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4.4 out of 5 stars
The Dead [DVD]
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on 17 February 2011
Nothing happens. All of life happens. This is a wonderful adaptation of the James Joyce short story. It beautifully captures the atmosphere of the Epiphany party in turn of the 20th century Dublin. The whole cast are marvellous. I cringed with embarrassment for sad, drunken Freddie, felt great pity for the two elderly, party giving sisters and their niece as they see their way of life begin to fade and held my breath as Gabriel's self image dips as he realises there are things about his wife he has never known. The scene where Greta (Anjelica Huston) comes down the stairs at the end of the party and pauses to listen to a singer in another room is simply haunting.
If you like action movies, give this a miss. If you want to be transported to another time, another life, here's your film
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 31 July 2008
Certainly one of the greatest and most beautiful films ever made, and this is also one of the most outstanding films of modern movie making - and quite remarkable in that it was made as recent as 1987!

This gem opens like a Christmas Card, and has the appearance and style of a movie that could have been made many years ago! I remember seeing this for the first time when the only way to get to see a new movie was to rent it from a Video Store (before you could buy them) My mother and I had selected this title - not knowing why. We watched it together and you could hear a pin drop! I couldn't wait to purchase it when it came on general release!

So many of the cast is outstanding that it is difficult to name who is the best here (the poignancy of course being that now, just twenty years on, so many of this wonderful cast are now gone...) but Helena Carroll in particular is outstanding - not to mention of course Anjelica Huston. I believed at the time (and still do) that only one other actress I know of could have played the role of 'Gretta' as well, and I had the sheer delight of being able to tell her so myself, and that is Meg Wynn Owen (Hazel Bellamy - Upstairs, Downstairs) There are so many close-ups in this, and these kind of shots are extremely hard to do, but Meg is an expert at this kind of thing.

This is one Party I would have loved to have attended - the simple welcoming of the 'three graces' (as 'Gabriel' went on to name them some time into the story in his speech) who are all so loveable, and the singing, dancing, drinking and eating - wonderful!! Freddy is by far one of the most entertaining characters - marvellously played by Donal Donnelly, who has some humorous dialogue with the handsome 'Mr. Browne' (played by Dan O'Herlihy)

There is much talent in this; the startling recital of 'Broken Vows' by Sean McClory, and the tremendously talented Tenor, the late Frank Patterson who sings: 'The Lass Of Aughrim' which is a pivotal point in the film.

This film will have you in bursts of light laughter, and the next minute sniffling with tears... The whole film and story is beautifully summed up with the words and thoughts of the character 'Gabriel' after he and is wife arrive home, and the revelation of her thoughts during the evening are disclosed. This sort of melancholia so often accompanies us after such gatherings and celebrations.

Some great cinematography, beautifully filmed and shot with some golden scenes where John Huston gets the most out of such simple frames. A perfect example being the scene where 'Gretta' slips on her dainty shoes after arriving at her aunt's Party out of the snow.

This is definitely one of those great movies that would be a mistake to re-make - this will never be topped...

A million stars for this!!
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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on 22 December 2006
Like all great stories, and great films for that matter, THE DEAD is anything but simple. The layers are seemingly endless, like the skin of an onion. Filled with richly drawn and beautifully played characters, the late John Huston's last film is a fitting tribute both to Ireland and to James Joyce, whose story is translated to the screen with the kind of sensitivity that is not too often to be found in the cinema.

Taking as its central point an annual party given by Miss Kate and Miss Julia, two elderly Dubliners, this is a gentle drama of small folk, their lives and loves, their triumphs and tragedies.

No incident in the film changes the world, but the people in it are those who are for all time, and anyone viewing 'The Dead' cannot fail to be moved by it.

(A recent reviewer on the radio regretted that she had first seen the film before she was old enough fully to appreciate it. Older and wiser now, she was in raptures over the recent re-release.)

This minimalist classic, similar in many ways to my own personal favourite, 'Babette's Feast', must surely rank high in the list of movie greats.
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47 of 51 people found the following review helpful
The Dead was John Huston's final film, shot in California as he directed with the aid of oxygen. It's a film very much in minor key, which is suited to its source- the final short story in James Joyce's masterful collection, Dubliners.

