The Dead Screen 4 articles

The Dead

1987

The Dead Poster
  • The results are leagues ahead of Joseph Strick's unfortunate Joyce adaptations, but inevitably leagues behind the original story. That said, the film's concentrated simplicity and purity achieve a kind of perfection... the lilting Irish flavor is virtually decanted, and Fred Murphy's gliding camera movements are delicately executed. There's also a rather awesome and unpretentious directness as well as calmness about the way that Huston contemplates his own rapidly approaching death.

  • The mysterious grace of [John Huston's] final contribution to cinema, the elegiac “The Dead” (1987), made when he was near death from a script adapted from James Joyce by his son Tony Huston, and starring Anjelica Huston, is a reminder of the intelligence and weight at the heart of many of his films.

  • Huston’s adaptation is exactingly faithful but produces a divergent tone. Joyce’s version was a funereal kiss-off to his homeland, but Huston’s is far more buoyant. It delights in the specificity of the author’s character observations and even finds solace in his devastating conclusion, trading the belligerent farewell of driven youth for the reconciled acceptance saying a longer goodbye.

  • Rooted in the concerns and passions of domesticity, the film feels small in scale. In some ways, it serves as a natural chaser to the more grandiose and romantic domestic dramas of classic Hollywood. As a double feature with Vincente Minnelli’s Meet Me in St. Louis or John Ford’s How Green Was My Valley, it would illuminate the beautiful naivety of those visions, reflecting darkly on the souls of the people who might inhabit those period settings.