constantly reminding everyone that The King is not above God.

Twilight Time DVD Cover
There are flaws that can be blamed on the time it was made, the mid-sixties... From the decade's beginning up until around 1967, when the Renaissance Era began and would continue throughout the 70's, the FADE OUT button was overused by editors, ultimately deleting the overall importance and intensity of certain scenes... almost like they never existed... and you're never quite sure how much time before the new scene began: could be a minute or a year, making the actors have to start all over again. And while John Hurt's terrific role as a young, selfish Richard Rich, falling in step with Leo McKern's shifty middleman instigator, begins to get edgy and intriguing, the film quickly turns from a sort of Roman Catholic espionage into a downer where... well... our MAN is imprisoned for a very long time, viewed through montage, and then executed. Not only a sad thing within the story, but way too much time's spent on the decline right when things were moving...

SeasonScore: ****
Words are spoken, and must be paid attention to, making this a movie to experience more than once to fully grasp the entirety. And while the superb acting exceeds the direction, which is also good, along with the fade-outs, SEASONS can be encumbered with deliberate angles striving to equal the greatness of the man it represents, or the celebrated stage play in which it's based. But overall, everything does connect. And Scofield is a MAN who, truthfully, is hard to root for completely... Like Welles had stated, anyone playing a character so "right" isn't quite relatable to we common folk with a penchant for anti-heroes, and along with his suffering family, including a gorgeous Susannah York, who understand putting God above the King but not above his life, while basically shoving his family aside. But that gives more power to Scolfield's performance. He's completely on his own. His face rarely changes. And yet, not only by words, he speaks volumes. For such a saint, he wields an often devilish expression. Making this one of those roles no one else could have played. And in the old days, the Oscars were magnetized in that direction.
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