Capital Celluloid 2021 — Day 84: Sun Aug 8

The Letter (Wyler, 1940): BFI Southbank, NFT1, 3.45pm

This 35mm presentation, part of the BFI Bette Davis season, is also being screened on August 17th. Full details here.

Time Out review:
A superbly crafted melodrama, even if it never manages to top the moody montage with which it opens - moon scudding behind clouds, rubber dripping from a tree, coolies dozing in the compound, a startled cockatoo - as a shot rings out, a man staggers out onto the verandah, and Bette Davis follows to empty her gun grimly into his body. The contrivance evident in Somerset Maugham's play during the investigation and trial that follow is kept firmly at bay by William Wyler's technical expertise and terrific performances (not just Davis, but James Stephenson as her conscience-ridden lawyer), although Maugham's cynical thesis about the hypocrisies of colonial justice is rather undercut by the addition of a pusillanimous finale in which Davis gets her comeuppance at private hands. A pity, too, that Tony Gaudio's camerawork, almost worthy of Von Sternberg in its evocation of sultry Singapore nights and cool gin slings, is not matched by natural sounds (on the soundtrack Max Steiner's score does a lot of busy underlining).
Tom Milne

Here (and above) is the trailer.

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