April 19, 2014 | Rome, Italy | Partly Cloudy 15°C
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Comedy-Romantic Comedy

Enough Said

Julia Louis-Dreyfus and James Gandolfini are two adults in love — maybe.

Drama

The Counselor

Cormac McCarthy's pretty but burdensome prose weighs down Ridley Scott's drug drama.

Nancy, Please

Andrew Semans plays sinister chords in a jagged little move about paranoia.

Fear and Desire

Stanley Kubrick's restored first feature is jagged, amateurish and fascinating.

Mamma Roma

Pasolini's second feature, powered by Anna Magnani, is an ode to Rome's dispossessed.

Ida

Paweł Pawlikowski's brief story about a Polish nun is a haunting Holocaust remembrance.

Horror

Berberian Sound Studio

A little warped sound goes a long way in a British horror film set in the Italian 1970s.

Thrillers

Grand Piano

Eugenio Mira's overblown thriller, while concert-hall stylish, is well out of tune.

Haywire

Steven Soderbergh has a way with "wild" women, which Gina Carano proves.

Science Fiction

Elysium

South African Neill Bloomkamp never gains traction in a hackneyed sci-fi fantasy.




Date: 1965
Directed by: Martin Ritt
Starring: Richard Burton, Claire Bloom, Oskar Werner, Cyril Cusack, Sam Wanamaker

The Spy Who Came in From the Cold

Hard to understate the upstream difficulties of making a downbeat espionage thriller in the halcyon days of James Bond and 007, when girl-and-spy moves were the escapist ritual of choice. Director Martin Ritt succeeds by respecting the grim mood of John Le Carré's early Cold War novel, in which truth and goodness mean nothing. Gadgetry heavy spy-craft is replaced by a cast of "seedy, squalid bastards" who stare at each other across the Berlin Wall, stuck in amoral dampness that clings to them like glue.

When Godless Alec Leamis (Richard Burton), MI5's West Berlin station chief, is outfoxed by Communist adversary Mundt, London "control" (devious Cyril Cusack) brings Leamis home and hatches a plan to make him a candidate for defection, hoping to lure the other side into taking the poisoned bait. Burton's faux-fired Leamis is made to play the part of a cynical drunk who stays in disenchanted character even with his naïve leftist lover Nancy (Claire Danes): "Communists. Capitalists. It's the innocents who get slaughtered." Gradually, Leamis' "inaction and embitterment" grow credible, accelerating the intentions of the other side and lubricating the grand manipulation intended to ensnare and eliminate Mundt.

But this fickle, tricky road runs through Mundt's sly deputy Fielder (Oscar Werner), and it is the exchanges between Leamis and Fielder that plunge Ritt's elegant film into darker, murkier ground, all the more because Fielder is a Jew and Mundt an ex-Nazi. Sublimely driven Burton is haunted and hostile throughout, a hollow man at home with gaiety-deprived ruses and red herrings and amenable to the arrogant posturing on which lying hinges ("I reserve the right to be ignorant. That's the Western way of life.")

Yet most of Le Carré's early stories survive on duplicity, and the final moves in this chess match are clever, brutal, and unsparing. "There is only one rule," says Leamis, "expediency." Which few involved survive.

Reviewed by: Marcia Yarrow
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