The period of the Second World War, with its consequent boost to the spirit of The Show Must Go On, recalls Truffaut's The Last Metro and (an even closer contemporary) the remake of To Be or Not To Be. But lacking the specificness of either of those, this one, about a broadly sketched Shakespearean touring company, serves as a bottomless vessel into which the spectator can pour whatever feelings he may harbor about show people. Something more is needed, certainly, than what is on screen. The movie on its own plays altogether too much like a play, which of course it originally was, and which would not be so bad a thing if the play it played like were a good one. But it is not. Catty and gossipy at heart, and concerned more to cover ground than to dig in anywhere, it runs the gamut of emotions as though to beat the clock. The basic premise -- nursing an ailing, senile, and egomaniacal star through, but not very much beyond, a bomb-punctuated performance of King Lear -- runs out of fuel at least by the Intermission scene and the couple of very tawdry encounters therein between the actor and two adoring females of different generations. All of the best stuff transpires before Curtain Rises: anyone who has ever had difficulty buckling down to work will be able to see in the actor's tantrums a monstrous and hilarious enlargement of himself. With Albert Finney and Tom Courtenay; written by Ronald Harwood; directed by Peter Yates. (1983) — Duncan Shepherd
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