Among the many films I thought of yesterday on hearing the news that David Warner died was the 1977 film Providence, directed by Alain Resnais. I mention it here not only because I liked the film very much, but also because it's one of the best movies ever made about a writer and the creative workings of a writer's mind.
In the second part of the film, which takes place the day after Clive's drunken imaginings, we see the actual family members he's been thinking of, and the view of them now is quite different. But does what we see of them in this section, in the cold light of day, undo everything we learned about them before, when we saw them through Clive's mind?
I didn't see Providence in the theaters when it opened, but I saw it maybe a year later in the late seventies when it was a staple, in regular rotation, on HBO. And since then, from what I can tell, it has been difficult to find. As of right now, it doesn't appear to be streaming anywhere, but there is a pretty good print of it you can watch on YouTube. It's a film that got both acclaimed and lambasted by critics when it came out, which means nothing more than it's not to everyone's taste. A couple of things are certain: it is not a film that is supposed to be naturalistic and the acting by all the principals reflects that. That's especially true in the film's first part, but then again, isn't what we're seeing then how the people are behaving in the old drunken writer's imagination?
Music by the great composer Miklos Rosza, a nod or two in its Gothic imagery to the specter of Providence himself, H.P. Lovecraft, and ultimately a moving look at a dying writer's fantasies and memories, his determination even as he fades to keep on making up stories. It's just a superb movie, one that can keep revealing itself after one or two viewings, and it's a true writer's movie. And in David Warner's career, it's yet another example of the actor's versatility and skill.
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