Friday, January 20, 2012


Watching Suddenly, Last Summer (adapted for the screen by Gore Vidal and Tennessee Williams from Williams'1958 play), it's hard not to think about the frequency with which homosexuality=death themes crop up in Tennessee Williams' works, and to wonder to what extent some gay artists have been subtly complicit in perpetuating damaging social perceptions of homosexuality. 
In 1937 New Orleans (a year necessary perhaps to emphasize the infancy of lobotomy surgery, but not at all evident in the '50s-style clothes, hairdos, and make-up on display), super-rich widow Violet Venable seeks to secure— through not-so-subtle bribery—the services of groundbreaking psychosurgeon John Cukrowicz. Her objective is to have the doctor perform a lobotomy on her beautiful niece, Catherine, who apparently went insane the previous summer after witnessing the death of Mrs. Venable's adult son, Sebastian.
Lady's Very Hungry Today
"The Venus Fly-Trap, a devouring organism aptly named for the goddess of love."

The mysterious particulars of Sebastian's death, life, and the reason behind Mrs. Venable's wish to silence her niece make up the narrative body of Suddenly, Last Summer. A film whose overarching Freudianism (intentionally or not) parallels closet homosexuality with everything from pedophilia and mother fixation to sociopathology and flesh-eating prehistoric monsters. 
Elizabeth Taylor as Catherine Holly
Katharine Hepburn as Mrs.Violet Venable
Montgomery Clift as Dr. John Cukrowicz
If Tennessee Williams' views on same-sex relations are unremittingly bleak, I suppose one can't overlook the fact that Williams (of whom nothing I've read biographically would indicate a familiarity with love or happiness to any sizable degree) was nothing if not a product of his repressed, shame-based time. Raised in that bastion of open-mindedness, the American South, Williams (1911- 1983) had his most significant commercial successes during the '40s and '50s, a time when balanced/loving depictions of homosexuality would likely have resulted in his professional ostracism, if not incarceration. It's a certainty that audiences at that time had no interest in seeing homosexuality portrayed as anything other than deviant aberration. But there's no ignoring Williams' willing participation in promoting this perspective. This despite Tennessee Williams being one of the few "out" public figures I can recall from my youth.

Expressly acknowledged queer characters appear in only a handful of this prolific playwright's body of work: Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (Skipper, who commits suicide); A Streetcar Named Desire (Blanche's husband Allan, also a suicide); and this, Suddenly, Last Summer (Sebastian, murdered and cannibalized). But wouldn't you know it? They're the works that have had the greatest longevity. (Tennessee Williams didn't initiate popular culture's tiresomely persistent association of homosexuality with death. In Lillian Hellman's 1934 play, The Children's Hour, a character's mere suspicion that she might be a lesbian is enough to induce her to hang herself.)

There are those who believe it's folly to look at old movies through a contemporary prism. I personally think that it's essential to keep in mind the cultural context and social time frame of films; but I also believe that all true art endures. And as such, one of the important challenges facing any creative work to which the term "art" is to be applied is its ability to withstand the critical application of changing cultural sensibilities.
Mercedes McCambridge (Giant) and Gary Raymond ( Look Back in Anger)
as Violet Venable's poor relations
 Suddenly, Last Summer (my favorite of all the films adapted from Tennessee Williams' plays) passes the test because its antipathetic attitude towards homosexuality merely mirrors the film's more prominent themes of nihilism. NOBODY in a Tennessee Williams film is ever having much fun. It goes with the territory.

In an unfavorable review of Suddenly, Last Summer in The New York Times, critic Bosley Crowther denounced the film for its talkiness. A valid point, perhaps, for 1959. But in today's "Era of the Inarticulate," the euphuistic language of Suddenly, Last Summer is like an oasis in a desert.

"The dinosaurs are vegetarian… that's why they became extinct. They were just too gentle for their size. And then the carnivorous creatures, the ones that eat flesh...the killers… inherited the earth. But then they always do, don't they?"

"Life is a thief. Life steals everything."

"Most people's lives...what are they but trails of debris? Each day more debris, more debris. Long, long trails of debris with nothing to clean it all up but death."  

"Mr. Venable was a good man, but dull to the point of genius."

