Alain Resnais's PROVIDENCE is truly a breakthrough film, a provocative attempt to synthesize past and future, literature and cinema, into a disarming but totally compelling present tense.
The film takes place on the eve of the 78th birthday of Clive Langham (John Gielgud), a dying novelist. He lives alone in his country estate in Providence, Rhode Island, battling alcoholism, the memory of his dead wife, and a chronic rectal disorder. At night, he struggles to write what appears to
be his last novel, basing the characters on his own children. In this malevolent fiction, his son, Claude (Dirk Bogarde), and daughter-in-law, Sonia (Ellen Burstyn), are unhappily married and constantly--if wittily--sparring. Another, illegitimate son, Kevin Woodford (David Warner) is a former
soldier on trial, prosecuted by Claude, for killing an old man who turned into a werewolf. Claude is the prosecuting attorney, but the defendant is acquitted, and soon falls in love with Sonia. This, however, does not upset Claude as much as it disgusts him.
The increasingly inebriated Clive decides to give Claude a mistress, but the character he creates, Helen (Elaine Stritch), is the image of his dead wife--an older woman with a terminal disease, whom Clive continually mistakes for her prototype. As he labors to complete his retributive narrative,
characters disintegrate further and further, delivering each other's dialogue and hopelessly confusing the story. Settings, too, change inexplicably. The next morning, Clive's children pay a birthday visit and prove a far cry from the ailing novelist's representations of them.
Director Alain Resnais--who collaborated with novelists Marguerite Duras in HIROSHIMA MON AMOUR, Alain Robbe-Grillet in LAST YEAR AT MARIENBAD, and Jorge Semprun in LA GUERRE EST FINIE--joined forces here with playwright David Mercer, best known for his A Suitable Case for Treatment (filmed by
Karel Reisz as MORGAN!). PROVIDENCE should put those who attack Resnais for being pretentious and cold at ease, especially in light of Gielgud's virtuoso performance. Filled with brilliant wit, PROVIDENCE is a superb instance of inventive filmmaking with a comic touch and an intellectual theme.
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- Released: 1977
- Rating: R
- Review: Alain Resnais's PROVIDENCE is truly a breakthrough film, a provocative attempt to synthesize past and future, literature and cinema, into a disarming but totally compelling present tense. The film takes place on the eve of the 78th birthday of Clive Langh… (more)