Thursday, December 2, 2010

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966) (3rd time)

The film focuses on the self-destructive relationship of history professor George and his hard-drinking wife Martha, as they invite a younger couple over for drinks. [wiki]

Nominated for 13 Oscars:

Best Picture
Best Director: Mike Nichols
Best Actor: Richard Burton
Best Actress: Elizabeth Taylor (WINNER)
Best Supporting Actor: George Segal
Best Supporting Actress: Sandy Dennis (WINNER)
Best Adapted Screenplay
Best Cinematography, Black-and-White (WINNER)
Best Original Score
Best Editing
Best Art Direction, Black-and-White (WINNER)
Best Costume Design, Black-and-White (WINNER)
Best Sound

There are many things I like about this film and there are also things I think could've been done better or adapted better for the screen. But regardless of how memorable or not you find it to be, this is a very well acted, special film. Can you believe it was the directorial debut of Mike Nichols, who was in his early 30s at that time? Looking at the film, you'd think it has years and years of experience behind it. Because, while it's mostly about the performances, it all seems well glued together and this was not an easy play to deal with.
Elizabeth, of course, delivers her all time best and maybe the performance that really brought her the acclaim from critics; strangely enough, it would also be her last important role. Sandy Dennis did deserve the win, George Segal was quite great, but I need to say something about Burton. To me, this is his best performance I've seen him do, and that means a lot. Even after watching Man for All Seasons, I don't see how Scofield won the Oscar over Burton and over Michael Caine's delicously fabulous performance in Alfie. Burton might just have the most challenging and subtle role of the film and nobody could've done it better or been able to face just as well Liz's Martha!
The cinematography win seems worthy, even though some complain about excessive close-ups; I enjoyed it, it made the film look special. But while there's nothing wrong with the Art Direction and the Costumes, these wins are ridiculous: absolutely nothing to justify them. Moreso, the following year, the Academy stopped giving separate awards for B&A and Color, probably due to these 2 unfortunate wins.
My rating for the film: 8.5/10. It has parts that might be too slow, but it's overall an achievement. Also, I have to admit I might've changed the twist in the ending, as I think something ever more powerful would've helped the film's believability more.


  1. I agree Alex. Though to me, this film is sheer PERFECTION! It's a complex, challenging work of cinematic art in every respect. From the larger than life performances, to the art direction (which I did like), to the magnificent script, to the breathtaking cinematography, and last but not least, Mike Nichols' sharp, meticulous, beautiful direction. It's also so richly textured, and deeply satifying in emotional and intellectual ways from first frame to last. It's dark, haunting stuff. A feast for the senses.

    The film was paced wonderfully, because even when the action slows, you have everything else to admire around it. And I wholly agree with you on Burton's performance -- easily my all-time favorite in pretty much any category, and one of the finest pieces of acting in cinema history. He explores the psyche of the character, and eventually enters a human darkness without losing the the audiences sympathy.

    Dennis is spectacular too, giving rich, dark shades to Honey and gets into her twisted psyche as well. And Taylor...well lets just say she deserves every single praise she gets.

  2. I agree, it's a great movie, though you're right, the costumes and Art Direction wins are unjustified.

  3. This film is due for me tomorrow. And it will be my third time too. LOL :)

    BTW I loved Paul Scofield, subtle and touching performance when I saw him 4 years ago. But it was long ago. Burton is obviously my pick though.

  4. I'm happy everyone agrees about the quality of this film. And no one would dare to deny the power of the acting :)

  5. Oh, Alex how could anyone deny the full wattage power of three of best performances ever captured on celluloid!

    The film is my third favorite of all time! I love it that much!

  6. Superb movie, with terrific performances from all four of them. It's Burton's tour de force so much so it's difficult to imagine anyone else doing the role justice.