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A Delicate Balance
cast: Katherine Hepburn, Paul Scofield, Lee Remick, Kate Reid, and Joseph Cotten

director: Tony Richardson

128 minutes (PG) 1973
widescreen ratio 1.78:1
inD Classic DVD Region 0 retail

RATING: 4/10
reviewed by Gary Couzens
Tobias (Paul Scofield) and Agnes (Katharine Hepburn) live in New England. Their son Teddy died several years before and their daughter Julia (Lee Remick) has had four disastrous marriages, one after the other. Also present is Agnes' alcoholic sister Claire (Kate Reid) and family friends Harry (Joseph Cotten) and Edna (Betsy Blair). Then one weekend Julia returns home.
   Edward Albee's status as a leading American playwright is not in doubt. In his seventies now, he's still going strong, with his play The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia? still playing in London as I write this. There's no doubt that his very theatrical work can be filmed effectively: you only have to look at the 1966 version of Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?, one of the finest and most groundbreaking American films of the 1960, to see that. (Interestingly Albee dislikes it, partly because he thought Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor were both miscast and he disagreed with the decision to film in black and white.) I can't comment on the quality of A Delicate Balance as a play as I've not seen it on stage. I will note that it won a Pulitzer Prize - which Virginia Woolf was notoriously denied - and is considered one of Albee's major works. And no complaints about a cast like this one. But as a film it's slow, un-involving, stuffed to the gills with extremely theatrical dialogue, and a stultifyingly tedious experience.
   You could argue that the many of the American Film Theatre productions, valuable as they are for showcasing some fine performances, simply fall between the two stools of theatre and cinema. There are effective ways of filming stage plays, but for whatever reason Tony Richardson (by no means a bad film director) hasn't found any here. Maybe Ingmar Bergman - Albee's first choice of director - could have made something of this. This will certainly be of interest to Albee admirers and theatre buffs, but anyone else should proceed with caution.
   Like the other DVD releases of the American Film Theatre productions, this disc is encoded for all-regions, has a rather soft transfer in a ratio of 1.78:1 and a Dolby digital 2.0 mono soundtrack. There are no subtitles provided, which is deplorable.
   The extras include interviews with Albee, director of photography David Watkin (which can also be found on the DVD of The Homecoming) and Betsy Blair-Reisz. The trailer gallery comprises A Delicate Balance, The Man In The Glass Booth, The Homecoming, Butley, The Iceman Cometh, Rhinoceros and The Maids. The AFT cine-bill for A Delicate Balance comprises four articles: Cukor Interlude: On Katharine Hepburn, Edward Albee: On Making Authors Happy, Richardson: He Began As An Angry Young Director, and Scofield: In The Best British Tradition. The extras are completed by a stills gallery and the article Edward Albee And A Delicate Balance.

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