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"Room at the Top", Jack Clayton, 1959

Posted: Tue Jun 25, 2019 7:11 pm
by Belle
Yesterday my "Ship of Fools" arrived via Amazon and I watched and enjoyed this Stanley Kramer film. Simone Signoret was fabulous in that film and her scenes with Oskar Werner were the highlight (god, I could listen to his voice forever!). This led me across to "Room at the Top", a film I hadn't seen for decades. It is downloaded in 2 parts on U-Tube, though slightly out of sync. So, a cold winter's afternoon with intermittent rain saw us both housebound on a Signoret-fest!!

This really must be one of the top 10 English films of all time. I love that it's in monochrome and its gritty realism is in counterpoint to some cheesy scenes with Mr. Brown - the father of Susan whom Joe uses to climb the social and wealth ladder. Signoret is again perfect as the world-weary femme fatale who has seen it all, done it all. In contrast to Werner in "Ship of Fools", Joe Lampton (Harvey) is cold and self-serving - up until he falls in love with Alice. Thereafter he's more tender and I love the conflicted nature of his performance; he really captures the ambivalence well. The plot is spare, save for context-creating scenes like those when Joe returns home to his roots. The hiatus in the relationship with Joe and Susan lacks some credibility - giving him time to pursue Alice, but somehow Susan is still there, unquestioning!! These are major weaknesses in the film, but I can overlook them because the rest of it is lacking sentimentality and melodrama. The acting carries the entire film, sans the addition of strings and/ or other emotion-evoking diegetic or non-diegetic music.

Actually, thinking again about Oskar Werner; his delivery and style was not dissimilar to another great Viennese actor, Anton Walbrook. The way his words suddenly dropped from strong to soft, almost silent. Like a musical subito piano!! I wonder if Walbrook was a model for Werner? This has just occurred to me. Oh dear; another reason to adore the Viennese!!! Walbrook was a warmer personality than Werner, but the delivery of lines is somewhat similar - and it isn't just the accent: