Movie Information

Genre: Suppositional Drama
Director: Michael Apted
Starring: Dustin Hoffman, Vanessa Redgrave, Timothy Dalton, Helen Morse, Celia Gregory
Rated: PG

Michael Apted’s 1979 film — his conjecture as to what might have happened during the 11-day disappearance in 1926 of mystery novelist Agatha Christie — is one of the overlooked gems of ’70s filmmaking. It may not be Apted’s best film, but it is almost certainly his most visually sumptuous — thanks in no small part to Vittorio Storaro’s cinematography and the gorgeous production and costume design by the late Shirley Russell (best known for her costume work on former husband Ken Russell’s films through 1978).

The film has moments of absolutely breathtaking beauty that more than make up for any of its dramatic shortcomings. Occasionally the imagery actually becomes the drama — as in the graveyard encounter between Agatha (Vanessa Redgrave) and sympathetic reporter Wally Stanton (Dustin Hoffman), or during the heartbreaking moment when Agatha sits in with a string quartet playing Jerome Kern’s “They Didn’t Believe Me.” The film’s pace is leisurely, but this somehow fits with the occasionally ingenious story line.

Hoffman offers an eccentric, weirdly stylized performance that works once you get used to it. Redgrave, on the other hand, gives one of the most moving and delicately nuanced performances of her career. The film was released on VHS and laserdisc, but has never made it to DVD, which means it has drifted further into ill-deserved obscurity. Here’s a rare chance to see it.

— reviewed by Ken Hanke

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.