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Staff Picks Category: Alcoholism

Under the Volcano by John Huston []



Albert Finney stars in one the last films by the prolific American director, John Huston. Under the Volcano is based on the semi-autobiographical novel by Malcolm Lowry.

Delusions and alcoholism are the central themes of this film. We join Finney’s character, Geoffrey Firmin, just after the Day of Dead fiesta in Mexico in 1939. Firmin, who is an alcoholic and bitter English consul, wanders throughout a beautiful Mexican village with his life spiraling out of control. Though he tries to pull himself together when his estranged wife (played by Jacqueline Bisset) stops for a visit, moments of clarity and decent behavior are few and far between.

Finney’s portrayal of this troubled character would most likely be over the top handled by another actor. He manages to create someone loud and belligerent, pitiful and charming on some occasions. We want him to dig himself out of this self-inflicted crisis, but we understand that he’s incapable. Huston paints this personal drama with the beauty of the Mexican village and also a strange wallpaper of supporting characters (including the director/writer/actor Emilio Fernández).

This Criterion Collection dvd has a painstakingly assembled bonus disc that profiles John Huston, provides behind the scenes footage and includes the film Volcano: An Inquiry into the Life and Death of Malcolm Lowry (narrated by the late Richard Burton).

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