Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBBB.
United Kingdom/Ireland/USA, 1987. Vestron Pictures, Zenith Entertainment, Liffey Films, Channel 4, Delta Film. Screenplay by Tony Huston, based on the story by James Joyce. Cinematography by Fred Murphy. Produced by Wieland Schulz-Keil, Chris Sievernich. Music by Alex North. Production Design by Stephen B. Grimes, J. Dennis Washington. Costume Design by Dorothy Jeakins. Film Editing by Roberto Silvi. Academy Awards 1987. Independent Spirit Awards 1987. New York Film Critics Awards 1987.
John Huston made this, his last, film in a wheelchair with a respirator to help him get through each day, but there’s no indication in the film that there was anything less than one hundred percent energy going on behind the scenes. Working from a letter-perfect screenplay written by his son Tony Huston, adapted from the “Dubliners” story by James Joyce, The Dead takes place in turn-of-the-century Ireland at a Christmas dinner where old friends have gathered. As the evening progresses, they each relate stories about their lives to each other, primarily remembrances of those who have passed on but remain in their hearts. Anjelica Huston is fantastic as a party guest who reveals her heartbreaking story last, and most powerfully. It’s not a grand film in any way, not like the epic period dramas that you get from the team of Merchant Ivory, but its delicacy is partly what makes it so wonderful. Watching it gives you that elated, symphonic feeling that only great art can do for you.