[Marxism] Ellis Sharp on "Morgan"
lnp3 at panix.com
Sun Oct 1 16:40:34 MDT 2006
Saturday, September 30, 2006
Morgan A Suitable Case for Treatment
A cult classic from the sixties directed by
Czech born filmmaker Karel Reisz (The French
Lieutenants Woman), Morgan A Suitable Case for
Treatment stars British character acting legend
David Warner in his first and only lead role.
Thats what it says on the DVD case. I learned
that it was also Vanessa Redgraves first movie.
Cut with scenes from King Kong and Tarzan films,
Morgans depiction of madness, dark humour and
vintage performances made it the 1960s wildest,
funniest and most provocative comedy.
Which is overstating it a bit, Id say. Its
certainly a very strange film and worth watching
once. I remember seeing it years ago on TV and
thinking it was terrific. But the second time
round a lot less so. The last ten minutes are
very striking. But Im not really convinced it
adds up to all that much. Im with Graeme Clark
when he says that For a while, this was one of
the most popular cult films of the sixties, but
its sparkle has faded these days.
Morgan is supposed to be a painter who has
cracked up and no longer paints. But having
introduced that theme the movie then abandons it.
The central focus is on his attempts to win back
his ex-wife in the immediate aftermath of their
divorce and prevent her from marrying an art
dealer smoothie (who is played by Robert
Stephens). This is handled as a knockabout
comedy. Morgan identifies with a gorilla and
dresses up in a gorilla outfit. I didnt find
this sidesplittingly funny. Its hard to care
about any of the characters. The Redgrave
character is drippy and indecisive and spends
most of the movie smiling sweetly. The Stephens
character is a blank nothing more than an
upper-class chap. Morgans descent into madness
is handled whimsically, as a lighthearted joke.
Hallucinations in the form of stock African
wildlife footage soon start to grate.
As a satire the movie seems unfocused. The class
divide is a central theme but the movie also
handles this in a soft, whimsical way. Morgans
mum is an old-style working class Communist,
forever reminding Morgan of his late fathers
struggle on behalf of the workers. In one scene
they visit Karl Marxs grave. At the end of the
movie Morgan imagines himself being executed in a
surreal modern version of Stalinist repression.
But for a movie released in 1966 and ostensibly
about class and politics it didnt seem to be
making any significant points about the seismic
shifts in British society, either socially,
culturally or politically. Its just a long
sequence of comedy sketches. It has the rigour
and strength of marshmallow. It lacks the rage and spleen of genuine satire.
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