HIGH SEASON (Clare Peploe, 1987)

Daft and delectable, a lovely satirical comedy, High Season was one of a spate of films at the time taking up or touching upon the financial duress of artists, and showing how artists either are exploited as a result or must negotiate compromising accommodations to this reality. Other such films include Alan Rudolph’s The Moderns (1988), Robert Altman’s Vincent & Theo and Jon Jost’s All the Vermeers in New York (both 1990).
     The script from which Clare Peploe warmly, at times beautifully directed is by herself and brother Mark Peploe. (David Locke, the name of the protagonist in Michelangelo Antonioni’s The Passenger, 1975, whose story and script Mark co-authored, turns up again here.) The action takes place in a village on the island of Rhodes. An estranged, possibly divorced couple live apart: Katherine is a photographer whose latest collection is titled The Light of Greece; Patrick has been commissioned to sculpt the public Statue of the Unknown Tourist, a tacky thing whose unveiling justifies Katherine’s derision throughout, much as her coffee-table Light has justified his. How this couple bicker; but I am delighted to report that they equally love their young daughter, Chloe, who has equal access to both, is equally parented by both, and is not once used as a pawn or a weapon by either parent. Right now, Katherine is at financial risk of losing her home.
     History and politics also weigh in on the village. Penelope, who keeps alive the flame of Greek independence, despises for its commercialization the town square sculpture that her son, Yanni, has commissioned. A visitor, gay antiquarian Basil Sharp, is based on Anthony Blunt; a British agent, masquerading as an innocent tourist, is there to arrest him. A high point comes when “Sharpie” explains to dear friend Katherine, who has known nothing about his political past, why he supported Soviet interests. His involvement began when the Russians alone were vocal against the Nazis, who were hell on earth. This “blinded him” to Soviet evil. The one character whom Peploe treats with disdain is Rick Lamb, the boy come to arrest Sharpie and ship him off to Russia. This comedy admits profoundly serious undertows.
     And such funny flourishes! Penelope reveres the memory of her spouse as a hero who died for Greece. When she is reminded that her husband died, while dancing, by falling off a cliff, she sighs, “He was a wonderful dancer!”
     Who is really in love with whom; genuine art versus counterfeit art; who really cares about whom on the stage of nations: these concerns are woven into this most intelligent comedy.
     Four performances are brilliant: Irene Papas as Penelope, Sebastian Shaw as Sharpie, James Fox as Patrick, Kenneth Branagh as Rick. The other performances, including Jacqueline Bisset as Katherine and Ruby Baker as Chloe, are merely perfect.
     Make of this what you will: the credited assistant director is named Chloe Peploe.

B(U)Y THE BOOK

MY BOOK, A Short Chronology of World Cinema, IS CURRENTLY AVAILABLE FROM THE SANDS FILMS CINEMA CLUB IN LONDON. USING EITHER OF THE LINKS BELOW, ACCESS THE ADVERTISEMENT FOR THIS BOOK, FROM WHICH YOU CAN ORDER ONE OR MORE COPIES OF IT. THANKS.

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