All Night Long

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

The musician Aurelius Rex and his wife Delia, a retired singer, are the recipients of an anniversary party in London thrown by a wealthy music promoter, Rod Hamilton.

An ambitious drummer, Johnnie Cousin, wants to start his own band. He promises to persuade Delia to come out of retirement and resume performing, having been told that this is the only way his band will be backed.

Told in no uncertain terms that Delia has no intention of resuming her career, Johnnie begins a series of machinations at the party designed to make Rex believe that Delia has been having an affair with Cass, the band’s manager. He even alters a tape recording to distort the meaning of Delia’s private conversation.

Johnnie’s back-stabbing costs Cass his job. Delia’s performance of a song, rehearsed solely for the party, furthers Rex’s suspicions that she is unhappy at home. Rex assaults Delia and makes public accusations about her fidelity. In the ensuing conversations, everyone, including Johnnie’s neglected wife Emily, eventually realizes that Johnnie has fabricated the entire story. It is implied that Delia and Rex resume their relationship.

REVIEW:

William Shakespeare’s Othello has been translated to film more than a few times. The version I am most familiar with is O, but not I have discovered a hidden gem that may just get me to re-read the original work, All Night Long. Two things before I begin: A) this has nothing to do with the Lionel Richie 80s hit an B) this was not the film I was expecting to watch/review today, but because of scheduled events later this afternoon, as well as some other circumstances, this is what we get. Hopefully, I won’t be biased because of these circumstances.

What is this about?

Patrick McGoohan plays nefarious drummer Johnny Cousin in a jazz version of Shakespeare’s Othello. The story follows Cousin’s scheme to alienate star musician Aurelius Rex (Paul Harris) from his singer wife, who Cousin covets for his own band. Real-life jazz luminaries, including Charles Mingus and Dave Brubeck, lend atmosphere to this offbeat thriller, which also offers plenty of unintentionally hilarious dialogue.

What did I like?

Mix and match. The last few weeks, dare I say months, have brought the topic of race relations to the forefront of many a conversation. I’m not going to get on my soapbox about all that. There are plenty of other blogs which exist specifically to discuss such things, if you want to read about such topics. However, I feel I should point out that two of the main character in this film are an interracial couple. On top of that, this is made and set in the 60s, when racial tension was at a fever pitch, and yet not once is the color of their skin mentioned. Maybe that was something accepted in England before the US at that time, but it is something worthy of note, especially when you consider how many times interracial couples are stared and talked about today (I live in the south, so its much more obvious and blatant down here).

Jazz. A few months back, I reviewed a small Frank Sinatra film, The Man with the Golden Arm. I still lament the lack of actual jazz, and music for that matter, in that picture. In a twist of fate, I added this to my Netflix queue after watching Sinatra’s flick and it has turned out to have all the music that should have been in there. Not only is there plenty of music to be heard, it is all jazz and features some of the greats, Dave Brubeck, Charles Mingus, and others. Whatever can be said about the movie itself, the music cannot be to blame.

Slow burn. Before I hit play, I sort of prejudged this film, saying that it looked like another slow, boring drama. For what it’s worth, I still think I was right, but I did end up at least not falling asleep. Recently, I started watching Daredevil on Netflix and boy is that show going slow. Having said that, I know that it is leading up to something. This film falls in the same category. It slowly builds to the climax and then quickly burns off to the end.

What didn’t I like?

Selfish intentions. One thing I cannot stand is cheating in a relationship, due to prior experiences. I’m so paranoid about this stuff now that I don’t think I’ll ever be in a trusting relationship again. As you can surmise, this plot by Patrick McGoohan’s character to bring Delia out of retirement to sing with his band rubbed me the wrong way, especially watching as it unfurled and nearly destroyed lives and a marriage. I couldn’t help but ponder was this all worth it?

Instrumentation. Pardon me as I go into band geek mode here for this topic. So, we have these actors pretending to be musicians and, to the untrained eye, they pull it off. However, people such as myself, who have been playing for most of our lives can spot a fake. Let’s start with a scene where a guy is playing trumpet. He almost had me fooled, and I’m a trumpet player, until the music called for his horn to be muted, but there was no mute. The bigger culprit, though, was the alto sax player. He had the movements, hand positions, etc. correct, but he would be moving his fingers with the music, when the saxophone wasn’t playing! I realize that most actors are not trained musicians, but come on, at least try to not make it look so fake. I point you to Antonio Banderas in The Mambo Kings. To this day, there is still debate as to whether or not he actually learned how to play for the film. Speaking as someone who actually plays trumpet, I say no, but he has been the most convincing I’ve seen to date.

Tease me, please me. I mentioned earlier that the music is big part of this film and nigh untouchable when it comes to critiquing. Now that I’ve given it some though, I need to retract that statement slightly. The music is great, don’t get me wrong, but we never really get to enjoy anything more than short 10-15 second clips before it becomes background musack for conversations that take place. In a normal film, this wouldn’t be a big deal. Think about how many times you’ve watched a movie where the character walk into a club or bar with the music pounding and then it gets drowned out because of their conversation. Usually this doesn’t happen when you bring in a major artist, though. So, I’m a little perplexed by the use of Brubeck and Mingus in this way.

For a film that I was more or less forced into watching this afternoon, All Night Long wasn’t half bad. It has great music, a decent story, some interesting characters, and some pretty good acting. The few complaints I have about this film are minor, but they are big enough to keep it from greatness, perhaps the reason no one really known about this film, besides not having any major stars, save for a young Richard Attenborough. Do I recommend this flick? Yes, treat yourself to some underrated black and white goodness.

3 3/4 out of 5 stars

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