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  Rapture Living And Growing
Year: 1965
Director: John Guillermin
Stars: Patricia Gozzi, Melvyn Douglas, Dean Stockwell, Gunnel Lindblom, Leslie Sands, Murray Evans, Sylvia Kay, Peter Sallis, Christopher Sandford, Ellen Pollock
Genre: Drama, RomanceBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: On the coast of Brittany lives teenage Agnes Larbaud (Patricia Gozzi) with her stern, retired judge father Frederick (Melvyn Douglas), and recently she has been to a wedding in the family though she never really wanted to go, not being a social type. Sure enough, she felt harrassed by a boy there who wanted to dance with her, and left the reception to flee through the streets, almost run over by a car in the street until the housekeeper Karen (Gunnel Lindblom) saved her. What Agnes prefers to do is run through the countryside, especially by the cliffs and beach near her home where she has her own hut containing various treasures - in her mind, at least. Frederick is, as usual, furious with her, but the presence of a stranger will prove a turning point...

The director of The Towering Inferno made an Ingmar Bergman-esque romantic drama, complete with exquisite black and white, Cinemascope photography and an international cast? It happened, and a lot of people happen to like it - well, maybe not a lot, but a fair-sized cult was gathered around Rapture, which was not to be confused with the nineties cult film The Rapture or any other film that features Christians scooped up to heaven by the hand of God, this wasn't really religious at all. If anything, any rapturous feelings experienced by Agnes were restricted to whatever her natural surroundings were at the time, which are then channelled into an ecstasy of first love.

But note the Bergman influence: you know what that means, yeah, gloom and lots of it, though director John Guillermin worked up a very authentic facsimile of the oppressive Scandinavian atmosphere of the great Swedish artist's best known efforts, while managing a romantic angle that owed plenty to two Hayley Mills vehicles, Whistle Down the Wind and Sky West and Crooked, which was quite some achievement when this was released before the latter. Safe to say, if you liked those then you'd be getting on famously with this, as the much put upon Agnes tries to hang on to her childhood innocence only to find it inexorably slipping away from her when her father is demanding it and that aforementioned stranger makes his entrance in the perceived guise of a scarecrow she constructed for company.

He is actually a fugitive, and in a striking example of stuntwork the police van carrying him crashes on a country road just as Frederick and Agnes are passing by; they observe Joseph (Dean Stockwell) clamber out and make a run for it, though in his panic he knocks over a guard who accidentally smashes his head on a rock. Joseph, taking a bullet to the arm, implores Frederick to look after the stricken cop and makes good his escape, leaving the Larbauds not sure what to think, but soon the man on the run inevitably shows up back at their isolated home and before they know what has happened, father, daughter and housekeeper have taken pity on him and are concealing him from the law, just as the news comes through that the policeman who hit his head has now died.

There's a mood of doom closing in, not just thanks to Joseph's situation which will not be resolved too easily you suspect, but also because Agnes is rushing towards adulthood in spite of digging her heels in every step of the way. She no longer can play with dolls now she has Joseph to fall in love with, and that's all the more awkward when Karen (Lindblom a regular in Bergman films, it's no surprise she was cast) and the criminal have an affair too, leaving Agnes suffering, shall we say, mixed emotions about how she should be reacting. Meanwhile the pressure her father places on her, almost pushing her into the arms of Joseph subconsciously (or maybe not?), brings her psyche to breaking point, something the young fellow cannot bring himself to commit to one way or the other; he must get away, but this dysfunctional set-up who have offered him charity are reluctant to allow that. All very torrid, and surprisingly thick with vivid, gluey ambience thanks to darkly memorable performances and visuals - what did we lose when Gozzi retired prematurely from the screen? Music by Georges Delerue.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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