Capital Celluloid 2023 — Day 122: Tue May 2

The Passionate Stranger (Box, 1957): BFI Southbank, NFT1, 8.30pm

This film (also screening on May 18th and 30th) is part of the Muriel Box retrospective at BFI Southbank. You can find all the details of the season here. Tonight's screening is introduced by director Caorl Morley.

BFI review:
With The Passionate Stranger, romantic fiction is the target of the satire: Italian handyman Carlo (Carlo Giustini) is employed by an affluent Home Counties couple: wheelchair-bound scientist Roger Wynter (Ralph Richardson) and his wife Judith (Margaret Leighton), a successful novelist suffering a bout of writer’s block. Carlo’s arrival gets Judith’s creative juices flowing and she quickly produces a lurid potboiler in which Carlo and her fictional surrogate enjoy an illicit affair and plot to bump off her inconvenient spouse. When Carlo starts reading the manuscript around the 20-minute mark, the film goes into the fictional universe – and switches from black and white to colour – retelling the whole of Judith’s novel in a rapid-fire 45 minutes. After this, back in monochrome ‘reality’, Carlo now erroneously interprets the novel as a statement of Judith’s true feelings – with amusingly farcical consequences. The collision of heightened fantasy and the humdrum realities of 1950s Britain recall the comic peaks of Preston Sturges’ Unfaithfully Yours (SSIFF’s 2003 retrospective showcased all of the films Sturges wrote or directed). But Box’s picture is really a true original, one of the most fascinatingly complex and accomplished British films made up to that point. Its status as a forgotten curio now seems as inexplicable as it is unjust: if the San Sebastian Box focus yields no other consequence than the rediscovery of The Passionate Stranger, the retrospective will have been emphatically worthwhile.
Neil Young

Here (and above) is the trailer.

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