Morgan: A Suitable Case for Treatment DVD review
|REVIEWS - DVD REVIEWS|
An eccentric 1960s Brit-comedy still manages to entertain...
Originally released in 1966, this Karel Reisz-directed cult-hit tells the tale of Morgan Delt (David Warner): a working-class Marxist and gorilla-obsessed -- no, not 'guerrilla' -- artist who, upon being divorced by his wife Leonie (Vanessa Redgrave), cooks up a series of increasingly deranged stunts to get her back.
The stunts themselves? A skeleton in her bed here; a bomb under the mattress there; some outright kidnapping with the aid of his giant wrestling friend...you know, the kind of stuff we've all done to win back the woman we love...
Just me then?
Suffice to say, Morgan ends up in jail for his efforts, before eventually losing it completely and being incarcerated in a lunatic asylum. All of which makes the film sound far darker than it is. There are several uncomfortable moments; borderline rape early on, for instance, which is only borderline because of the highly dubious and moral-cul-de-sac notion that Leonie is actually keen for it. Nevertheless, this remains a surrealist comedy film at heart -- and one that won the Palme d'Or at Cannes in its day, no less. And from its opening scene of Morgan watching gorillas in the zoo and mimicking their movements, accompanied by an ingratiatingly jaunty tune, the viewer knows not to take what they see too seriously.
This idea is reinforced by the in-your-face filminess of the thing. While its origins as a BBC TV-play do occasionally seep through, the sumptuous black-and-white photography, frequent use of double-speed and stills, and insertions of scenes from wildlife/classic films, ultimately give an impression of filmic flightiness.
Indeed, the sense that both the film's and Morgan's sanity are teetering on the edge is endemic. Its gloriously over-the-top ending, where our protagonist literally crashes Leonie's marriage to an insufferable art-gallery owner whilst dressed in a gorilla outfit, before escaping on a motorbike, comes interspersed with images from King Kong. And Morgan spends most of the film like that tragic hero. Leonie's social standing leaves her as painfully out of his reach as Ann Darrow to the beast. And Morgan's fight not to fall forever from her affections, as if from a skyscraper, we know deep-down is doomed; despite the flirtations she indulges in.
Redgrave was Oscar-nominated for her performance -- her debut in a feature film -- and rightly so. For us youngsters who are more used to seeing her older incarnation in the likes of Atonement and Letters to Juliet, it can be jolting to witness just how mesmerizingly beautiful she once was. Plus, she has that wonderful quality to be able to say one thing with her lips and facial expression whilst saying completely the opposite with her eyes. A notable example being early on, sat in front of a interpretation-leading three-way mirror, when she tells Morgan: "I'm not giving in." And in such ways she captures so effortlessly the contradicting desires battling away in Leonie's character, most notably between the desire to return to a rich bourgeois lifestyle and the animal instinct and chaos she seeks in Morgan. It's this sentiment that defines the film, and its captured best by Morgan's words to his love rival: "She married me to try and achieve insecurity and if you try to take it away from her she won't thank you for it."
Lines like this induce wry smiles -- and that's the most you can expect in the humour stakes really. The film is seldom laugh out loud funny, but it has plenty of moments where you think to yourself "that's really clever, that's funny," without, you know, actually chortling. A film for The Hangover watcher, this ain't, then. But if you want a slice of 60s charm, and can stomach something so class-conscious you feel like a pleb just for watching it on a big flat-screen, that there are far worse ways to spend 93 minutes.
Morgan: A Suitable Case for Treatment is released on the 17th of January 2011
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