"Of course God is cruel. No, we've always known about Him. The savage face he shows to people and the fierce things he shouts. That's all we ever really see or hear of him now. Nobody seems to know why."
Sebastian's empty book of poetry
My admiration for Elizabeth Taylor is well documented in the blog posts for Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and Reflections in a Golden Eye. The real surprise for me here is how much I was impressed by Katharine Hepburn. Never one of my favorite actresses, here all of her starchy mannerisms and stylistic affectations have been put to fine service in helping to flesh out the marvelously complex character of Violet Venable. As the domineering, cold-hearted mother who is willing to go to monstrous lengths to protect the reputation of her son, Hepburn could have easily played the brittle, icy card exclusively and her performance would still have been a marvel. What she does that really blows me away is convey, through wounded, frightened looks and a barely-perceived sense of grasping desperation; her character's achingly lonely, desolate life. In the film's final moments, when it becomes clear that the obsessive, stifling love of Mrs. Venable's life never loved her at all, her character's complete and absolute despondency is heartbreaking.
The Goddess from the Machine
Katharine Hepburn's entrance in the film has to be one of the great screen entrances of all time. Descending from the ceiling in an ornate, cage-like elevator, Mrs. Venable addresses the surgeon she has summoned to her home: 
 "The Emperor of Byzantium, when he received people in audience, had a throne which during the conversation would rise mysteriously in the air to the consternation of the visitors. But as we are living in a democracy I reverse the procedure; I don't rise, I come down."

It's very nearly my favorite moment in the film.

When I was small, I remember my older sister telling me that Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift were really the same person, and scenes and photos of them together were accomplished through split-screen special effects, like on The Patty Duke Show. For a while, I actually believed her… although now it occurs to me that I never asked which of the two was the original article.

In the three films they made together (A Place in the Sun, Raintree County, and Suddenly, Last Summer) the dark, strikingly similar beauty of Taylor and Clift always insinuated a kind of spiritual kinship between their characters. A quality used to deeply empathetic effect in Suddenly, Last Summer. When Catherine first meets the doctor, we immediately sense (as does Catherine) that there is something the two share that makes it possible for him to so quickly allay her fear and apprehension.
 It also doesn't hurt that the duality of Taylor and Clift provides subtle subtext to Mrs. Venable's frequent assertions that her son Sebastian (so taken with Catherine's exploitable beauty) would have been "charmed" by the young doctor. Although we never see the much-discussed Sebastian, Mrs. Venable is quick to note of Dr. Cukrowicz "You're very like him," and "Your eyes, so like his." 
(When informed that the word Cukrowicz is the Polish word for sugar, Mrs. Venable wastes no time in referring to the physician as Dr. Sugar; although from her tone it's impossible to ascertain if it's said in a friendly or mocking manner.)

The image of queerness Tennessee Williams presents in Suddenly, Last Summer may be grotesque to an almost preposterous degree, but I happen to like how it fits with the film's themes of duality and displacement. In this context, homosexuality is the ultimate attraction of self. As manifest by the self-loathing poet, Sebastian, the allure of the similar (similar dark beauty, similar refined tastes, similar pitiless view of humanity) is a hunger unfulfilled. Named for the martyred saint whose portrait dominates his studio, Sebastian's face is never shown, but we know his clothes perfectly fit his male cousin George, and that George (equally as dark as Dr. Cukrowicz and his sister, Catherine) looks from the back, remarkably like Sebastian.
Recurrent Imagery
Angel of Death statue first appearing in Sebastian's nightmarish garden (above) 
reappears on the hill in Cabeza de Lobo (Wolf's Head) where Sebastian meets his fate 

I really love the structure of Suddenly, Last Summer. On first viewing, it's a puzzlingly bizarre Freudian murder mystery that grows increasingly dark and perverse as it leisurely wends its way towards its satisfyingly astonishing payoff. On repeat visits, the enjoyment derived from Suddenly, Last Summer comes from the many fascinating existential questions the film poses about God, humanity, and the nature of evil.

