Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB. United Kingdom, 1958. Knightsbridge Films. Screenplay by Alec Guinness, based on the novel by Joyce Carey. Cinematography by Arthur Ibbetson. Produced by John Bryan, Ronald Neame. Music by Kenneth V. Jones. Production Design by William C. Andrews. Costume Design by Julia Squire. Film Editing by Anne V. Coates. Academy Awards 1958.
Alec Guinness is a riot as an independently-spirited painter whose search for the great masterpiece that he knows is inside him takes him to various extremes of the human mind. After serving prison time for having made lewd, bothersome telephone calls to his benefactor, Guinness is released and goes home to resurrect his relationship with a saucy-mouthed barmaid (Kay Walsh) and gets back to his artwork. When a rich couple show interest in purchasing one of his earlier pieces, he moves into their apartment and uses a giant blank wall to create what he hopes will be the culmination of his life’s work while they go on vacation in Jamaica. His friends get wind of his new digs, and soon the place is turned into a meeting place for all manner of bohemian artists. Working from a terrific script that he wrote himself (based on the novel by Joyce Carey), Guinness gives a full-bodied, fascinating performance. Ronald Neame captures the wild life of London artists without flinching for a second from the more unsavoury aspects of it.