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DVD Review

A Foreign Field


Starring: Alec Guinness, Leo McKern, Edward Herrmann, John Randolph, Geraldine Chaplin and Lauren Bacall
Acorn Media
RRP: £16.99
Certificate: 12
Available 03 March 2008

The past has a certain allure for all of us, for Waldo and Cyril, survivors of the Normandy beach assaults, the allure is enough to bring them both back, on the fiftieth anniversary, to the beaches in search of a woman they had both known. As an American and an English man it isn’t long before old rivalries resurface, especially when they discover that they are looking for the same woman...

A Foreign Field (1993) written by Roy Clarke (Last of the Summer Wine) and directed by Charles Sturridge (Brideshead Revisited). The film has a splendid cast though; the script hardly has them flexing their acting muscles.

The ménage a trios consists of Waldo (John Randolph), Cyril (Leo McKern) and Angelique (Jeanne Moreau) your average tart with a heart and a good time had by all, especially Waldo and Cyril. This part of the story is perhaps the most unbelievable as neither man appears to have thought that, as they have not seen her for fifty years, she may have had other lovers or that she may have given comfort to more than one soldier. That aside the meeting with their old love, although it initially sparks a bit of a testosterone rush in the two of them, when they do resolve their differences and decide to give the old girl one more good time (no not like that) it is actually quite sweet and reminiscent of how many must feel about past loves. Jeanne Moreau was a great beauty in her day and remains a great French actress.

Alec Guinness (Amos) says little in the film as Cyril’s sidekick. At first the two make an unusual pair, Cyril the successful businessman and Amos the gentle simpleton seem to have little in common, but in a strange way this also is a love story as we discover how Amos was wounded on the Normandy beaches. This unlikely quartet is joined by Lisa (Lauren Bacall), a woman who is slowly drinking herself out of existence, who has come to find the grave of her young brother.

These characters, after a comedic first half, also display another thread of the film, survivors’ guilt. It is both because of love and guilt that Cyril has looked after Amos for the last fifty years and although there was nothing she could have done about it, Lisa, still has angst that she had led a full life when her brothers was so quickly extinguished. Guilt also plays a part with Waldo and Cyril when they discover that Angelique, far from being the young beauty from their memory is a rather elderly grotesque figure who lives in a home. For what she gave them in their time of need they repaid with fifty years of silence and neglect.

The cast is rounded off with the inclusion of Geraldine Chaplin and Edward Hermann who play Beverly and Ralph, daughter and son-in-law of Waldo, whose job it is to be aghast at the antics of the old people in the first half and to look sufficiently sympathetic and touched when the film turns a little sadder.

In the end the film is as funny as it is sad. The characters allow us to see through their eyes not only the sense of loss, that the war created, but also the love and camaraderie. It may not be to everybody’s taste, but to my mind the film is a little gem that has been much underrated. Its sentimentality may not appeal to everyone’s taste as it can be a little mawkish at times.

The 4:3 print is ok for a show of this age, for extras you get cast filmographies, a picture gallery, and some text based information about the D-Day landings.


Charles Packer

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