Trials, Masks and the Catskills
Cunneen, Joseph, National Catholic Reporter
Three off-beat films tell universal stories with style
The Winslow Boy (Sony Pictures Classics) seems a most unlikely project for David Mamet; instead of the abusive exchanges of criminals we hear the mannered upper-class speech of 1910 Britons. The news is as good as it is surprising: Mamet's screenplay brings out the strengths of Terence Rattigan's 1946 play, and his carefully controlled direction makes its isolated moments of revelation all the more powerful.
The play was based on a famous trial involving a 13-year-old cadet at the Osborne naval academy accused of stealing a five-shilling postal order. After the boy was sent home from the academy in disgrace, his father insisted on carrying the case to the highest legal authority in order to exonerate him. The financial expense was prohibitive, but the emotional cost to the entire family was even greater.
The material may have appealed to Mamet because it avoids conventional courtroom theatrics, and the director successfully imposes an appropriate style on his distinguished cast. Understatement and ambiguity leave us responsive to the smallest shadings of emphasis. As the family is introduced at the outset, we might believe that Arthur Winslow, the stem father (Nigel Hawthorne), will be incapable of dealing calmly with a son denounced …
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Publication information: Article title: Trials, Masks and the Catskills. Contributors: Cunneen, Joseph - Author. Magazine title: National Catholic Reporter. Volume: 35. Issue: 29 Publication date: May 21, 1999. Page number: 10. © 2009 National Catholic Reporter. COPYRIGHT 1999 Gale Group.
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