Neil Sinyard
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Woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown
The Pumpkin Eater (1964)
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The critical controversy concerning the status of Jack Clayton as a director is probably at its most intense over The Pumpkin Eater. Clayton stressed the importance of an opening that established right away the situation of 'a woman in crisis' but wanted to delay the Harrods scene so as to build up an atmosphere of suspense. Certainly if one compares, say, The Red Desert with The Pumpkin Eater, it is the Antonioni film rather than the Clayton one that seems to have more surface than substance. Actually The Pumpkin Eater was the third consecutive Clayton piece to be based on material narrated in the first person; and in each case, although the main character appears in just about every scene, the presentation is more objective. 'No viewer will ever forget the intercut close-ups of James Mason's mouth', wrote Tony Sloman in his tribute to Clayton for the National Film Theatre.

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