Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

This sixties classic had a few showings at the Chauvel cinema in Sydney in August 1997. It wasn't a new print, which was a pity, because I 'd forgotten just how great Haskell Wexler's black-and-white cinematography is. In particular, some of his framing is absolutely stunning.

Speaking of stunning - Elizabeth Taylor. Apart from the fact that this is, in my opinion, her greatest performance by far, she actually looks much better than I remembered her! She and Richard Burton together are just electric. You can see their real life relationship up there on the screen from time to time, and that only adds to the potent mix. Burton is superb. Both look ugly at times and beautiful at others. Sandy Dennis is excellent, too (particularly when drunk), though I thought George Segal was not quite up there with the other 3.

The screenplay, adapted by Ernst Lehman from Edward Albee's play, is wordy, and it is tribute to Mike Nichols' direction that the film comes across as dynamic and kinetic, rather than as a wordfest or as a filmed play. It was Mike Nichols' directing debut and he doesn't put a foot wrong. He and Ernst Lehman open the play up just enough and no more.

The other stand-out thing about this film is the art direction, by Richard Sylbert (the only art director ever to head a major Hollywood studio). Among the decorations in George and Martha's charming home, I spotted a map of Martha's Vineyard, and, on the back of the bedroom door, a picture of Ingmar Bergman's death figure from The Seventh Seal!