It's wonderfully shot, sort of the missing link between Kubrick's Barry Lyndon (1975) and Scorsese's The Age of Innocence (1993) in terms of lighting and the way it captures the sisters party on twelth night in Dublin, 1904. The cast are excellent, from leads Donal McCann (as Gabriel) and Anjelica Huston (as Greta) & such actors as Colm Meaney, Rachel Dowling & Donal Donnelly. The film itself is basically a meal set on Twelth night by hosts the Markham sisters and their niece- we cut between various characters, & the film moves from dancing to poetry to singing to the meal itself; there are also moments of great comedy, particularly centred around drunken Frank. The film, like its literary source, makes reference to Irish politics (eg West Briton, Republican union meetings, Irish traditions, Parnell) & art- notably opera, which features in a brilliant scene focused on Anjelica Huston. It's a minor key film, no major melodrama and just under 80 minutes in duration, but the end- where Greta tells Gabriel about her teenage paramour who died young (reminding me of the traditional Irish song 'I am Stretched On Your Grave')& how Gabriel didn't really know his wife. Dublin is wonderfully captured under a rain of snow & the final scenes, when Gabriel- on a night of celebration and union, notes that death is looming & we see images surrounding Dublin and snow, of graveyards, and of Aunt Julia's future death- moves into the poetic- the mise-en-scene offering an image for every one of Joyce's transcendental lines.

The Dead is an excellent adaptation of Joyce's short story- far from the travesty that was the film of Joyce's Ulysses; of course, it should lead you to the source short story (if unfamiliar). I had read Dubliners several times before seeing this & think this is a sterling adaptation of a great literary work, to rank alongside such films as Swann in Love, The Wings of the Dove, Tess, The Portrait of a Lady & A Room With a View. Sometimes work in a minor key can be just as profound as a 'big film' like Schindler's List or whatever. The Dead is just that & comes highly recommended- thanks to the nice person who bought it for me from my wish list!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 25 January 2013
Nothing much seems to happen at this dinner for relatives and friends given by 2 maiden aunts in pre-1914 Dunblin but many stories can be glimpsed, not requiring further development: the drunken, scapegrace son of a disapproving mother on his road to an alcoholic death, the marriage gone stale of the principal characters, undertones of the Irish independence movement, the Gaelic cultural revival and much more. Emotions rise in the Anjelica Huston character, unexpectedly provoked by a guest's exquisite singing of an old Irish folk song. Her long-buried, painful memory of a young love, unsuspected by her husband, overwhelms her with sadness, causing her husband to question how well he really knows his wife, reacting jealously until he realises the object of her affections is long dead, when he softens. After his wife has cried herself to sleep his thoughts, stimulated by the events of the evening and the snowy, bleak cityscape, develop from her particular case to an appreciation of the inevitable approach of universal mortality.
The acting was perfect, the lighting brought out the period settings and the direction was hugely sympathetic, leaving an overwhelming impression of bitter-sweetness.
It's a film I will come back to time and again and a fine valedictory monument to John Huston's genius.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
TOP 50 REVIEWERon 25 February 2012
It is not often you find a screen adaptation that matches the achievement of a great work of fiction, but that is what John Huston achieved in this film. Ideally it needs to be seen in the cinema, even though there are no big effects and most of it is shot inside a town house. The way the ensemble pieces are handled is so seamless, yet catches us up in the feeling of this Epiphany celebration at the house of two elderly sisters and their niece with a joy as complete as its lack of sentimentality. I don't know how he got the tone so exactly; much of it is Joyce whose writing so effortlessly conveys the surface of social interaction and the undercurrents. But the skill of the actors is little short of miraculous, beginning with their casting - it is as if they carry all before them ... What is so moving is the way the focus narrows from the large group to the intimacy of the couple, only to open out onto vistas of emotion and a vision that draws all of life into a fantastic final page and a half. It makes for a highly unusual shape, and also a surprising shift in tone, yet it feels so right. The detail is also wonderful in terms of the visuals. For instance Anjelica Huston's long monologue shows her head against a wonderfully textured wall which serves as a counterpoint to the Rembrandt-like intensity of her expression, which also mirrors her rapt look on the stairs, framed by stained glass, at the sound of the tenor. Who is a little bit pleased with himself, perhaps, but what a voice! The music is gentle, played on the harp when not actually part of the film, and rooting us very much in an Irish feel - or how I imagine that to be in the early 20th century. All life seems to be here; its generous impulses, its delusions, its transience. And Donal McCann is superb as the central consciousness of the film. There is also a lot of humour, but this would have to be so in a work that takes in everything. For me it is one of the great films whose beauty makes a lasting imprint on our emotions.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on 9 December 2006
The perfect antidote to shoot-em-ups and CGI. This film is seeped in atmosphere and the kind of gentle sadness that you associate with Ireland. And it could only have been made by a dying man of Huston's age and ability. It's slow and assured. Quite short at 80-something minutes, but a gem.

