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Hold on a second, you’ve got something in your eye — and not only that, you’re projecting it all over the screen, making every apple golden, dressing up the moon in the costume of the sun, bleeding honey onto every hue. But maybe you like it that way. Why shouldn’t you? Carson McCullers wrote Reflections in a Golden Eye as a Southern Gothic romance of sorts, one in which the grue is grittily real and the relationships are fraught or fractured, but the romance is — yes, yes — in the eye of the beholder, and since every character gets to have his or her own, why, you ought to be allowed to have one too. Actually, John Huston’s effulgent adaptation of McCullers’ novel doesn’t leave you much choice — it tints the world for you. There (probably) isn’t anything in your eye: absolutely everything here is glazed in a golden gauze, through which the leads grope towards some obscure or obvious object of desire.

The desirer in chief, played as a smoldering closet-case by Marlon Brando (looking more or less Kowalski-esque even now, just a handful of years before 1972’s LAST TANGO IN PARIS), is a military academy instructor, Major Penderton, who mumbles his way through lectures about leadership to a classroom of nodding cadets while secretly obsessing over a beautiful young recruit (Robert Forster), who, partial to silence and bare-bottomed horseback-riding, also enjoys stalking the major’s wife (Elizabeth Taylor, still instilled with the blowsy bluster she brought to WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF a year before). A spoiled, philandering General’s daughter, currently having an affair with a much older senior officer, Mrs. Penderton is also the person on whom the major, an apparent failure — a joke, even — as a professional soldier, depends for his position.

Huston and his players enact the above — and a few other — interpersonal complications as bruising, occasionally bombastic melodrama; much of the film’s entertainment value derives from watching these actors, above all Brando, quiver and crack up like the exquisite hams they are. But even through the gold-filtered murk, it’s easy to see what attracted Huston to McCuller’s story: like the rest of her slender body of work, it examines loneliness and longing by exposing the ways in which we imbue our own with glamor — or romance — by falsifying, or aestheticizing, the real.

2/10 – 7PM
108 minutes

Harvard Film Archives
24 Quincy St.
Cambridge, MA
$9 – Regular Admission
$7 – Non-Harvard Students, Harvard Faculty and Staff, and Senior Citizens

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