Under the Volcano | Chicago Reader

Under the Volcano

A John Huston film in the tradition of his Moby Dick, The Red Badge of Courage, and Wise Blood, in which another unfilmable novel proves, indeed, to be unfilmable (1984). I've never understood what Huston hoped to gain with these overambitious adaptations, which admit from the start their inability to equal the source material, and yet remain too faithful to it to take on any independent stature as a film. Here, Huston simply films the plot of Malcolm Lowry's modern-day gothic novel, turning a fevered interior vision into a cold, distant, exterior one—a documentary on the death of a drunk. As the tortured consul, Albert Finney has moments of technical brilliance, but Huston's direction gives him no inner life. The most impressive artistic contribution is that of cinematographer Gabriel Figueroa, whose painfully sharp images suggest something of what the novel is about. With Jacqueline Bisset and Anthony Andrews. R, 109 min.

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