Even those who have read Lawrence Durrell's "Alexandria Quartet" (Justine, Balthazar, Mountolive, and Clea) will find this film heavy going. An attempt to meld all four novels into one cohesive story, the film is dragged down by screenwriter Marcus' sloppy writing and ham-fisted direction
by Cukor (who replaced Joe Strick just as the film began). Told in flashback, with York as the narrator, JUSTINE is the story of Aimee, an Alexandrian Jewess, and her husband, Vernon, a Christian millionaire. They are planning to send arms to Palestine so the Jews there can overcome the Moslems
and thereby help the various Christian Arabs who fear the wrath of the Moslems. Also prominent in the story are Aimee's various pals: Bogarde, a British official who has an incestuous affair with his sister; Church, who is blind; Forster, her obsessive brother-in-law; York, a schoolmaster from
Ireland; and Gorman, a homosexual. York gets to Alexandria and takes up with Karina, a consumptive belly dancer from Greece who is the mistress of Albertson, a Jewish furrier. Most of Aimee's friends are part of the arms-shipping scheme, and, fearing that Karina has spilled the beans to York,
Aimee also involves York in the plan by making him her lover. Angry at Aimee for stealing York, Karina tells Bogarde of the arms deal. Bogarde is bowled over by the plot, tells his superior, Baker, then commits suicide. Aimee and her husband are immediately arrested, but she captivates the head of
security, Constantine, and presumably she and Vernon will be spared. That's the basic story, but there are many memorable scenes, including one set in a brothel full of nubile prostitutes. Shot on location in Tunis, JUSTINE suffers from an attempt to cram too much into the film's 117 minutes.
Durrell's quartet of stories would have been better served by a TV miniseries that could have explored all of the novels' rich characters. As it stands, JUSTINE is a stew that is so dense that it is difficult to tell the meat from the potatoes.
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- Rating: R
- Review: Even those who have read Lawrence Durrell's "Alexandria Quartet" (Justine, Balthazar, Mountolive, and Clea) will find this film heavy going. An attempt to meld all four novels into one cohesive story, the film is dragged down by screenwriter Marcus' sloppy… (more)