TOMORROW (Joseph Anthony, 1972)

Joseph Anthony made howlingly bad movies based on stage plays, for example, The Rainmaker (1956), starring Katharine Hepburn and Burt Lancaster, and The Matchmaker (1958), starring Shirley Booth, Anthony Perkins and Shirley MacLaine; but the howlingly worst is the deadly dull, painfully protracted Tomorrow, indirectly taken from William Faulkner’s 1939 story by way of Horton Foote’s play. Foote adapted this play. Someone other than this pitifully inept sentimentalist should have gone straight to the Faulkner.
     Having lost his first courtroom trial, a lawyer investigates to understand why Mississippi cotton farmer Jackson Fentry was the sole hold-out for conviction, making it a hung jury. It turns out that twenty years earlier the murder victim was his adopted son, residual love for whom demanded Fentry’s vote for non-acquittal. The irony of a father’s love for a son who had been taken away from him (by his deceased wife’s family—a patriarch and his three sons) confronting the defendant’s love for his daughter, whom the victim was “stealing” from the defendant, with its sharp and brilliant contrast between true feeling and the conversion of feeling into patriarchic property rights (the basis for the lawyer’s defense of his client), is utterly lost in this film. Assisting in this shortcoming is the blank lead performance by Robert Duvall, who spends more time with the superficial aspect of his backwoods Mississippi accent than with the particular twists and turns of Fentry’s feelings, some hidden, some blatant. (Duvall, incidentally, has claimed this as his favorite role.) No one else gives a good performance, either.
     The one thing for which Anthony can be credited is a good eye for a number of interior compositions that his black-and-white cinematographer, Allan Green, has forged into beautifully sculpted instances of darkness and light. Green’s work broods and dazzles.

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