The Dead (1987)
"The Dead" feels like a commentary on high society and not one that's greatly original. It feels like the left over ashes of a cigar compromised of "La Dolce Vita" and "The Leopard" with all the tenderness of a Jane Austen piece...but then again, it's just ashes.
Just at the beginning of the 20th century in Dublin, a group of people assemble to have a party...the end.
It would be careless and crassly simple to write "The Dead" off as a vagrant and wandering piece that never cements its style and embroiled itself in moodiness...watch me. Some movies have certain questionable aesthetic values (just look at anything Lars von Trier has made or the digital revolution—heck, even "City of God" might fit in this category) but the period piece has always stood the test of time. Even from the beginning of film, some of the earliest made movies were about a certain time and a certain place.
For us as the viewer, we are taken to Ireland where everyone sounds British to watch a story about people eating food and talking about politics/religion. Oh wait, that would imply that this movie is somewhat entertaining and "The Dead" is as far as you can get from a popcorn movie.
But movies cannot be judged on entertainment values alone, you'd have to eliminate half the famous movies if you simply hated the ones that didn't keep you riveted.
But with John Huston's "The Dead", which gives far too much credit to Anjelica Houston, who's barely in the movie, is just about a dinner.
While this dinner is being eaten and while the dances are being danced we have revolution brewing, mortality on the mind, the question of love lingers in the air, fidelity is questioned...it all sounds rather interesting, right?
When three hostesses decide that they want to throw a dinner party, they invite all the usual suspects. There is your usual cast of characters: the ever-present trope of the late nephew and his wife, the drunk son, the has-been aunt, etc. etc. Cousins and friends come together for a night of drinks, dancing, and goose.
"The Dead" is curiously depressive, from moment one it wants to seize you by the throat with the moodiness that tries so desperately to stay around the next corner.
The flirting and reading and dancing and singing all seem to serve no point, which could be the point of the whole movie.
John Huston was in the last years of his life when he directed "The Dead" which was written by another Huston, Tony Huston. The film featured Anjelica Houston whose name got top billing because of her father. Really, she's almost non-present throughout the movie until the last few scene where she suddenly has a breakdown because of a song she heard.
Instead, "The Dead" is about Gabriel Conroy (Donal McCann) a man who I couldn't care less about.
If I'm expecting to empathize with a group of caricatures who seem to be miming out some humorless SNL shtick then think again.
There is nothing compelling about "The Dead" which has long monologues interrupted by the murmur of the dinner table. It's a dry and wintery cold tale that extends only to the select few who embrace it as a great movie...they seem to be more numerous than I would have assumed after finishing the movie.
There is no point to the film, besides the fact that we get to see a little bit more of a few characters. It only reinforces ideas that are present in everyone's mind. It's too cheerful to be about mortality, it's too depressing to be about love...I'm not going to say it's a hot mess because heat implies movement which is far from "The Dead".
Yes, I can see why some people like it. The last scenes make or break the film for you and for me, they broke it. Its time period had nothing to do with the rest of the story, the drunkenness is only present for you to abhor the piece. Its characters are flat, its story is wandering, and the point of the film, however morbid or lovely, just didn't ring true for me.
I don't care how many soliloquies you deliver to yourself while staring out a window while it snows...the sad fact is, probably no one cares.
"The Dead" is, ironically, one of the most lifeless movies you can see.
Posted by Micah Jones