People frequently look to nature and, upon witnessing the brutal dance of carnage and death in the animal world, defend its neutrality. It's the cycle of life; it can't be characterized as evil because animals only kill out of hunger and a will to survive. Throughout all of nature (plant life: the carnivorous fly-trap; animal life: Mrs. Venable's witnessing of the sea turtles devoured by carnivorous birds) unspeakable violence, brutality, and the strong feeding on the weak, is accepted as random, blameless, and part of natural law.
Witness to The God of Carnage
Suddenly, Last Summer sets forth the provocative suggestion that man is just a sophisticated, complex animal. As primitive as the plants in Sebastian's nightmare garden. The hungers that drive man may be more complex, but are they just as elemental and necessary to survival as those of any carnivorous plant or four-legged beast? If man has a base hunger for love, a fear of loneliness and a need for human physical contact... aren't the feeding of these hungers simply natural acts, no less elemental than the will to survive? Should man engage in barbaric acts of cruelty and violence to feed these needs, could it be possible that God can be looking down upon it all with the same blameless neutrality we ascribe to nature? Suddenly, Last Summer is an allegorical rumination on the disquieting interchangeably of the words "devour" and "use" for the word "love."
Suddenly, Last Summer            The Day of the Locust
That Tennessee Williams and Gore Vidal do such an eloquent job dramatizing such intriguing philosophical concepts is one reason why I'm able to (begrudgingly) overlook the patina of homophobia calcifying along the film's edges. 

But perhaps if I'm really being honest with myself, the one reason, above all others, for Suddenly, Last Summer remaining an all-time, lasting favorite-  it is the absolutely breathtaking Elizabeth Taylor
...the last of the great movie stars.

Copyright © Ken Anderson 2009 - 2012


  1. "the dark, strikingly similar beauty of Taylor and Clift always insinuated a kind of spiritual kinship between their characters" - nice observation, Ken. Vivien Leigh was originally cast as Violet, but backed out at the last minute. I'm trying to imagine the subtext if she'd played the part, as she and Taylor also bore a strong resemblance.

  2. Hi Jeremy, Thanks so much for the comment!
    I'd read about Vivien Leigh also, and you bring up a good point. Her fragile, dark looks would have made a trio of sorts with Clift and Taylor (even the tall and gorgeously goofy Gary Raymond has the same quality about him) that would have made for TONS of provocative subtext, as far as I'm concerned. Hepburn never convinces as a faded beauty capable of luring young men, but Leigh's tarnished gilt beauty would have made the role devastating.


    Who could ask for anything more really? This movie is gifted with such talent that it's a virtual master class in acting.

    Hepburn is truly evil and off her rocker in this one.

    Taylor as always is a beauty to behold...even in that bullet bra(!) and this movie is a great example, at least for me that she was a damned good actress when she really put her heart and soul into a part.

    Clift is peerless. That goes without saying. An acting GOD.

    The ending really creeps me out. The though of those boys literally tearing Sebastian up and stuffing pieces of him into their mouths is just disgusting and inhumane!!

    This film is a MUST SEE for any self respecting film buff.

    1. Hi PTF,
      "...That bullet bra" HA! I know I know - period accuracy in Liz Taylor's look isn't this film's strong point (but who's going to quibble when she looks so spectacular?)
      And indeed, what a cast and what a playwright.

      The film is all very bizarre and perverse, but so humane I find it. Disturbing and brilliant. Thanks for commenting!

  4. Oh woah! I've only seen this movie once in English class - the hysterics got on my nerve - but I always thought it was about pedophilia (or ebophilia?), not homosexuality per se.

    The fact that the cannibals are depicted as "of age" only being a byproduct of studio censorship.

    But your reading is probably the correct one.

    1. Hi mangrove
      Re: ebophilia, I actually think, when viewed from a contemporary perspective, you make a very valid point. Although Mrs. Venable states to the doctor that Sebastian would have liked him, leading me to the homosexuality reading.
      But given that until rather recently our culture had in place an odd tolerance for sexualized young people (for example the Sue Lyon/Richard Burton thing in "Night of the Iguana," Blanche DuBois' attraction to young boys in "A Streetcar named Desire," the teenage lover of the adult teacher in "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie" ) leadsme to think homosexuality is the topic more than man/boy attraction.
      But that's just my take, I can't say it's correct. I think your's is how many will see it as well. Thanks for the comment!

    2. Thanks for replying!

      Your rebute is even more interesting. I had never thought about it that way, having not seen any of the examples you offer. But I suppose that, if Hollywood was cool with Maurice Chevalier singing "Thank Heaven for little girls", anything was possible.

      There's a strong disconnect in your reading because of the casting : Clift was 39 when he made this and yet, the cannibals look at least half his age. I know we're not supposed to see Clift's wear and tear, but it's really difficult not to (just like Di Caprio still playing 20-somethings when he's pushing 40 is asking a lot from me).

