Sunday, June 24, 2007

A Man for All Seasons - film review

Turner Classic Movies aired A Man for All Seasons this afternoon. This is the 1966 (Zinnerman) version featuring Paul Scofield reprising his theatrical role as Thomas More (1478-1535), Lord Chancellor of England, who opposed King Henry the Eighth on a matter of conscience. If you have only time enough to see one version of A Man for All Seasons make it this one.

A Man for All Seasons is a production not to be missed in any venue, however, there are subtleties of character nuances that one gains from Scofield's performance that are frequently glossed-over by other players. He is at once diplomat and jurist, partner and head-of-household, doting papa and disciplined father. He is the aging branch sagging under the accumulating weight of responsibility; and yet, he is also the stalwart wall holding back the great sea of peer pressure. In Scofield's delivery there is no separation of these divergent forces for both are one and the same man.

Scofield debuted this role in the early 1960's (IMDB). It was delivered to a world with it's collective ears tuned to messages about "questioning authority" as the TCM host put it (sorry I didn't catch the name and hosts aren't listed on the TCM site). I was too young to have made a connection between Thomas More and the current social upheaval in the Sixties even if I had seen it then.

The first time I remember seeing the movie was a TV special maybe in the 1980s. We rented it a couple of years ago, after it was refurbished and released on video, and found it riveting from being to end. Perhaps Sir Thomas More is an example of tactful yet unbending scruples whose time has come again.

Links with more information about Thomas More:

Center for Thomas More Studies
Thomas More Society

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