(Alain Resnais, France/Switzerland, 1977)


Alain Resnais' great film, scripted by British playwright David Mercer, gets better with every passing year.

John Gielgud plays the novelist Clive Langham, cursing illness and old age as he sits on the toilet with a wine bottle handy, fantasising like crazy about the members of his family who are about to gather around him.

His projections are by turns wickedly cruel, fatuously grandiloquent and hilariously droll.

The cast (especially Dirk Bogarde) does a remarkable job incarnating the ever-changing figments of Langham's deranged imagination.

In retrospect, Providence stands on the cusp between Resnais' high-art period (epitomised by Last Year at Marienbad, 1961) – marked by modernist games with multiple, fractured narrations and points-of-view – and a curious but enchanting showbiz period (still ongoing) that exhibits his increasing taste for all things British (for instance, his elaborate Alan Ayckbourn adaptation, Smoking/No Smoking [1993]).

MORE Resnais: Wild Grass

© Adrian Martin January 1993

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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