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  Interlude Pure As The Driven Slush
Year: 1968
Director: Kevin Billington
Stars: Oskar Werner, Barbara Ferris, Virginia Maskell, Donald Sutherland, Nora Swinbourne, Alan Webb, Bernard Kaye, Geraldine Sherman, Gino Melvazzi, Muguette de Braie, Robert Lang, Roslyn DeWinter, Janet Davies, John Cleese, Richard Pescud, Derek Jacobi
Genre: RomanceBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Stefan Zelter (Oskar Werner) meets with his former lover Sally (Barbara Ferris) at her old apartment in London, having encountered each other by chance that evening. What else is there to be said? Nothing except reminisce over their affair and how it was never going to work out when Stefan was a married father of two and his wife Antonia (Virginia Maskell) would never divorce him. The two of them had met when he was carrying out his duties as a temperamental orchestra conductor in Britain, and journalist Sally had been sent by her editor to do a story on him...

This was a tale filmed twice before, once as a Douglas Sirk effort, but here as the directorial debut of respected television documentarian Kevin Billington, though the object in all three versions was the same: to get the audience weeping buckets. Quite how successful each of these were is a matter for debate, but of the trio of this romance's incarnations, the 1968 Interlude was notable for generating the most fervent fanbase, and there were a few reasons for that, one of them being the presence of a certain Austrian leading man who was giving film stardom another go after a couple of François Truffaut successes.

Those two French films had made Werner internationally recognisable; he had been a fairly well-known actor before, but only patchily, though as a boyish handsome blond he had made an impression on some female moviegoers, as well as those who liked to visit the theatre. Yet by the point he made this, he may have still been popular but a reputation for heavy drinking and being difficult to work with meant that he only made two more films (oh, and an episode of Columbo) before sticking with the stage to a dwindling reaction. Here he was the Oskar his fans wanted to know: romantic, moody, brilliant and artistic.

His co-star never went onto anything like the same degree of cult adulation in spite of being in the right place at the right time for a few sixties movies; for Ferris, this was probably her best recalled role unless you were a Dave Clark Five fan (she starred in their movie). Rather overshadowing her in terms of renown was Maskell, for whom this would be her last film as she committed suicide before it was released. In her role as the third part of the love triangle she put across a great sense of suffering in silence, or at least tolerance, so you could read into that what you wanted in terms of the actress's turmoil. It was true enough that every main character here went through their own private hell sooner or later.

And all for love, which would have just as many swooning as it would others rolling their eyes and complaining Interlude was not so much sensitive melodrama as it was a headlong dive into the depths of despair to wallow in for a couple of hours. Plotwise, there wasn't much to it, basically we see an extended flashback of Stefan and Sally meeting at a recording studio (where TV assistant John Cleese attempts to chat Sally up in an amusing minor role, an early one for him - he wasn't even in Monty Python at the time). Before long they are canoodling and not thinking about the consequences much further than a few hours ahead, a running theme on how an affair sends out repercussions, rendering it an essentially selfish act shared between two people. This is captivating enough for the first three quarters, with well-observed performances and enough light and shade, yet come the last act when the floodgates are to open it was morose and calculated to an extent hard to take unless you'd fallen for the lovers yourself. Music by Georges Delerue, with lots of nicely-chosen classical extracts.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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