(a “get me back onstage NOW!” film review by Timothy J. Verret)
What a gift from The American Film Theatre that in the early 1970s, they were able to bring to moviegoers outstanding plays for the screen. And they brought audiences great ones with great actors and actresses who took a huge salary cut for their love of these plays. Many at that time couldn’t afford or couldn’t find theatrical plays to attend, so The American Film Theatre brought the theatre to them. And they did just that in 1974 with Jean Genet’s THE MAIDS.
THE MAIDS is a French play about two maids who “act out” the class clash of them and their Madame. Claire and Solange are the maid sisters who take turns plotting ways to kill Madame but in the end, the tragedy is more relational. I admit to putting this DVD on and getting distracted, as is often the case with computers and phones, but I was eventually brought back to the film and, boy, I am SOOOO glad I was. This dialogue of this play is biting and acerbic and must have been quite the stunner for the 70’s audience. While watching this filmed play, I was reminded of Edward Albee’s plays like WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? (also filmed) and A DELICATE BALANCE (which, ironically, was also produced and filmed by The American Film Theatre and which I saw and loved!). Albee must have been heavily influenced by Genet, because they both have similar approaches to cut-throat dialogue and deep and rich character development. I am a HUGE fan of this level of intensity, for I write very much the same.
Glenda Jackson and Susannah York play Solange and Claire, respectively. They are mesmerizing, to say the least, particularly Glenda Jackson who delivers at the end a monologue that is jaw-dropping and leaves the viewer devastated. York is incredibly beautiful compared to Jackson who is a bit androgynous-looking and certainly “manlier.” Together, their performances are magic. I was pleasantly enraptured with Jackson who I know has given multiple performances on film and yet I don’t believe I have seen any. She did win an Oscar as Best Actress for WOMEN IN LOVE in 1970 (I only know this because my favorite, Barbra Streisand, was also nominated for THE WAY WE WERE and was heavily touted to win but didn’t). Jackson won a second Best Actress Oscar for A TOUCH OF CLASS in 1973. How Jackson did not receive a third Best Actress Oscar for 1974’s THE MAID is beyond me. She is remarkable and her performance made we wish I could go back to acting onstage NOW!
As I have said many times on film reviews here, the Special Features of DVDs are what I most look forward to, and THE MAIDS had an interview with the lady who founded The American Film Theatre and her intentions, and I thought to myself, “This is what we need RIGHT NOW for those who cannot go to the theatre for the above reasons and for the COVID pandemic.” And then I thought, “Might I be so bold as to do something that would bring theatre to those ‘shut in’ by COVID?” I don’t know if I can be that bold at this time, but I do believe I am bold enough to return to the stage and go “back to life” acting and enriching characters with my enriching and emotional experiences as a human.
THE MAIDS is a sensational film made from a sensational play, and I highly recommend it, as well as recommend watching all of The American Film Theatre‘s film productions of marvelous plays which can be purchased in a collection at: https://www.amazon.com/American-Film-Theatre-Collection-One/dp/B00008HCAK#ace-g6796040015.
I may, in fact, order my copy NOW! 😁