Neil Sinyard
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Pearl of ambiguity
The Innocents (1961)
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In his obituary notice in the Guardian, John Clayton's fellow director and close friend Karel Reisz, who thought The Innocents the greatest of Clayton's films, also relates the power of the film to the chord the material struck in Clayton's memory of childhood. For the ability to locate the precise moment of maximum tension in a scene, Clayton's direction has a mastery comparable to that of another great director of domestic tension, William Wyler. Interestingly, Clayton was less happy with Quint's ghost than with Miss Jessel's: it was altogether cruder, he thought, more obviously melodramatic and Gothic, less atmospheric. Miss Jessel provided the dimension of supernatural sadness, but Quint was necessary to give the weight of diabolical threat. Pauline Kael had a fine phrase for Miss Jessel's tear on the blotter: she called it 'that little pearl of ambiguity'.

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