The Buffalo Film Seminars’ spring 2014 semester draws to a close with a break in chronology on May 6, as the Bruce Jackson- and Diane Christian-hosted series screens larger-than-life director John Huston’s final film, an adaptation of James Joyce’s “The Dead.”
Huston had passed away by the time his final film was released in 1987, so he did not get to experience the praise heaped upon the film and the lead performance of his daughter, Anjelica Huston. It’s a gorgeous, moving film – certainly one of Huston’s finest – and, with 1985’s “Prizzi’s Honor,” part of a one-two punch that ended his career on a high note. Huston’s take on Joyce’s “unfilmable” short story “The Dead” is an enchanting and complex story of family and memory in early 20th-century Dublin.
The film is a reminder that despite a wildly erratic career, the filmmaker behind such classics as “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre” and “The African Queen” was incredibly ambitious, and incredibly strange. His last decade alone saw him tackle both Malcolm Lowry’s “Under the Volcano” and Flannery O’Connor’s “Wise Blood” as well as the absurd Sly Stallone/Pele/Michael Caine WWII team-up “Escape to Victory.” That’s an eclectic mix, to say nothing of an acting résumé of high highs (“Chinatown”) and low lows (“Myra Breckenridge”).
Jackson and Christian are the ideal guides through the dense, dangerous jungle that is the Huston filmography, and audiences can expect an insightful discussion of where the film fits in Huston’s oeuvre, and also its level of success in bringing Joyce to the screen. “The Dead” is a fitting conclusion to another wonderfully diverse few months of screenings. As always, the Buffalo Film Seminars screening begins at 7 p.m. in the Market Arcade Film and Arts Center (639 Main St.).
– Christopher Schobert