Pain and Glory (Dolor y gloria)
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A young girl is murdered on Hampstead Heath. The police investigate. The young girl's fiancé is questioned but he has an alibi. Then, suddenly, she is discovered to have been black but passing for white. Prejudice rears its ugly head; in 1950s London many people apparently feel no shame for voicing their bigotry. The fiancé's family harbor such unfounded hatred in their hearts. But another suspect, a black man, appears and the cops latch onto him. Director Basil Dearden manages to keep this tense police procedural moving and thought provoking while not telegraphing its conclusion (that is, keeping the murderer's identity a secret until the very end). Nigel Patrick is solid as the police superintendent who seems fully aware of the wrongs of racism even while his partner seems to condone or even support some of the negative sentiments. Still, it would have been great if more of the characters more vigorously presented an anti-racist message (rather than simply looking askance or suggesting that any group could be the targets of prejudice. But perhaps the'50's are too soon to hope for such an explicit take on the problem? In any event, the crime genre formula mixed with an examination of social problems/social issues is a dynamite combo and worth hunting down.
interesting early look at UK race relations and 'passing'.
Interesting film, well acted and some interest in finding out 'who done it' but the main interest is the depiction of racism in 1959 London, both as deliberately depicted in the script, and on the part of the film-makers use of stereo-types
It's easy to see that this was a passionately, fervently made film with an obvious message, but it is dated and melodramatic in today's terms, which lessens its impact, unlike Basil Dearden's other film, Victim.
"Sapphire" starts with the discovery of a dead body in a London park by two children. As Superintendent Robert Hazard(Nigel Patrick) and Inspector Phil Learoyd(Michael Craig) investigate the case, they identify the victim as Sapphire, Robbins, a university student, and talk to her boyfriend, David Harris(Paul Massie). When Hazard meets her older brother(Earl Cameron), a doctor, he is taken aback by his dark brown skin, learning in the process that Sapphire was passing for white.
You have to like any mystery that starts with a dead body, and "Sapphire" uses that as a jumping off point for a compelling puzzle that is more who was she than who done it, although that is not unimportant here. The movie turns that into a smart and pointed critique of the racism of the time the movie was made in England which only surprised me as far as the segregation was concerned but there is none of the mistrust of the police that I would come to expect.(Is it any wonder that Basil Dearden would go on to direct "Victim" two years later?) The movie is also far ahead of its time in popping any number of stereotypes in its nuanced depiction of black professionals. At first, I thought maybe the attitudes on race might be generational but Hazard is the consummate professional, especially compared to his younger colleague, as the movie is firmly interested in not letting anyone off the hook.
THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS!
The first big success of Basil Dearden, Sapphire is the story of a girl with this name that is killed in the beginning of the film. Throughout the film we follow the detectives around and are introduced to a number of potential suspects, eaxh with their own motives and stories. The characters are well developed and add richness to the film. The movie deals with racism and several racial slurs including the N word. Although controversial, especially by today's standards, the racially motivated plots are what add most of the tension and ultimately the cause of the murder.
My problem is, as I find racism to be hilarious, I was giggling like a school boy skipping school during a lot of this flick, especially when the one woman is so disgusted by that black dude holding her daughter's dolly. I know, I know, racism is Serious and Important. I'm a bad person.
This film may be well-intentioned, but it's rather crude, also too pat, too busy, and rather poorly acted.
A truly great movie. Simple story, with some twists but it is the sheer ability of the director to make finely tuned story shine that makes this movie great.
Janet Green wrote the remarkably sensitive script for this police procedural that takes on the issue of racism in 1959 London. How sensitive is it? One of her characters is studying Montessori, and each of the other characters exist in their own right, as they are. I can only wonder at what might have been had she ever teamed up with Anthony Mann. The effort this film takes to provide an impartial view of the people and their own views, navigating past a good-guys bad-guys scenario, serves it well to a modern audience. As several comments have pointed out, the film captures an era, providing a valued glimpse through incredibly great location shoots in gorgeous bleak color, of the London of the time. But it also gives us a glimpse of an exceedingly fine way of thinking that was alive and well and writing films of significance within the framework of genre entertainment. Really fascinating, great, and satisfying work. I'm excited to see her work with Dirk Bogarde from the same era.