[Last Film I Saw] The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1969)

Title: The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
Year: 1969
Country: UK
Language: English
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Director: Ronald Neame
Writers:
Jay Presson Allen
Muriel Spark
Cast:
Maggie Smith
Pamela Franklin
Robert Stephens
Celia Johnson
Gordon Jackson
Jane Carr
Diane Grayson
Shirley Steedman
Ann Way
Margo Cunningham
Rona Anderson
Rating: 8.0/10

Dame Maggie Smith’s first Oscar-winning film, she is Miss Jean Brodie, a zealous teacher in her prime (30s) at a conservative all-girl boarding school in Edinburgh in 1930s. Whose unorthodox teaching method gathers her a group of “Brodie’s gals”, whom she proudly acclaims as “crème de la crème”, but her battle with the old-fashioned principal (an equally excellent and Celia Johnson), her emotional entanglements with two fellow teachers, Teddy (Robert Stephens) and Gordon (Gordan Lowther), may not be the most distraught concerns, when inside her own clique of “crème de la crème”, there are betrayal, questions and decrying after her blind adulation of Fascism triggers one of her girl’s death.

The film is adapted from Muriel Spark’s novel and based on Jay Presson Allen’s play, who is also the screenwriter. With indoor settings occupy most of the film narrative, the film is exactly the sort of a warm bed for many breath-stopping two-handers, Smith and Johnson’s confrontation is marvellous, and the near-end showdown between Smith and Franklin is even more merciless and astonishing (Pamela Franklin is unbelievably snubbed by the Academy for her brave and searing flair in such a sophisticated role as the teenager Sandy); however Smith’s quintessential poignancy has been immaculately demonstrated during the monologue scenes when she is playing slides in the classroom, it’s the “crème de la crème” of her long-lasting career.

Starts as a farce of the equivalent of a female version of DEAD POETS SOCIETY (1989), but this film goes farther and digs deeper into the dark side of the humanity, the moral criterion is a moot, one could feel sympathy towards Miss Brodie’s plight, but her story is not entirely guiltless. Director Ronald Neame has never acquired much fame as a director, but this one is a pure theatrical gem which hopefully has done some justice to him.

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