Skip to main content

THE HORSE'S MOUTH

UK, 1958 (MIFF 1959, Programme 1)

Director: Ronald Neame

In the first film he has scripted for himself, Alec Guinness chose to adapt for the screen this seemingly impossible novel, "The Horse's Mouth'" by Joyce Cary. The story purports to be written by Gulley Jimson, a perpetually hard-up, vagabond artist, who relishes his running battle with society in genera!, and the art world in particular. Underlying his eccentricity is a creative urge which causes him to lie, steal, and starve to enable him to paint. His only ally, against a hostile world grown tired of his tricks, is a barmaid called Coker. Her protestations and concern for his welfare are of no avail &ndash: Gulley feels responsible solely to his self-expression. and, craving for blank walls, he takes possession of an unsuspecting patron's flat, reducing it to a shambles in the process of creating a masterpiece. He ends by raising an army of art students and other helpers to assist him to realise his ideal &ndash: a vast mural. The site &ndash: the sole standing wall of a bombed-out chapel; only the act of creation matters to him, not its preservation. The picaresque ending (though not consistent with that of the novel) allows Guinness a Chaplincsque conclusion to the film.

There is great quality in the work of the supporting cast — Kay Walsh as the rough-tongued defiant Coker, and Renee Houston as the lush, easy-going Sarah, his former wife, are true to the novel's spirit. But the film's success hinges on the personal distinc¬tion of Alec Guinness's performance (for which he won the award for best actor in Venice last year) : a brilliant, clever and consistent interpretation of this unique character.

See also...

State Opening of Parliament

A full account of one of the most splendid of the annual ceremonial events in Britain's calendar - the State Opening of Parliament by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II - recorded for the first time on ... More »

On Closer Inspection

The second film by the young artists whose first production, "Animated Genesis", delighted Festival audiences last year. "Animated Genesis" not only received a British Film Academy Special Award lor ... More »

The History of Cinema

The History of the Cinema presents a humourous record of moving pictures from the earliest beginnings to today. ... More »

The Australian Flight - 1919

On November 12, 1919, Ross and ... Keith Smith prepared to leave ... Hounslow, England, in a Vickers ... Vimy plane and Fly 11,000 miles to ... Darwin .... ... More »

IF . . .

"Fighting means commitment, means believing what you say, and saying what you believe. It will also mean being called sentimental, irresponsible, self-righteous, extremist and out-of-date by those ... More »

Any Man's Kingdom

The variety of the heartwarming Northumbrian atmosphere. ... More »

Select a festival
Search The Film Archive
Browse By Director