Monday, April 11, 2005

Vincent Canby

“You’d better put on your running shoes if you don’t want to miss the best performance by an actress to be seen in any film released so far this year. It’s Glenda Jackson in “Stevie,” … about the late Stevie Smith, the gallant, original, profoundly witty English poet who died in 1971 at the age of 69. Stevie, in Miss Jackson’s splendid performance, is funny, fragile, demanding, suicidal, brave and never at a loss for the kind of words that light up the conventional world she clung to, even as those words turn the world upside down.

“The only hitch: “Stevie” opens today at the Thalia on a double bill with “Mr. Forbush and the Penguins” and will close tomorrow. Incredible….

“…. This “Stevie” is a knockout as a film that never for a minute attempts to disguise its theatrical roots. However, it uses those roots well. The camera italicizes a great stage perfomance. It also focuses our attention on the remarkable Stevie, whose poetry effectivey connected the suburbs to the stars.

“Miss Jackson has firmly established herself in the public conscioooousness as a fine comic actress … but not since “Sunday, Bloody Sunday” has she had a film role that so fully and efficiently utilizes the range of her intelligence and power as a dramatic actress. Watching her at work in “Stevie” is to see a special talent at the top of its form and to be aware of everthing we’ve been missing in the junk films … she’s been doing to earn a living.

“Whether or not Miss Jackson is physically like the real Stevie Smith, I’ve no idea. What’s more important is that she communicates the passion and rueful wisdom of a singular personality and illuminates the language by which that personality came to some kind of truce with the human condition….

“…. Stevie’s mind never lets anything be, and though she accepts “sensible” middle-class values, she never stops mocking them. “I am,” she concedes at one point, “an Anglican agnostic.”….

“Miss Jackson and Stevie’s poetry reveal the spirit inside the woman who avoided—and may well have afraid of—any kind of romantic commitments, preferring instead less demanding but, for her, more fulfilling friendships. In the way of all artists, Stevie is always standing outside herself, even when she is experiencing pain. “They said,” she tells us about her mother,” that she died in a minute. How long is a minute?”

Vincent Canby
The New York Times, June 19, 1981
[very tired; please review original]

“Much in the manner of someone of wit and spirit who finds herself at a dull party and, refusing to tolerate the company of boobs, leaves forthwith, trailing a few well-elocated rude words. Glenda Jackson swept in and out of New York last week in a two-day run of her heretofore-unseen-here 1978 film, “Stevie.” “Stevie” is certainly not a rude word, but the film, which is devoted exclusively to miss Jackson’s extraordinary performance, was a sudden, surprising reminder of how ineffectively have most of this year’s movies made use of a lot of talented women….

Canby, 6-28-81
[must quit; keep falling asleep]

Stanley Kauffmann

“…. When [Stevie] talks about Angicanism, there's more two-fold structure: she likes the hymns but doesn't like the faith. And Glenda Jackson, who plays Stevie, always gives the word "Christian" three syllables--Christ-i-an. This makes the source of the term stand clear.

“Abut Jackson's acting, I have little to add to what I've said many times: she is one of the best actresses alive. When she enters a room, the room then exists. Her intelligence, her concealment and revelation of feeling, her musicality … but I wasn't going to talk about her. I'll just note that I was glad to see her with her 1978 "normal" hair instead of the shingle cut she subsequently adopted for Shakespeare's Cleopatra in London and her Broadway appearance in Rose.

“Jackson did Stevie on the London stage, and with her as the lion aunt was Mona Washbourne, who is with her again in the film. In all the shouting, so well deserved, about Jackson, please, please let us not overlook Washbourne….’

Stanley Kauffmann
The New Republic, July 25, 1981

Andrew Sarris

“…. Its central conceit is that its hyperarticulate characters speak aloud all the time even when they are supposed to be thinking or writing…. I felt the ancient call of the Word stirring deep in my image-worshiping soul. I was aided in my regression in no small measure by Glenda Jackson as Stevie Smith, Mona Washbourne as her aunt, Alec McCowen…, and Trevor Howard…, each of whom weaves a spell of words that should leave any civilized viewer moved and shaken…. Stevie introduced me to a literary figure of whom I had never heard, and made her pour into my consciousness the wit and wisdom, the gallantry and grandeur, of a life examined with a morbid grace. I am very happy to have seen Stevie on a theatrical screen, if only because it reminds me that there was poetry even before there was Dolby Sound.

Andrew Sarris
something 30, 1981

David Ansen

“Stevie herself probably would have scoffed at the idea that her life was the stuff of drama—and how wrong she would have been. For as portrayed by Glenda Jackson in ‘Stevie,’ Robert Ender’s film of the Hugh Whitemore play, Stevie’s splendid, piercing singularity illuminates the screen….Jackson is at her very finest, revealing just enough of the tiger under the schoolgirl façade. It’s an extraordinarily intelligent performance that brings both the woman and her art to life. But she is not the whole show: Mona Washbourne is just as astonishing….”

David Ansen
Newsweek, August 3, 1981
(from my note card. Get final general comments quoted in Washbourne section.)