    3. Well, you certainly call attention to how times have changed perceptions. Nowadays we have names affixed to an adult's romantic attraction to teenagers. But - dare I say - folks of the Roman Polanski/Woody Allen ilk come from a time when having in an interest in young girls did not necessarily preclude an interest in grown women as well. The memoirs and bios of Truman Capote, Gore Vidal, Tennessee Williams, and Christopher Isherwood reveal adult men who are simultaneously drawn to men their own age as well as young teens.
      So I think our perceptions are complimentary, but shaped by our different ages and the attendant shift in cultural attitudes about youth.
      Your thoughtful comments offer food for thought and would make a great film topic. Thanks!

  5. Love this movie and I've never interpreted it as homophobic. Sebastian was most likely a pedophile and a rapist. A predator, it has nothing to do with being gay.

    1. That's a valid and authentic interpretation as well. But since none of those terms are mutually exclusive, I think a viewer is free to see in the unseen Sebastian (and Williams' play) any number of themes.

  6. I absolutely love this film, and I'm so glad you wrote about it. Although a big hit at the time, I think it's fallen off the radar. Possibly due to the fact that it was from a minor, one-act Williams play that has never been that highly regarded. IMHO I think Gore Vidal made it an even better story in the way he expanded it, while staying true to Williams's spirit and style. Although I don't think Tennessee Williams ever saw that - it's said he always loathed this film, and considered it one of the worst adaptations of one of his works. I STRONGLY disagree with that...but oh well.

    I'm wondering if you've seen the blu-ray of this film. It was just released a week or two ago, and it looks amazing. In fact, the new transfer is transformative - it's almost like seeing the film for the first time. Thought I'd share!

    1. Hey Chris
      I wasn't even aware a Blu-ray was out! I love when technology makes these older film look perhaps better than they did upon original release. I had that experience with the Blu-ray of Altman's THAT COLD DAY IN THE PARK...It was like i'd never seen the film before!
      I agree with you that Vidal's adaptation did wondrous things to Williams' prose. It's a favorite.
      I've really come to realize that artist's takes on their films are often so out of touch with the audience's experience. It's interesting to know what they think, but it's so rarely illuminating (I think of Stephen King's feelings about Kubrick's Shining).
      Thanks for visiting this older post! A lovely surprise to find you here, and thanks for the tip about the Blu-ray release! Cheers, Chris!

    2. You should definitely check out the blu ray, if you can. It makes this amazing film even better in my opinion.

      I fully agree with that this was the film where Elizabeth Taylor really came into her own as an actress. She is really phenomenal in it, and the final sequence of her recounting her ordeal (in enormous closeups of part of her face) is really something. You may already know this, but Joseph L. Mankiewicz was hugely admiring of her efforts and her talents in this film. He recounted later that they did take after take after take of that final scene, and it was so arduous and taxing on Liz that he decided that he had what he needed (despite not being 100% satisfied) and was willing to call it a wrap. Liz persisted on doing one more take, despite being physically, emotionally, and mentally drained after the shoot, and she nailed it in that final take. That was pretty much the reason he decided to step in and take over Cleopatra a couple of years later - because he respected Liz's talent, determination, and stamina (of course, that turned out to be a horrible decision for a host of other reasons).

  7. I've never been a huge fan of this film, mainly because the central character isn't in it. It would be like Death of a Salesman with only Linda and the sons talking about Willie Lohman after he's dead. Two scenes that stuck with me for the wrong reasons: Elizabeth Taylor running through the halls of the mental institution, opening a door to get away from the guards, and wandering out onto a catwalk, above the men's dining hall as they shout and jump at her feet. Then, later in the movie, she does it again! Priceless!

    1. Yes! Glad you mentioned that. It's such a puzzler that they staged two near-identical escape scenes for Liz. When trying to recall the film, I can never remember what particular "crisis" inspires which dash to the snake pit.

  8. I'm pretty sure the first one is right after she finds out that Mercedes McCambridge and Gary Raymond are taking Hepburn's side and want her committed. Can't remember the reason for the second escape, just that she ends up on a ledge over the women's ward and has to be restrained by an orderly before she takes the final swan dive!

    1. After briefly revisiting the film to check out those scenes (which are only about 20 minutes apart), their blatant similarity looks like a monumentally halfhearted effort on the part of the screenwriter(s) to open up the single set play.
      Given that the screenwriters are Tennessee Williams and Gore Vidal, perhaps those scenes are the result of both simply being so used to seeing double.

  9. That's about the very best take on "Suddenly Last Summer" I've ever read Ken - kudos to you or getting to the meat of the matter, as it were.

