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Under the Volcano

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Mexico, United States · 1984
Rated R · 1h 52m
Director John Huston
Starring Albert Finney, Jacqueline Bisset, Anthony Andrews, Ignacio López Tarso
Genre Drama

Geoffrey Firmin is a heavy-drinking British diplomat living in Mexico. When he goes missing during a Day of the Dead celebration, his wife convinces his half-brother Hugh to conduct a last-ditch search for the alcoholic, hoping that he might be able to rescue her self-destructive husband.

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Time Out by

Not for the purists, maybe, but the last half-hour, as Firmin plunges ever deeper into his self-created hell, leaves one shell-shocked.


Chicago Reader by Dave Kehr

Huston simply films the plot of Malcolm Lowry's modern-day gothic novel, turning a fevered interior vision into a cold, distant, exterior one—a documentary on the death of a drunk. As the tortured consul, Albert Finney has moments of technical brilliance, but Huston's direction gives him no inner life. The most impressive artistic contribution is that of cinematographer Gabriel Figueroa, whose painfully sharp images suggest something of what the novel is about.


Christian Science Monitor by David Sterritt

Although flawed by incoherence at moments, their version is a model of literary adaptation - intensely dramatic, sharply cinematic, and full of passionate performances. In all, it's quite a turnaround from Huston's last book-inspired effort, the misfired adaptation of Flannery O'Connor's amazing ''Wise Blood." [5 July 1984, p.25]


Newsweek by Jack Kroll

Finney is remarkable. He plays Geoffrey like a ham actor, but a perpetual drunk is a ham actor: histrionics is the pathology of his sloshed behavior. Finney's body totters with the dignity of a wounded eagle. His face is a landscape racked by seismic tremors. He creates the fearsome effigy of a good man drowning in his own polluted goodness. [18 June 1984, p.92]


The New York Times by Janet Maslin

A film that is especially impressive for the courage, intelligence and restraint with which it tackles an impossible task...What it can do, and does to such a surprising degree, is to bring the characters to life and offer fleeting glimpses into the heart of Mr. Lowry's tragedy.


The A.V. Club by Nathan Rabin

It falls upon Finney to dramatize the inner workings of a man gradually, unmistakably succumbing to oblivion. Finney is up to the task: The pungent poetry of Lowry's prose comes through in his pitch-perfect performance, with its exquisite turns of phrase, boozy bravado, and theatrical panache.


Chicago Sun-Times by Roger Ebert

The movie belongs to Finney, but mention must be made of Jacqueline Bisset as his wife and Anthony Andrews as his half-brother. Their treatment of the consul is interesting. They understand him well.

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