Monday, 28 July 2014

Review: Rapture (1965)

An international co-production made on location along the gloriously photogenic Brittany coastline, Rapture (1965) is one of the most sadly neglected studio movies of the 1960s, which is perhaps down to its peculiar plot and its inability to be pigeon holed in any particular genre. Atmospheric, haunting and given a strikingly beautiful aesthetic by cinematographer Marcel Grignon, Rapture tells the unusual story of 15 year old teenager, Agnes, played with wondrous perfection by Patricia Gozzi.

Raised on an isolated farm by her strict and overbearing father (Melvyn Douglas), Agnes is as short on friends as she is maturity. Finding comfort in her dolls and with her ever flourishing childhood imagination, as she develops physically, her mental development struggles to keep up. After building a scarecrow on the farmland, with whom she shares her secrets, Agnes is delighted, when one evening, the scarecrow disappears, but a real-life gentleman appears in his place, wearing his clothes. Unbeknown to her, the seductive stranger, played by Dean Stockwell is a wanted criminal on the run from the law and seeking shelter. Agnes’s imagination goes into overdrive as she believes the fugitive is the living incarnation of the scarecrow. Instantly besotted, Agnes’s feelings spiral out of control as her burgeoning sexuality draws her closer towards the criminal.

Stunningly captured in black and white, the film plays heavily on the themes of childhood innocence and vulnerability, making this a perfect companion piece for Bryan Forbes’s equally compelling Whistle Down the Wind (1961). Rapture brings the melodrama in abundance but the beguiling performances and stunning visuals make it impossible to tear your eyes away. Gozzi puts in a powerful performance in the difficult role of Agnes. Whilst we never get a clear understanding of her developmental skills as inexplicable as they may be, a lot is pointed towards isolation and social or perhaps anti-social conditioning? Highly emotive, Gozzi’s nuanced and energetic performance is unlike anything you’ve ever seen, which makes one wonder why this treasure has remained buried for so long.

Modernist in its approach, director John Guillermin, occasionally heightens events by filming them from the frenzied and heightened perspective of the teenage protagonist before bringing us back to the disbelief of her fellow characters. The film is romantic in its approach to imagery, making you fall deeply in love with contours of Brittany’s coastlines via sumptuous and ambitious crane shots but Guillermin wants his audience to know who this film belongs to as he frames the whole shebang with a bout of crazed panic on London’s city streets as the teenager finally gets a glimpse of the world beyond the farm gates. Love interest Dean Stockwell oozes charisma as the scarecrow come-to-life, bringing matinee idol looks and compassion to an otherwise awkwardly complex and predatory character.

Beguiling and glorious, this dark fairy tale captures both the joy and danger of childhood imagination. Packed with powerful performances, outstanding imagery and a perfectly complimentary score by Georges Delerue. Rapture is a unique treasure from the vaults of forgotten cinema, that certainly makes you wonder what else they’ve forgotten about.

Rapture is presented for the first time on home video in the UK in a new high-definition restoration, released in a stunning blu-ray presentation as part of a Dual Format (Blu-ray & DVD) edition on 28 July 2014.

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