Speakeasy Speed Test
 
search SGN online
Saturday, Aug 17, 2019

Lobby

 





 
Cost of the
War in Iraq
(JavaScript Error)
click to visit advertiser's website
Obscure Roman Polanski film emerges from the sands of time
Obscure Roman Polanski film emerges from the sands of time
1970s project, A Day At The Beach, opens Friday for one week at the Grand Illusion

by Derich Mantonela - SGN Arts & Entertainment Writer

Literally emerging from the sands of time is a previously "lost" little gem from major director Roman Polanski, A Day At The Beach, playing for one week only at the Grand Illusion.

Filmed in 1970 and released (if that's the word) in 1972, Beach's post-production in Britain was being supervised by Polanski when his wife, Sharon Tate, was murdered by the Manson Family. He rushed to Los Angeles, never to be involved with the film again, which perhaps accounts for it being more or less shelved (or so the story goes). Supposedly it played at a film festival in Chicago some thirty years ago, and again at Vancouver's Pacific Cinematheque in the mid-nineties.

Polanski, who wrote the script based on the Danish novel by Heere Heeresma, is said to have been originally slated to direct the film, but instead it was helmed by the Dane Simon Hesera, and although it is set in a bleak, shabby English seaside resort it obviously was filmed in Denmark (there is no attempt whatsoever to hide the street and advertising signs which are all in Danish, though all the actors are British with very British accents).

Mark Burns, then in his mid-thirties (he's still working, with a career spanning nearly fifty years), plays Bernie, a bitter, sarcastic alcoholic mainly bent on securing drinks while managing to grandly insult, with almost Shakespearean eloquence, everyone he comes across during his seaside trek on one particularly gloomy, rainy afternoon.

His blond good looks, mock-aristocratic bearing and his grandly proclaiming speaking style add a curiously comic, bittersweet quality to the proceedings, but what lends the film a jarring yet touching, profoundly sad quality is the presence of the little girl who he is "kid-sitting" for the day (I wasn't sure, in the somewhat sound-muddled DVD screener by which I previewed the film if she was supposed to be his own child or his niece - she refers to him throughout as "Uncle Bernie").

This winsome child, Winnie, played by the 8-year-old Beatie Edney (still also working today), is Bernie's polar opposite: innocent, naïve, trusting, and increasingly concerned about her uncle's (dad's?) bizarre behavior, which seems to be careening further out of control as the day wears on. It eventually becomes apparent that she is his keeper and not the other way around.

Among the oddball characters Bernie encounters (the irony here is that we sense, despite his obvious personality aberrations, that he is more normal, in his intense way, than most of them) are those played by Jack MacGowran, the great Irish character actor, and an uncredited one by Peter Sellers, as a fey, ultra-effeminate souvenir-stall proprietor (his even more over the top partner is played by Graham Stark, another British comic legend).

As A Day At The Beach ambles eerily along, its aura of accumulating sadness, even tragedy, mounts. One senses that it is headed for some sort of disturbing finale, perhaps one which will be all the more disquieting for its subtlety.

Odd as it is, A Day At The Beach feels like pure Polanski, with all of the essential elements: melancholy mood and atmosphere; offbeat, quirky ambience; characters on the verge of one extreme or another; an underscored threat of violence (psychological or actual); a sense of the absurdity and the lost innocence - and the potential for evil - of humanity and civilization.

Hesera's direction captures all of this spot-on while the photography and editing lowlight the exterior gloom of the setting and its mirror image in Bernie's psyche. One wonders how much influence Polanski wielded on the set (assuming that he was present)? Was Hesera, in fact, Polanski's "ghost director"? Whoever was in charge got it right, inspiring the actors to stellar performances.

Thirty-seven years after its inception, "A Day At The Beach" returns to taunt us with its puzzles, like a treasure-chest dug from the sand.

click to visit advertiser's website

click to visit advertiser's website
click to visit advertiser's website
click to visit advertiser's website
click to visit advertiser's website
click to visit advertiser's website
click to visit advertiser's website
click to visit advertiser's website
click to visit advertiser's website
click to visit advertiser's website
click to visit advertiser's website
Seattle Gay Blog
post your own information on
the Seattle Gay Blog


click to visit advertiser's website

copyright Seattle Gay News - DigitalTeamWorks 2007