Of the many hats he has worn with great success (playwright, actor, activist), Harold Pinter’s accomplishments as a screenwriter provide the focus for this series. Following the success of his plays The Caretaker and The Birthday Party in the late 1950s, Pinter began a long and prolific career in film, notably in collaboration with London-based American expatriate director Joseph Losey. These psychological dramas – The Servant (1963), Accident (1967), and The Go-Between (1970)– served as a striking counter-narrative to the prevailing kitchen sink realism which dominated British art cinema in the 1960s. In the 1970s, Pinter collaborated with the American Film Theatre, directing Simon Gray’s Butley and adapting his own play, The Homecoming (1973), with director Peter Hall. Pinter’s scripts for Betrayal (1981) and The French Lieutenant’s Woman (1983) were also highly regarded for their innovative, unconventional narrative structures. Inspired by the American Repertory Theatre’s new production of Pinter’s No Man’s Land, this retrospective reveals another intriguing facet in the career of this fascinating and complex artist.
This series is co-presented with the American Repertory Theater, presenting a new production of Harold Pinter’s No Man’s Land, running May 12-June 10.
May 13 (Sunday) 7 pm
Directed by Jack Clayton
US 1964, 35mm, b/w, 118 min.
With Anne Bancroft, Peter Finch, James Mason
A twice-married mother of six commits once more, this time to a philandering screenwriter who ultimately betrays her. Pinter’s adaptation of Penelope Mortimer’s novel provides a sophisticated contemplation of upper middle class angst. Despite his earlier association with realist Kitchen Sink drama, director Jack Clayton styles a work more akin to the existentialist cinema of Bergman and Antonioni. Print courtesy of Swank Films.
Directed by Gerald Potterton
Canada 1969, 16mm, b/w, 58 min.
This documentary on Pinter's characters includes a tour of many of their London hang-outs, such as Hyde Park Corner and Petticoat Lane’s parks, pubs and slums. The film features Pinter talking about his characters and the writing process and five of Gerald Potterton’s short animated sequences containing caricatured views of the characters. Film description courtesy of the British Film Institute.
May 22 (Tuesday) 6:30 pm
May 23 (Wednesday) 9 pm
Directed by Peter Hall
UK/US 1973, 35mm, color, 111 min.
With Cyril Cusack, Ian Holm, Michael Jayston
In North London, an all-male beehive of inactivity is ruled with a foul mouth and an iron hand by the abusive Max (Paul Rogers) and his brother, the priggish Sam (Cusack). When Max's son Teddy (Jayston) brings wife Ruth (Vivien Merchant) home to meet his family, he gets both more and less than he bargained for. Ruth's presence exposes a labyrinth of Freudian dread, venal family values, and naked neediness that could only come from the mind of Pinter. Director Peter Hall re-imagines his original Royal Shakespeare Company stage triumph as a bleached, claustrophobic delirium that exploits the jagged tempos and seductive tensions of Pinter's best play as no theater staging could. Print courtesy of the filmmaker.
May 22 (Tuesday) 8:45 pm
May 23 (Wednesday) 6:30 pm
Directed by Joseph Losey
UK 1970, 35mm, color, 118 min.
With Julie Christie, Alan Bates, Margaret Leighton
A forbidden affair between an affluent landowner’s daughter and a
common farmer is facilitated by a young boy who becomes a secret messenger between the two lovers. In one of several collaborations with screenwriter Pinter, director Joseph Losey explores the dire consequences of the English class system and provides a near perfect evocation of turn-of-the century country life and social repression in a film which was honored with the Palme d’Or at the 1970 Cannes Film Festival.
May 25 (Friday) 7 pm
May 26 (Saturday) 9 pm
Directed by Joseph Losey
UK 1963, 35mm, b/w, 112 min.
With Dirk Bogarde, Sarah Miles, James Fox
A wealthy layabout (Fox) hires a manservant (Bogarde) to tend to his Chelsea townhouse but becomes overpowered as his new hire turns his idle life upside down. The Servant marked the first of three collaborations between American expatriate Losey and screenwriter Pinter. In this scathing critique of the oppressive English class system, Losey is at his most stylistically flamboyant, creating several memorable shots filmed through a distorted convex mirror.
May 25 (Friday) 9:15 pm
May 26 (Saturday) 7 pm
Directed by Joseph Losey
UK 1967, 16mm, color, 105 min.
With Dirk Bogarde, Stanley Baker, Jacqueline Sassard
Arguably the best of the Losey/Pinter collaborations, Accident stars
Dirk Bogarde as an Oxford professor who reflects on the accidental death of one of his students. The pivotal car crash provides an entry into the labyrinthine relationships among the professor’s colleagues and students, which are made all the more complicated by the film’s multiple flashbacks. Pinter’s adaptation of Nicholas Mosley’s novel continues the writer’s shrewd analysis of bourgeois angst.
May 27 (Sunday) 5 pm
May 28 (Monday) 7:15 pm
Directed by David Hugh Jones
UK 1983, 35mm, color, 95 min.
With Jeremy Irons, Ben Kingsley, Patricia Hodge
A love affair told in reverse, David Hugh Jones' direction of Pinter's
semi-autobiographical play (for which he wrote the script) explores the complex emotions which drive marital infidelity. A suave literary agent has an affair with the wife of a book publisher who also happens to be his best friend. Each actor is perfectly cast: Irons embodies the deluded dreams of the agent, Kingsley is frighteningly seething as the publisher, and Hodge sympathetically conveys her conflicted desire for both men. Print courtesy Pyramide Films.
May 27 (Sunday) 7 pm
May 28 (Monday) 5 pm
Directed by Elia Kazan
US 1976, 35mm, color, 122 min.
With Robert De Niro, Tony Curtis, Robert Mitchum
In one of his more understated performances, De Niro stars as a Thalberg-esque movie producer who feels unfulfilled despite his success in the film industry. Based on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s unfinished novel, The Last Tycoon boasts an all-star cast, including a smart turn by Jack Nicholson as a Communist screenwriter.
May 29 (Tuesday) 6:30 pm
May 30 (Wednesday) 9 pm
Directed by Karel Reisz
UK 1981, 35mm, color, 127 min.
With Meryl Streep, Jeremy Irons, Hilton McRae
Pinter’s very loose adaptation of John Fowles’ novel cleverly interweaves two narrative threads using the same actors. Streep and Irons portray actors filming a version of The French Lieutenant’s Woman who are carrying on an illicit affair which parallels the storyline of their respective characters. Pinter’s reflexive device is yet another example of his inventive reconsideration of linear narrative structure.
May 29 (Tuesday) 9 pm
May 30 (Wednesday) 7 pm
Directed by Paul Schrader
US/Italy 1991, 35mm, color, 105 min.
With Christopher Walken, Natasha Richardson, Rupert Everett
A favorite of Paul Schrader’s among his films is this stellar adaptation by Pinter of a typically disquieting Ian McKewan novel. An unmarried British couple (Richardson, Everett) wander through the look-alike bridges and waterways of Venice until they are reluctantly taken in by an older, married couple (Walken, Helen Mirren). Walken pulls out all the stops in a psychotic, over-the-top performance in a film which crosses elements of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? with Don’t Look Now.