For Reel


Quartet (1948)
June 16, 2016, 7:09 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , , , , ,

Director(s): Ken Annakin, Harold French, Arthur Crabtree & Ralph Smart
4 Stars
QuartetAnthology films have a certain irresistibly to them but are very rarely satisfying as a whole. More often than not, critics talk about these films by distinguishing between the chapters—it is common to select favorites and wholly dismiss others. Quartet is an unusually great example of the genre in that its stories build upon each other, so much so that the final chapter is graced with the cumulative power of everything that’s come before. If the four stories that comprise the film are distinct from one another, they nonetheless are unified by a certain attitude towards relationships. The last two of these stories are based on shorts from W. Somerset Maugham’s collection Creatures of Circumstance, which is a perfectly apt title to describe the often beset upon characters who strive to get by, prone to selfishness on their way to happiness. Maugham’s great masterpiece The Moon and Sixpence considered the problem of the pursuit of freedom when burdened by social responsibilities, and so too do these four stories involve characters butting heads for no particular reason other than their way of life contradicts with the people around them. In “The Colonel’s Lady”, which ends the film, Cecil Parker plays a man who is brought to shame when he realizes that he’s been poor to the woman who still desperately loves and pines for him. That the film doesn’t end in an easy reconciliation is a moment of unusual genus—there is no solution that redeems all that has come before, rather it becomes clear that there were many wasted years due to a failure of communication.

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