    I last watched it about ten years ago and found it personally cathartic inasmuch as it drove home exactly why I disliked my mother, and why she disliked me. (She was a classic man-hater and in no way shape or form was I going to participate in one of those toxic mother / gay son relationships which are all about apron-strings of the most unhealthy kind...) And that has to be a damned good reason to call it a great film if it's personally relatable in a different place and time.

    It's been documented that Elizabeth Taylor did the final "breakthrough" scene completely in one take. She's phenomenal and she pulls the whole show together...I can't think of anyone else who could pull it off. And while I dislike both Clift and Hepburn, I think they're both brilliant & unforgettable in what surely must be the standout Tennessee Williams screen adaption!

    1. Thanks very much, Rick -
      And that's some powerful stuff you shared about a dynamic that is certainly not unique among gay men (I was reading Sondheim a Sondheim bio recently and it sounds as though he would have gleaned a lot from Williams' dramatization as well).
      Recognizing and self-rescuing within the toxicity of family relationships should be more honored than it is. I still see too much in media that reinforces "Family is family" or "You only have one mother!" when the truth is that many people make themselves miserable & sick forcing themselves to remain in harmful relationships simply because the abusers are family.
      As I've grown older, I've really come to appreciate how so many LGBTQ artists were still able to so creatively share their truth despite the shrouds of repression and conformity they had to work under.
      Seeing how thick-headed the public can be here in the year 2021, I cannot imagine what people made of this movie in 1959.
      I agree with you about Taylor's performance and how few actresses could have pulled off the role. Appreciate your checking this older post out and sharing with us it's influence on you.

  10. You're so damned right about that Ken: we have much to learn from our elders like Williams, Gore Vidal & James Baldwin, and we're fools if we think the wheels we reinvent are all that original and progressive. The debunked and bad psychiatry/psychology which impacted on their lives didn't negate their brilliance, and without a doubt I'd say it enhanced it.

    And many old movies like "Suddenly Last Summer" are informed by bad psych takes...things like relationships between gay men and their mothers (and fathers). Problematically however, it seems like more recent movies (and LGBT culture) like to pretend there's no need to review our family relationships for exactly what they are. And to fix what needs to be fixed if we want to take charge of out adulthood/s. (I DO remember my college sweetheart yelling at his mother: "Can't you just be a mother instead of a fucking fag-hag?" kinda stuck with me LOL)

    So while "Suddenly Last Summer" is a homophobic freak show, I'd be cautious about dealing with gay men who take nothing at all away from the experience!

    1. one of the great blessings in my life for which I give thanks daily is that I don't know any young people.
      But my partner has worked at Cal State for three decades (in the theater department, so his LGBTQ youth interaction is Purple Heart/Hazard-Pay level) and he always says that there is not as much of a difference between OUR time and THEIR time in terms of what queer youth has to contend with. The struggles are better informed, the language less crouched in obvious ignorance, and it's certainly a broader canvas of discussion...but what Tennesse Williams had to say is often right in line with what is expressed in a film as contemporary as Jane Campion's POWER OF THE DOG.
      Queer youth would be very remiss if they felt there was nothing of themselves or their lives to see in these old, seemingly irrelevant homophobic queer classics. If nothing else, they'd find the blueprint of the revolution they're still fighting.
      Thanks again for such thoughtful content, Rick!

  11. It's the 3rd of July and this evening while watching "The Music Man," something reminded me of "Suddenly Last Summer." I don't know what it was. I can't imagine. But that set me off to check your blog for your thoughts on "Suddenly Last Summer." (Apparently, you have no thoughts on "The Music Man.")

    A wonderful old friend who lived and breathed movies once called this film "Hollywood's greatest unintentional comedy." I think he's right. It's all so crazy over the top. All the events described are absurd, right down to Violet and Sebastian sailing to the 'terrible Encantadas' on a four-masted schooner like Melville's. But, of course, they did! Truth serums. Lobotomies.
    Carnivorous plants foreshadowing carnivorous hustlers. Life is pain. Eat or be eaten. Except for the passages when one can levitate deliriously in the rich language, this movie is just silly. But the language is some of Tennessee's best.

    It was so good to read above about Vivien Leigh being originally cast as Violet. I did not know that. She would have been pluperfect and made this an entirely different film. We can see in "The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone" how perfectly she could have traveled the world with a gay son, attracting horny men who could be exploited. Hepburn adroitly handles the heightened language of this script, but she's just way too arch - and too camp - and too Yankee - to be any good at pickin' up trade. As always, Liz rules!

