The recent works of artists who have just died often take on an eerie appearance of significance. Whether or not the deceased knew the work would be his last, it is almost impossible not to read in them a premonition of the maker’s imminent departure, a protest against the death of light, or an arranged return to earlier themes.
Acclaimed director William Friedkin passed away on August 7 at the age of 87, just weeks after completing his latest feature film. Caen Mutiny Court Martial. I don’t know if Friedkin was aware that this would be his last work when he decided to make it, but it seems like a fitting final art word in many ways. Like many of his other films, it is eloquent and sometimes brash, but made with wit and imagination.
Caen Mutiny Court Martial
It is sustainable and largely unobjectionable.
From the early days of his filmmaking career, he was drawn to theatrical material. His second feature was adapted from Harold Pinter birthday party In 1968, this was followed by a successful transfer of the play to Broadway The boys are in the band (1970) and, more recently, two wonderfully innovative plays by Tracy Letts, insect (2006) and Killer Joe (2011).
Friedkin has reportedly wanted for some time to film a version of himself Caen Mutiny Court Martial, which was adapted for the stage by writer Hermann Wouk himself from his own novel in the early 1950s. Possibly the most famous iteration of the material is the 1954 film directed by Edward Dmytryk, One of the Hollywood Blacklisted Eleven, starring Humphrey Bogart, which draws from the more expansive plot of the original book.
This adaptation—remastered in 2022 rather than the World War II setting of the original and screenplay credited to Friedkin—updates the courtroom drama that Wouk also sculpted for the stage. The core of the narrative is the court-martial of a naval officer named Marek (Jake Lacey), whose decision to relieve his superior officer, Commander Queeg (Kiefer Sutherland), is deemed an act of mutiny by the prosecution.
In the classic liberal humanist style, the case is resolved in favor of a single set of characters, but the final moral reckoning cannot easily be reduced to a binary verdict, black and white, guilty or not guilty — an oxymoron articulated in a brilliant final speech by defense attorney Greenwald (Jason Clarke). . It’s not hard to assume that Friedkin – a tenacious character who attacked bigotry and prejudice as well as piety against the PC – was drawn into this nuanced drama because of its uneasy ending, which arrives abruptly with a drink thrown in his face, followed by, oddly enough, an intense cut to the end credits. But not unpleasantly accompanied by Boz Skaggs’ 1976 funky disco hit “Lowdown.” ( Oh alright?)
The original 1950s anguish about means and ends, bad men who might deserve forgiveness and good deeds done for the wrong reasons, is still shown in this adaptation. However, updating to a contemporary time frame is less successful. Instead of Wouk’s original World War II setting, preserved in the Bogart-Dmytryk film and most well-known theatrical versions (including Robert Altman’s TV movie of the play from 1988), Friedkin has Kane tasked with mine-sweeping in the Strait of Hormuz. , and not the Pacific theater of war, in peacetime, which puts everything in a completely different light.
The stakes are less between life and death, and it’s not clear what the shift in the time period accomplishes – except that it makes more sense for the diversity of the cast here, which might not seem realistic in a 1945 setting, given the discrimination and overt racism in the US military services at the time. In the role of Captain Blakely, chief judge at the court-martial, Friedkin cast the recently deceased Lance Reddick, to whom he dedicated the film. Reddick delivers a performance full of charm and intelligence. The casting of Monica Raymond as Attorney General Challie changes the dynamic of the verbal sparring between Challe and Greenwald in all sorts of interesting ways, especially since Challie is the play’s staunch proponent of protocol, rules, and tradition, an interesting position for a woman in the military. . But the committed cast is uniformly excellent and they take on courtroom confrontations with style. Friedkin gets intimately personal in the crossover auditions, and Lacey and Sutherland deliver beautifully detailed roles.
However, translating to 2022 doesn’t always work in the dialogue, especially when phrases like “He doesn’t know shit from Shinola” slip through the net. Most Boomers don’t even know what a shinola is, and mentioning it would prompt harsh thinking that this play, as well performed and executed as it is here, is part of a relic that speaks only indirectly to audiences today.