Sog.: dal romanzo omonimo di Carson McCullers. Scen.: Chapman Mortimer, Gladys Hill. F.: Aldo Tonti. M.: Russell Lloyd. Scgf.: Bruno Avesani. Mus.: Toshiro Mayuzumi. Int.: Elizabeth Taylor (Leonora Penderton), Marlon Brando (maggiore Weldon Penderton), Brian Keith (tenente colonnello Morris Langdon), Julie Harris (Alison Langdon), Zorro David (Anacleto), Robert Forster (soldato Williams), Gordon Mitchell (sergente stalliere), Irvin Dugan (capitano Weincheck), Fay Sparks (Susie). Prod.: Ray Stark per Warner Bros., Seven Arts International. 35mm. D.: 108’. Col.
Extremely faithful and well adapted (as are all the scripts involving Gladys Hill, John Huston’s longtime general assistant) from Carson McCullers very short novel, this is an extremely mysterious and atypical movie for this director, as is his film version of another great Southern woman writer, Wise Blood (1979).
And it is mysterious because, despite its brevity and spare narration, the novel is much more explicit about the characters and the motives behind their somewhat strange actions, while Huston’s film is much more elaborate (especially, I guess, in its original gold- or sepia-toned print, which I have never seen, and which I take to be a too literal understanding of the title: even if the eye is golden, its vision should not be thus colored; the only golden eye in the film is that of a watercolor peacock painted by the Julie Harris character’s Philippine manservant) and seems to be purposely withholding information available in the book.
It is also a genre-less film: neither comedy nor melodrama (it could have been either, even both at the same time), not a thriller, not even a military drama and not a theatrical confrontation of actors like Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? And too cool and understated to recall Tennessee Williams. The cast is initially surprising in view of Carson McCullers’ physical descriptions, but reveals itself to be almost perfect in the way the actors fit their characters, played with utterly different acting styles by Marlon Brando (in one of his best, most restrained performances), Elizabeth Taylor, Brian Keith, Julie Harris, Zorro David and Robert Forster. It is so impressive that, when rereading the books, one remembers their images as pictured by Huston on the screen, however they may differ from the portraits drawn in words by McCullers.
Reflections is a psychological story. Vivid Technicolor would, I felt, get between the audience and the story – a story of minds, thoughts, emotions. So I was looking for a particular kind of color. The Italian Technicolor lab exerted every effort to come up with what I wanted, I fear at the expense of other pictures they were working on. Weeks and months of experimentation were involved, starting well before the commencement of the picture and continuing after the final shots. What we achieved was a golden effect – a diffuse amber color – that was quite beautiful and matched the mood of the picture. When I sent the final print to the United States, I thought it was something of a triumph. Warner Brothers thought differently; they didn’t like the color. They ordered prints to be made in straight Technicolor. I fought this, and finally, using every threat, contact and influence I could muster, I got the studio to agree to make fifty prints in the amber color and to release these first to theaters in major American cities. The remainder would be made in standard Technicolor.
Every now and then someone comes up to me and says, “I’ve seen Reflections in the original color, and it is magnificent! Why did they ever release it in straight Technicolor?” So far as I’m concerned, the reason is that the sales department of Warners was headed by a man whose taste in color had been shaped by early “B” pirate films: “The more color per square foot of screen the better the picture.”
I like Reflections in a Golden Eye, I think it is one of my best pictures.
John Huston, An Open Book, Albert Knopf, New York 1980
Huston and Aldo Tonti, the director of photography of Ossessione, Europa ’51, India, Le notti di Cabiria and War and Peace, did one of the most courageous experiments ever done with Technicolor, which being a kind of super color was unbreakable. With the help of Technicolor Roma, they decolored the film and created a never-before-seen solution, opening new creative paths. Indeed, the golden monochrome with the ghost of the original colors shining through it enriched the film with an additional psychological and abstract layer.