Becket (1964)

Becket (1964), directed by Peter Glenville.

This adaptation of a play is both talky and rather grand in costumes, sets and panorama. The plot moves along nicely. Like A Man for All Seasons (1966) it is about the collision of Church, State and private conscience. In the commentary Peter O'Toole points out that the modern world is a compromise of the fractures revealed here: today both force and conviction are allowed their own realms.

It is a showcase for O'Toole and Richard Burton. O'Toole is the callow, boorish king who is learning from his best friend, but maybe the wrong lessons. Burton is the thoughtful, secretly earnest good man who has to abandon convenient loyalty -- to King and State -- in exchange for troublesome -- fatal -- loyalty to Church and God.

Much of the history is bunk: Becket was not a Saxon, throwing much of the class resentment plot out of the window.

O'Toole played the older Henry II in The Lion in Winter (1968), a different sort of costume picture, all about the intrigues of an awful royal family.

In the third photo below he has his hands on his wife, Siân Phillips, in her first credited film role. I'm used to seeing her when older, as in I, Claudius and Dune (1984).

Photographed by Geoffrey Unsworth.

I wasn't going to review this but then listened to Peter O'Toole's freewheeling, uninhibited commentary track. Interviewer: "I will be moderating". O'Toole: "I will be immoderating".

He was a strange fellow. He disclaimed any interest in historical accuracy but knew quite a lot of the history anyway. He was not interested in "character" ("the author writes the character and the actor turns the words into flesh") but he does astute character analysis throughout. And he disdained abstractions and film analysis but is quite perceptive on the meaning of the story and gives many valuable insights.

He says:

Available on Blu-ray. The image seems soft to me, like an old master done for DVD.