Friday, January 2, 2009

Souless Spook

The Spy Who Came in From the Cold (1965, Criterion, $40,112 minutes) appeared as a so-called espionage tale, or spy thriller, yet in all actuality it was neither of the two in the strictest sense, although it was adapted from a best-selling John le Carre novel. What it was, and it did surprisingly well at the box office despite it, was a doom and gloom laden paranoiac mood piece, a bleak and desolate tale of oppressive big brotherhood, existential collapse, and a world gone gray and off-center. Richard Burton’s incredibly morose performance showcases the famed actor at his world-weary best (and some have argued it to be one of his finest screen roles), while Claire Bloom and Oskar Werner turn in deft supporting turns. On top of it all, director Martin Ritt and one-of-a-kind cinematographer Oswald Morris utilize black-and-white film stock impeccably in order to conjure up a Cold War cautionary tale about a spook losing his soul.

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