Tuesday, 21 June 2016

423 Therese Raquin

First  viewed : 12  March  1980

This  BBC 2   three-part  adaptation  of  Emile  Zola's  bleak  tale  of  adultery , murder  and  revenge  from  beyond  the  grave  was  so  good  it's  hard  to  understand  why  it's  not  more  celebrated.

I  have  to  admit  it  was  the  nudity  that  got  me  and  my  best  friend  Michael  interested  in  this at  the  time  although  as  with  The  Mallens  there   was  actually  less  than  I  "remembered".  It was  the  first  time  I  saw  a  full  frontal  nude  though  she  was  just  an  uncredited  extra  lying motionless  in  one  of  the  harrowing  morgue  scenes. I  thought  there  was  one  where  an  artist's model  walks  out  to  take  her  position  and  recall  excitedly  remarking  to  another  friend  "you could  see  the  black  triangle ! ". On  a  second  viewing  , even  with  the  aid  of  the  pause  button, it's  cleverly  staged  so  that  you  don't.*  Not  that  it would  have  bothered  the  actress  , Zoe  Hendry, who  had  done  a  fair  bit  of   nude  modelling  in  men's  magazines  and  made  revealing  appearances  in  one  or  two  sex  comedy  films. As  for  Kate  Nelligan  in  the  title  role, all  you  got  was  a  quick  shot  of   barely-lit  buttocks  and  a  lot  of  breast - shielding  in  the  bedroom  scenes.

After  the  scene  with  Hendry  halfway  through  the  middle  episode,  there  was  nothing  and  it  was  easier  to  concentrate  on  the  story. Therese  is  an  unhappy  young  woman   who  has  married   Camille,  her   sickly  and  self-absorbed  cousin  who  helps  his  doting  mother  run  a  backstreet  shop. The  highlight  of  her  social  life  is  a  weekly  game  of  dominoes  in  the  parlour  with  their  friends, mainly  boring  old  men. Things  brighten  up  when  Camille's  colleague  Laurent  joins  the  circle  and  starts  taking  time  off  work  to  bonk  Therese  in  the  afternoons. When  his  boss  stops  this  Therese  proposes  they  murder  Camille  which  they  do  but  neither  are  prepared  for  the  psychological  consequences.

Though  subject  to  budget  constraints  this  is  marvellously  staged  with  the  dark  poky  sets  mirroring   emphasising  Therese's  feelings  of  being  cooped  up. The  appearances  of  the  dead  Camille  are  absolutely  terrifying  and  a  tribute  to  the  make-up  artist  Jean  Speak.

The  cast  too  is  brilliant. Besides  Nelligan  , it  had  Brian  Cox  as  Laurent,  Kenneth  Cranham  as  Camille  and  a  young  Alan  Rickman  as  Laurent's  arrogant  artist  friend. Pride  of  place  though  must  go  to  Mona  Washbourne  as  the  mother-in-law.  She  discovers  the  truth  after  suffering  a  paralytic  stroke  and   so  can  only  act  with  her  eyes  in  the  final  scenes  but  is  absolutely  riveting.

* In  my  defence  I  was  watching  that  episode  bereft  of  my  glasses  which  had  been  lost  when  I  was  knocked  to  the  ground  after  attending  a  gig  by  the  school  punk  band  the  previous  Friday.

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