    1. Hi GW - I wonder what it was about THE MUSIC MAN that triggered thoughts of SUDDENLY? (And you're right, nothing about THE MUSIC MAN appears on this blog. I've always had a little problem with it. I like the music but I've never enjoyed the story or film.)
      I did however enjoyed reading your thoughts on SUDDENLY, hilariously capturing the sense of absurdity that is think is in a great many southern gothics (Someone online sought to do something similar with Shakespeare, describing the plots of MACBETH and HAMLET in ways that made the plots sound like the height of preposterous lunacy.
      But you're right, regarding SUDDENLY and Williams' language. It's gorgeous and Liz is superb. Hepburn even at her youngest and most beautiful (Morning Glory, perhaps) is not a believable man trap, but Vivien Leigh would have been ideal.
      Thanks for commenting and contributing such an amusingly fresh take on this film!

    2. Thank you, Honeybun.

      "The Music Man" has never been more contemporary than it is right now. Harold Hill is Donald Trump promising to make River City great again, all the while fleecing the rubes. Pool table? Immigrants!

      It's frightening how closely that musical tracks the life we've been living for the past 7 years. Trump has ended his hitch and Ron DeSantis is taking over the role. Instead of a pool table in your community, he's going to be warning against the homos. And everyone's gonna have trouble with a capital "T" and that rhymes with "G" and that stands for GUN! ("Suddenly Last Summer" is not such a distance from River City when you've got a mind like mine.)

    3. Such an excellent point! The association make with that fascist conman and Prof. Harold Hill is provocative in its relevance. I also like how (in my mind) I found myself thinking that the "lunacy" of SUDDENLY LAST SUMMER looks like sober sanity compared to the recent American political landscape.

  12. I noted the recent response to this film and I hope you don't mind me putting in my two cents worth even though it's been a decade since you reviewed it! When I was a teen, we only had the typical three channels but one of those channels would show old movies that started at around 10 p.m. or so. (This was where I saw The Baby Maker and several other older films). And here is where I saw Suddenly, Last Summer. I think if my parents had known what I was watching and what it was about (as relatively tame as it is), I'd have been shooed to bed immediately. Thankfully, they remained blissfully unaware and I was able to lose myself in this gothic, over-the-top, absurd-in-so-many-ways film. Katherine Hepburn as villainess! Elizabeth Taylor as beautifully vulnerable! (Was there every a woman more lovely?) Montgomery Clift at his most wooden! (though I understand now what was going on with him). And the mystery of Sebastian kept me watching. Seen through the filter of my sheltered naivete, the "mystery" of Sebastian's nature truly was a complete mystery. And the way it's discussed in the film is so circumspect that it took some brain twisting for me to realize what was going on (it took multiple viewings for me to figure out what happened to Elizabeth Taylor under that darn magnolia tree...just call me dense.). Though I kinda loved the creeping realization of what a monster Sebastian truly was and how much he had used his cousin, his mother, and everyone around him. And the dialogue is just so ripe, it practically drips. My favorite monologue has to be that one about the "face of God" that Katherine Hepburn gives in the garden. It just chills me every time I hear it. Bottom line, I love this movie and thanks for reviewing it.

    1. Hi Ron – What an evocative series of reveries and observations! I had the same teenage response to Suddenly Last Summer as you. If you were young and in any way sheltered, it was practically impossible to know what the hell they are alluding to through much of the film. The way they verbally dance around ever having to make a direct statement about Sebastian and his life is almost the stuff of comedy. In fact, I laughed when I read that it took multiple viewings for you just to make sense of Liz’s post-dance escapade with a married man. I felt the same.
      As nutty as it is that no one ever speaks plainly about anything, I also think the need to keep within the bounds of the censors is what contributed to the kind of poetic language Williams uses. (That “Face of God” speech IS a killer!)

      Your recall of how you gradually came to understand the mystery surrounding Sebastian (and somewhat appreciating that the realization crept up on you over time) is a terrific acknowledgment of something movie lovers lose as we get older, but strive to reclaim or rediscover: naivete. A bit of the magic of movies is lost with the clarity that comes with age. To be occasionally mystified is to be swept up in a story, and that’s a feeling worth holding on to.

      Thank you very much, Ron, for contributing to this older post and keeping it alive with your interest in sharing your own experience of this wonderful film. Thank you also for stopping by and reading this essay!