245 Great Directors: Jack Clayton

“I don’t believe in being fashionable. Try to be and you’re usually out of date before you start.”


What Got This Director Here?
: Mostly The Innocents.

My Favorite Past Experience Was…: N/A

What Did I Watch: Room at the Top, Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne, The Pumpkin Eater.

Where Does He Fit: Room at the Top may have been a prestige type of work, but it’s a damn good one in the same vein as Place in the Sun, with just enough cinematic touches on Clayton’s side of the camera to make all the talking and acting go over neatly. Simone Signoret winning the Oscar is a little surprising, but it’s a good choice, unusually grim in her sensibilities in a year where the other nominees feel a bit florid on paper, no? Everything is frozen and chilly, and the trip to the top has fire and pain underneath it. Everything lingers.

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The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne, generally considered Clayton’s last great moment, is a tad broader and sillier in the moods it conjures, but the slow burn of Maggie Smith desperately falling in love with Bob Hoskins’ brash American in her small Irish town is devastating. It’s such an unusual role for a woman who usually plays the wittiest creature in the room, for here she’s been screwed up by the church and Wendy Hiller as her monster mom (taking the Kim Stanley route in her performance). Everything is like the most painful parts of Room at the Top under a magnifying glass.

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Is there anything more heartbreaking than Anne Bancroft’s face in The Pumpkin Eater? Watching her react with increasing tetchiness to her children becoming unfamiliar, Maggie Smith laying all over her property, and Yootha Joyce going utterly psychotic on her in a brief turn at the salon. The camerawork gleams, and there is nothing more frightening than watching her finally lose her cool on Peter Finch in a dizzying fight scene that eventually calms down and becomes totally heartbreaking. This is the horror film that I assume that The Innocents must really be, and it deserves a far better reputation than it has.

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Most Valuable Asset: Horrifying humanism.
Most Excited For: The Innocents/Our Mother’s House.
Did They Deserve a Spot?: Absolutely. What a great discovery, and I haven’t even seen the big favorites yet.

Coming Up Next: Danny Boyle, hyperkinetic editor.

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