Rating: 8.5 stars
Seen 1 time
Seen on: 02/16/2013 (rewatch)
After being discredited as a coward, a 19th century seaman (Peter O’Toole) lives for only one purpose: to redeem himself. Based on Joseph Conrad’s novel written in 1900.
Length 154 minutes
James Mason | Paul Lukas | Eli Wallach | Jack Hawkins | Curd Jürgens | Peter O'Toole | Ric Young | Jack MacGowran | Akim Tamiroff | Noel Purcell | Daliah Lavi | Andrew Keir | Juzo Itami | Tatsuo Saitô
As a kid growing up in a, at times poor, working class family in Northern Illinois in the 1970s, movies, comics, books and role playing games were both an escape from reality and a way to stimulate my imagination. While it never felt unusual to me at the time (or really even now), I really did watch a lot of movies (sadly, few of them in theaters).
One that had a particular effect on me was Lord Jim. I distinctly remember watching it on TV, probably because it was long enough to have an intermission, but also because it’s the first movie I can remember watching with an East Asian setting. The ‘orient’ was a mysterious and intoxicating culture for me when I first saw it depicted in Lord Jim: full of high adventure, villainy and exoticism. That’s a lot of stimulation for a pre-teen kid in the ‘70s!
Because of the length, I’ve only seen Lord Jim perhaps three or four times in my 45 years of existence. It still remains a favorite movie of mine, wrapped in wonderful memories of my past.
So it was with no small amount of excitement that I made the trip into Chicago to the venerable Music Box Theater to watch Lord Jim with my family. The Music Box was screening it in it’s original 70mm format as part of its two week long 70mm Film Festival. This would be the first time for me to see Lord Jim in a theater period, so seeing it in its original format in a gorgeous vintage movie theater was like a dream come true. Being able to introduce my kids to a movie that had such an affect on me as a kid made it even better, though I was curious to see if they would enjoy it.
The print shown was drop dead gorgeous. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a vintage film print in as good a shape as this print of Lord Jim. It screening wasn’t without technical difficulties however, reel five (of, I believe, 10 total reels) was without sound, a fact only discovered while the film was screening. 70mm film is really 65mm film with an additional 5mm used for sound, so it’s not like there was a way to fix it. The sound was physically not present on the film itself.
A few minutes into reel five, they stopped the film, came onstage and announced the issue, and the audience unanimously called for the film to continue without sound. Luckily, the sound picked back up in reel six, which takes place immediately after the intermission (which was skipped for time reasons), so all was good.
Despite the sound issue, this was movie heaven for me. Honestly, I felt like a little kid again. My kids both enjoyed the film as well, so I was happy about that too.
As I said, the print was gorgeous. The colors were deep and luscious, especially the jungle scenes, and O’Toole’s deep blue eyes and fair complexion stood out just as much here as they did in Lawrence of Arabia.
Two things I discovered in this screening that I never noticed as a child were the excellent performances by Eli Wallach and James Mason, both of whom I wouldn’t have recognized as a child, but did so instantly as an adult. It’s such a treat to see Wallach in meaty roles, since I grew up watching him in the twilight of his career, where he only got “old guy” parts. Here he is a strong, barrel-chested villain, the kind of character you relished hating as a kid.
James Mason also plays a villainous character, something I’m not used to seeing either. And he does such a fantastic job of it in Lord Jim.
Given that I now live in Colorado and was only back for a short weekend visiting my family, it’s a miracle I even got to see this film at all. It was definitely worth the trip!