107 minutes| France-Switzerland| 1977| Filmed in English| Colour| 35mm

On the eve of his 78th birthday, a dying writer (John Gielgud) struggles with his final novel, featuring members of his family reconfigured by his guilt, irony and malice. They are his son (Dirk Bogarde), who is prosecuting a young man (David Warner) for murder; his daughter-in-law (Ellen Burstyn), who might be planning an affair; and his son’s mistress (Elaine Stritch), who sometimes metamorphoses into his late wife. But his narrative keeps taking off in mad directions, involving werewolves and a military takeover; and a serene finale hints at a disjunction between his representation of his family and the reality. Scintillatingly scripted by David Mercer and with a gravely beautiful Miklos Rozsa score, this was Resnais’ first English-language film and his wildest, funniest dramatisation of the unruliness of the artistic imagination. John Gielgud attacks his role with relish, and Dirk Bogarde’s performance extracts every ounce of black comedy from the script before subtly shifting into a different key for the elegant coda.

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