Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Greatest Platonic Love Tragedy Ever Told


While the era of 'buddy' films may have taken charge in the world of cinema, with one being comically over the top and the other riding the straight and narrow, films of platonic love and loss are not so transparent. And so as I sat down last evening to watch the 1964 Peter Glenville film Becket, it came as a reminder to something I had forgot.

The tale of Thomas Becket - in this instance portrayed by the always stunning Richard Burton - and his infamous battle with King Henry II - portrayed for the first of twice occasions by the legendary Peter O'Toole - is one of layers beyond layers, love beyond love, and clashes so prevalent in history one would struggle to deny their applicability to the modern western man. Oh Becket's transformation from the witty politician to the sovereign saint of poverty is a powerful woe to behold. Then of course you have Henry. The trusting, but equal in treachery, philanderer who casts aside friendship in favor of his Kingly name.

The cost of such blind ambition and backhanded lives, such as theirs for the most historic rendition of friends turned into enemies. Without caution I claim the film Becket delivers some of the best, and most romantic displays of brotherly love in film. And it does so without the need or want to buy into our modern view of two men, whom being any closer in mind or body than arms reach instantly justifies the labeling of homosexuality as if it were bane, even if its status could hold water.

No, here our relationship is platonic, heartfelt, and full of not so subtle untrust. A love built on compassion, but never understanding. And its inevitable downfall all the more powerful because of it. Becket is a tour de force of cinema. Never slow, agonizing, or without wit, it carries its charm on its sleeve and puts its performances at the forefront. Verbose, without snobbery. Epic, without grandeur. Beautiful, even in the most perfect presentation of a sideways glance of remorse.

Becket is available via Instant Watch on Netflix.

1 better thoughts:

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

Becket is devastating, it always raises two eternal questions for me Peter vs Peter (as Henry in this and Henry in The Lion in Winter) and Peter vs Richard here. Both Oscarless, both brilliant and legendary.

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