The Pumpkin Eater (1964)

February 25, 2010

It's official -- Anne Bancroft is awesome.

I watched The Slender Thread last week, and was super impressed with Anne Bancroft's performance as a suicidal crisis center caller. I couldn't believe I hadn't seen her in anything before (I know, I added The Graduate to my Netflix queue and will be watching it soon!) so I'm now trying to play catch-up, though it seems like she doesn't have a massive filmography since she spent a lot of time on Broadway.

Last night I watched The Pumpkin Eater (1964) which co-stars Peter Finch and James Mason. Oh, I don't know if I've mentioned this but I'm also on a huge Peter Finch kick (if you haven't seen it yet, please watch Girl with Green Eyes. Amazing!!), so The Pumpkin Eater is a new-favorites goldmine!

Anyway, The Pumpkin Eater is about a woman with a massive amount of children who divorces her husband so that she can marry Peter Finch instead. At first he seems up for the challenge of raising the kids, even eager. But once he's settled down and realizes that alone time with his wife is almost non-existent, he gets the wandering eye. The film is about Anne Bancroft's struggle with his infidelity and her own fertility. Her performance was so real; in one scene, overcome with stress she starts crying in the middle of Harrods department store. And she cries like I cry when I'm overwhelmed with grief; she cries like a real person, hyperventilaing and almost choking on her own tears. It's not typical movie weeping, it's full-out crying. It was so painful to watch, because it felt so real.

The Pumpkin Eater featured a screenplay by Harold Pinter -- quickly becoming one of my favorite writers -- and it had the same quiet pace with small sudden bursts of energy that made me love his two Dirk Bogarde films, The Servant and Accident. I'm consistently amazed by how much is said in his films, considering the dialogue is relatively sparse. And it's all so real. I love how he has his characters repeat dialogue; it's something that happens so often in real life but you seldom see it on screen. James Mason's character, in particular, has a habit of repeating himself in an endearing, sad, lonely way.

One of the most poignant scenes in the film, though, had nothing to do with Anne Bancroft, Peter Finch or James Mason. When Anne's mother, played by Rosalind Atkinson, was coping with the loss of her husband the soft, tender sadness she displayed gave me goosebumps. Her sadness was completely different from Anne Bancroft's episode in Harrods -- it had a permanence about it, as though this sadness was the new way of life. She keeps dwelling on the fact that he's being cremated, since she can't bear the thought of him lying underground. It is a disturbing thing to harp on, yet you know that we all think things like this when people we love pass. It's almost comforting to hear someone saying it aloud.

I think that might be what this film is about; unspoken truths being spoken aloud. And it does that brilliantly.


Sarah Mann said...

AAAH this is my favorite of your "new" pieces so far!
I'm the biggest Anne Bancroft fan ever, I seriously love her. I haven't seen The Pumpkin Eater but it's on my dvr, so now I can't wait to watch it!

Anonymous said...

I am really liking your picture of anne bancoft. and i've been meaning to say also I also really love your one of yoko tani for the wind cannot read, they are super cool.
i've been wanting to see the pumpkin eater for awhile but cant seem to find it, I love those British kitchen sink dramas!
Great Post :)

Millie said...

Gorgeous painting!

And wonderful review!

Alexis said...

I love the Pumkin Eater. I must have seen this film at least 50 times.
I watched it a lot when my grandfather died 3 years ago and I was really into Harol Pinter.

This film is amazing. It truly reflects the unnamed problem from the feminine mystique!


Terence Towles Canote said...

I haven't seen The Pumpkin Eater yet, although your review makes me think I should. I've always love Anne as an actress, ever since I saw The Graduate as a kid.

Kendra said...

Blergh, I can't get over Peter Finch sleeping with Vivien Leigh when she was ill. I think he was a bit of a jerk. That said, I love him in Network!

Francy said...

The Graduate is one of my favorite movies, all around. I hope you enjoy it!

Raquel Stecher said...

I love your new style of artwork Kate. It's really cool. And you chose some great images, too.

Why isn't this on DVD?! I want to see it. I have an odd fascination with movies dealing with large families and massive amounts of children. :-)

Unknown said...

Sarah- Thank you!! I think you'll really like the movie :-D

Zoe- Thanks so much!! Do you have Netflix? It's available on instant watch :) Also available on VHS on amazon

Millie- Thank you :-D

Alexis- It really is amazing; I can see watching it 50 times and discovering something new each time.

Terry- You'd love it, it's a great movie!

Kendra- How awful, I didn't know that! I haven't really read up on him much, I've just seen some of his movies... haven't seen Network yet though!

Francy- I hope so too! :)

Raquelle- Thank you! Do you still have Netflix? It's on Instant Watch.

Sally said...

Oh, I love the artwork!! So neat! And your review is great - this sounds really intriguing!

booksenkatz said...

Your artwork is phenomenal. This is my favorite Anne Bancroft film, and it's such a joy to see others discover it. I was thrilled when it recently became available for instant viewing at Netflix, and it was released on DVD in the UK last October, so I'm hoping we'll see it on DVD in the US very soon.
Visit my fansite for Annie and get more ideas for excellent films to watch!

Matthew Coniam said...

The Bancroft pictures are some of the best of yours I've seen. Really great work.
(Speaking of which: the invites are nearly finished; you shall be the first to see them!)