Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Weeks Too Late: The Bed Sitting Room

The Bed Sitting Room. Directed by Richard Lester & Adapted from Milligan & Antrobus' Play by Charles Wood.

: As pat and uncontroversial as it may sound, I'm a fan of a Hard Day's Night. Lester captured the fun, offhand feeling that I think of when I consider the early Beatles. He's got an excellent sense of weirdness and comedic directing. So when I was digging around and saw words like "Ralph Richardson is a stiff-upper-lip gentleman who mutates into ... a sitting room" I was naturally intrigued.

General Review
: I'm at a loss about where to begin. This movie was Monty Python and the Prisoner thrown into a centrifuge spun around until they're pulped together. It had a
ll the unrepentant strangeness that this suggests. Again, I'm afraid I'm hardly being unique or insightful with these comparisons. The Bed Sitting Room follows the handful of English survivors in a post atomic wasteland (after the post atomic horror, if you will). However, this basic plot description doesn't really cover the oddness. Surreal just about does it. The bulk of the characters attempt to stolidly act as though nothing has changed despite the nuclear clouds, lack of food and rampant mutations.

Sometimes weirdness for its own sake is enough for me and I certainly
enjoyed the weirdness here, but overall I didn't love the Bed Sitting Room. I may come off as a bit of a dullard for this, but it just wasn't as funny as I was expecting. Everything in the film lent itself towards humour. Watching a stuffy lord slowly transforming into a room and a middle class family try to keep living as if things would be back to normal any day should have been hilarious. Admittedly, there were a few giggles, like the singing of God Save Mrs. Ethel Shroake (the next in line for the throne after the bomb) and the fact that people are too polite to say "bomb." Sadly, at the end of a movie that should have had me worrying about suffocation, I only had the few giggles. Thinking about the juxtapositions and absurdities makes me think "oh that's clever" and I dig the mental exercise, but the movie didn't go those extra few inches to make me laugh.

The problems certainly weren't with the cast. Ralph Richardson (as the lord) and Frank Thornton (as the BBC) were particularly good at the deadpan pretense that everything was normal, despite evidence to the contrary. Richardson's request for a medical prescription for breakfast to ward off the illness of starvation was particularly good. There wasn't an actor in this that didn't sell each line and strange scenario to its utmost.

The sets were great and had an awful lot of variety for being a mostly deserted wasteland. Each character we visit has (
or is) a distinct looking hidey-hole. And the policemen's balloon was neat to see in the empty desert of England.

The Bed Sitting Room is fun to think about. It's a study in contrasts, strangeness and absurdities, that is interesting to watch and full of well played characters. I just wasn't able to get over the fact that it wasn't
funny. So many of the situations felt like set ups to jokes that were ultimately not paid off. If you haven't seen it, it's worth the price of admission just to see the oddness, but don't expect to get a whole lot more out of it than that. Oh and a critique of class and middle class morality, I mean this is something I've compared to Python, after all.

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