Sunday, June 17, 2012

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

An aging alcoholic college professor and his bitter wife return to their campus home late one night, where they still plan to have the new strapping science professor and his waifish wife over for drinks, which quickly devolves into a night of callousness and debauchery, as old wounds and resentments are revealed. "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" is Mike Nichols' provocative directorial debut, and filmization of Ernest Lehman's adaptation of Edward Albee's stage production in what appears at first to be an exercise in cruelty, but soon reveals itself as something deeper and more tragic. Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton deliver brave and searing career defining performances, and George Segal and Sandy Dennis are also fine as the young couple. Haskell Wexler's Oscar winning black and white photography wonderfully captures the material and helps open it up for the screen. "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" was controversial for its time, for its language and sexual frankness. The material is less shocking by today's standards, but few would find it any less powerful or moving.