Friday, March 23, 2012

Short Take: Morgan!

This review was originally published on Pol Culture.

Morgan! (called Morgan: A Suitable Case for Treatment in the opening titles) is a London-set romantic farce that was produced around the same time as Georgy Girl. It has dated even worse. Director Karel Reisz and scenarist David Mercer have the same basic goal as the Georgy Girl filmmakers. They were looking to adapt the style of the French nouvelle vague films to commercial comedy. And as in Georgy Girl, the effect of mating that material with the existential aesthetic of the French is ludicrous. Of the two, Georgy Girl is the easier to take, largely because it has a plot. Morgan! is little more than a collection of slapstick setpieces that wouldn't have been out of place in a Three Stooges short. The ostensible story is about the efforts of a pathologically childish working-class artist (David Warner) to woo back his upper-class ex-wife (Vanessa Redgrave) before she marries her new beau. But there's little in the way of dramatic construction, and the naturalistic manner of the film works against the humor of the slapstick and other farcical elements. The filmmakers seem engaged in a futile effort to make stalking, vandalism, and kidnapping funny. The picture has a number of 1960s "with it" touches, such as the Warner character's fascination with Communist leaders and imagery, but they're strictly decorative. The same is true of his interest in gorillas and other apes. The cutaways to clips from African wildlife documentaries, Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan films, and the original King Kong never connect to anything more than pretension. Karel Reisz and cinematographer Larry Pike do a superficially capable job of staging and shooting scenes in location settings. It would have been interesting to see them use those skills with compatible material.

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