Rapturous Turning Point
When it opened in New York 52 years ago today, a very intimate and personal family drama called Rapture (1965), said to be a career favorite of its director, London-born John Guillermin (1925-2015), was received as the intense and ruminative exercise in complex and offbeat relationships that it surely was, and its dreamy and downbeat tale of isolated souls struggling to connect in oppressive circumstances consigned it to arthouse-fare obscurity. Before this small-cast, chamber-sized effort, Guillermin made some homegrown British capers, comedies and Tarzan adventures of note, and afterward his screen canvas would enlarge with larger-scale war sagas, disaster thrillers and a starry Agatha Christie mystery. In a way, passion project Rapture marked a turning point for its maker, adapted by Stanley Mann from a 1954 novel by Phyllis Hastings called Rapture in My Rags; following Guillermin’s delivery of the solid, sterling action of Guns of Batasi (1964) for Fox, it was an opportunity afforded him by studio head Darryl F. Zanuck, who wanted to provide an English-language showcase for the bewitching young French actress Patricia Gozzi, who had made a vivid impression in Serge Bourguignon’s acclaimed Sundays and Cybèle (1962), a Best Foreign Film Academy Award® winner. Rapture – and Gozzi – would also make vivid impressions on Time’s reviewer in its August 27, 1965 issue: “In a big, brooding farmhouse on the coast of Brittany, surf roaring and crashing against the rocks below, lives a fierce-eyed, craggy recluse (Melvyn Douglas) – once a prominent judge in Paris, and now a bitter misanthrope who spends most of his time bombarding his onetime friends with mimeographed diatribes about justice. With him live Agnes, his ‘strange’ daughter (Gozzi), and Karen, a sexy slattern of a maid (Gunnel Lindblom, a recruit from the stable of Swedish director Ingmar Bergman). Agnes makes a scarecrow out of her father’s old black suit, and when an escaped convict (Dean Stockwell) put on the scarecrow’s clothes and collapses from a wound, the lonely threesome discovers three compelling reasons to shelter him from the police. To the irascible old judge, he is a potential audience; to Karen, he is a potential bedmate; to Agnes, he is her mystical scarecrow come to life. In the unfolding of the story, each eventually gets something of his wish. The actors serve their roles superbly….Stockwell, if a little too prettily dimpled for his own good, is a sensitive fugitive and lover; Lindblom is as undomesticated a domestic as a young sailor could wish. Douglas, one of Hollywood’s smoothest eyebrow-archers in the drawing-room comedies of the ’30s, began a promising new career as Hud’s grizzled old man, and is even better now. But Rapture really belongs to the blazing Miss Gozzi, who begins as the same frightened, fantasy-struck child Cybèle was, and graduates to a woman’s love through joy, homicidal rage and searing pain, hardly making a move that does not register on the heart.” Beautifully photographed by Marcel Grignon (Is Paris Burning?, The Fixer) and scored by Georges Delerue (Women in Love, Julia, A Little Romance), Rapture, though removed from the radar of the cinematic mainstream, offers large rewards in a small package. Check out Wonders in the Dark reviewer Allan Fish’s equally admiring appraisal here – https://wondersinthedark.wordpress.com/2013/07/02/rapture-1965-john-guillermin/ – and relocate this gemlike black-and-white Cinemascope marvel from the confines of the arthouse to your house on Twilight Time hi-def Blu-ray, available here: http://www.screenarchives.com/title_detail.cfm/ID/16594/RAPTURE-1965/.