Date Released : 1 April 1976
Genre : Drama
Stars : Alan Bates, Jessica Tandy, Richard O'Callaghan, Georgina Hale
Movie Quality : HDrip
Format : MKV
Size : 700 MB
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An English professor finds his life crumbling around him.
Watch Butley Trailer :
The brilliance of Alan Bates, who was Simon Gray's "muse and alter-ego"
Simon Gray's extremely talky, darkly comic 1971 play is cinematized here, direct from the text, for television's American Film Theatre.
Doughy-faced and feckless-looking Alan Bates gives a bravura, nonstop performance as the eponymous sloppy, over-literate, misanthropic, washed-up English professor at the University of London. He is an unlikeable character, so there's no sympathizing with him; it's more like watching a train wreck.
But Bates inhabits the role fiercely, and makes him entertaining and lively -- and at times funny -- enough to hold our attention for the two-hour performance, 95% of which takes place in a single room. The room is Butley's office, which he shares with his longterm young lover Joey, now an assistant lecturer.
"Butley" feels a bit like Albee's "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?", written nine years prior to Gray's play. Butley's verbal diatribes go for the jugular, but in allusive, literary or nursery-rhymey, uber-rhetorical, abstract, indirect, and bitterly sarcastic ways. It's a lot to pay attention to -- especially the literary quotes and allusions. And sometimes it's a bit much watching a man go through a slow meltdown in the guise of skewering anyone and everyone around him: Joey, his ex-wife, his students and colleagues, Joey's new love interest, and anyone who even tries to get close to or talk reason to him.
What seems like it might become unrelieved verbal cruelty is thankfully mitigated from time to time by the thoughtful, intelligent, gentle integrity of Joey (wonderfully played by Richard O'Callaghan, who, like Bates, originated his role), and by some real laugh-out-loud moments, and by a character or two who seem for a time to beat Butley at his own cruel mind games.
In the end, the play seems to come full circle metaphorically, giving the audience at least a sense of symmetry and unity and finally quietude before it closes. A worthwhile watch if you like cinematized plays or want more of the very impressive Alan Bates.