It's been a while since I saw it - but I'm buying it now for my collection.

Beautiful - and so poignant that his daughter, Angelica, stars in it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 19 July 2011
Director John Houston has masterfully adapted James Joyce's final short story in the 'Dubliners' into a revelation of lost-love and paralysis in twentieth century Ireland. It stars Anjelica Huston as Gretta Conroy, a Connacht girl who has moved to the city of Dublin and married wealthy socialite Gabriel Conroy (Donal McCann).
Huston, like Joyce, captures the everyday detail of person and place (the who and the where) and the film opens on the Feast of Epiphany (6th January) 1904 when a grand party is thrown by Misses Morkan and their neice Mary Jane. Their favourite nephew Gabriel arrives with his beautiful wife Gretta and acts as host. He commends the Irish on their tradition of hospitality and a splendid time is had by all. However Gretta is profoundly affected by the sad traditional song, 'Lass of Aughrim'. Its dramatic relevance evokes memories of a brief and innocent romance with a youth from Galway, Michael Furey who dies of tubercolosis. The memory of her dead lover clouds the party atmosphere and the journey by cab to the overnight stay at the Gresham Hotel. Her confession to Gabriel produces a riot of emotions in him; jealousy, betrayal, sense of failure, acceptance of their mediocrity, the resolve to be sympathetic at all costs: all drawn from Joyce's own experiences with his partner Nora.
Huston's masterly direction and visual interpretation bring out the meanings of the Joycean snow that falls throughout Ireland. The snow imagery pervades the film; partygoers and their festivities contrasted with the cold outside, the cold repeatedly connected with what is fragrant, fresh and alive. It culminates with a scene of Michael Furey in the snow and darkness of a Galway churchyard in a bleak wintry landscape highlighting the interrrelationship between the living and the dead.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
#1 HALL OF FAMEon 13 January 2004
The Dead was John Huston's final film, shot in California as he directed with the aid of oxygen. It's a film very much in minor key, which is suited to its source- the final short story in James Joyce's masterful collection, Dubliners.
It's wonderfully shot, sort of the missing link between Kubrick's Barry Lyndon (1975) and Scorsese's The Age of Innocence (1993) in terms of lighting and the way it captures the sisters party on twelth night in Dublin, 1904. The cast are excellent, from leads Donal McCann (as Gabriel) and Anjelica Huston (as Greta) & such actors as Colm Meaney, Rachel Dowling & Donal Donnelly. The film itself is basically a meal set on Twelth night by hosts the Markham sisters and their niece- we cut between various characters, & the film moves from dancing to poetry to singing to the meal itself; there are also moments of great comedy, particularly centred around drunken Frank. The film, like its literary source, makes reference to Irish politics (eg West Briton, Republican union meetings, Irish traditions, Parnell) & art- notably opera, which features in a brilliant scene focused on Anjelica Huston. It's a minor key film, no major melodrama and just under 80 minutes in duration, but the end- where Greta tells Gabriel about her teenage paramour who died young (reminding me of the traditional Irish song 'I am Stretched On Your Grave')& how Gabriel didn't really know his wife. Dublin is wonderfully captured under a rain of snow & the final scenes, when Gabriel- on a night of celebration and union, notes that death is looming & we see images surrounding Dublin and snow, of graveyards, and of Aunt Julia's future death- moves into the poetic- the mise-en-scene offering an image for every one of Joyce's transcendental lines.
The Dead is an excellent adaptation of Joyce's short story- far from the travesty that was the film of Joyce's Ulysses; of course, it should lead you to the source short story (if unfamiliar). I had read Dubliners several times before seeing this & think this is a sterling adaptation of a great literary work, to rank alongside such films as Swann in Love, The Wings of the Dove, Tess, The Portrait of a Lady & A Room With a View. Sometimes work in a minor key can be just as profound as a 'big film' like Schindler's List or whatever. The Dead is just that & comes highly recommended- thanks to the nice person who bought it for me from my wish list!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 23 April 2010
One of the few films to seamlessly integrate the musical soundtrack to the events within in the film. Shows how it should be done.
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