Me! I'm Afraid of Virginia Woolf and A Chip in the Sugar | Chicago Reader

Me! I'm Afraid of Virginia Woolf and A Chip in the Sugar

The Film Center begins a series on British writer Alan Bennett with two wonderfully quirky works, both made for television. In the feature-length Me! I'm Afraid of Virginia Woolf (1978), directed by Stephen Frears, Bennett plays an English teacher who tries to lecture on E.M. Forster and Virginia Woolf, but his speeches in and out of the classroom constantly take strange twists and turns—and he begins talking about the bathroom, about seeing one's parents naked. Beneath the apparently conventional story lies a gay coming-out film and a portrait of a mind that has no interest in separating the “important” from what's commonly thought to be trivial. In A Chip in the Sugar Bennett speaks into the camera about his own life, and we hear about his mum and his sputum, not necessarily in that order. He obsessively describes minor details with an almost deadpan expression, a form of understatement that makes his interests seem even odder. Neither film is interesting visually, but both are endearingly weird.

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