Heart of Glass

When they were collaborating on the screenplay to 1951's The African Queen, writer James Agee told director John Huston that Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn's trip up the river could symbolize the act of love. Huston responded: "Oh Christ, Jim, tell me something I can understand. This isn't like a novel. This is a screenplay. You've got to demonstrate everything. People on the screen [are already] symbols. You can't have symbolism within symbolism." Oscar and Lucinda proves Huston's point all too well. Using a flashy scarlet-streaked color scheme, opulent costumes, and a heavenly-choir soundtrack to cushion weighty matters such as the river journey, Armstrong wants this to be a magic-carpet ride into a New South Wales heart of darkness. Instead Oscar and Lucinda is like an Australian literature or women's studies syllabus tied up in party ribbons.

Oscar and Lucinda.
Directed by Gillian Armstrong. Written by Laura Jones, from Peter Carey's novel. Starring Ralph Fiennes and Cate Blanchett.

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