For Reel

On Approval (1944)
July 14, 2016, 12:25 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Clive Brook
4 Stars
On ApprovalLike fellow countryman Charles Laughton, Clive Brook only made one foray into directing, and the resulting picture shows such a careful love of the medium that one is left to reevaluate an entire career. On Approval was adapted from a beloved and hugely risque 1926 stageplay and is noteworthy for featuring one of the few screen appearances of Beatrice Lillie, a stage actress with comic gifts that have become legendary. While Britain had an enormous comedy boom in immediate post-war era, this Victorian-set farce came out right in the thick of it—in fact, the opening sequence involves a bait-and-switch that fools audiences into thinking they’ll be seeing, “another war picture.” Interestingly, Brook sets the film even further back in history, also declaring that the immediate pre-war era was similarly loud and mannerless. It seems a perfect setting for a story that is largely about how intolerable relationships can become when sex isn’t involved—the most Victorian of repressions! Brook’s experimentation with newsreel footage and a persistent quickness in montage is matched by a Looney Tunes-esque nightmare sequence late in the picture (including Lillie gearing up to smash Brook’s head with a sledgehammer), suggesting that lunacy is ironically born from characters trying their damnedest to be polite.

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