Selina D’Arcey is blind, yet she sees the world anew through the eyes of kindly Gordon Ralfe (Academy Award winner* Sidney Poitier). An awkward Cinderella raised by a bigoted, abusive mother, Selina is white. She does not know that the man helping her learn to dial a pay phone or find the restroom is black. Elizabeth Hartman’s luminous screen debut as Selina earned her a Golden Globe Award as Most Promising Newcomer. On the veteran side as Selina’s blowsy, bitter mother, Shelley Winters won her second Oscar. ** As directed by Guy Green (Oscar -winning cinematographer for Great Expectations, 1947), the performances are timeless in A Patch of Blue. So is this fine film’s heart-soaring impact.
As embodied by Alan Bates, Butley falls back on the surgically precise wit and savage eloquence that helped put him in his current circumstances in the first place. The blitzkrieg of vitriolic commentary with which Butley engages lovers, students, rivals, and allies, all with equal ferocity, becomes a glass bottom boat illuminating the churning depths of his bankrupted soul. Acclaimed playwright Harold Pinter, in what Time Magazine hailed as “a quite superior directorial debut,” turns author Simon Gray’s single-set, dialogue driven stage play into an irresistible dynamic visual experience that tracks Bates’ hilarious and fearless performance with cunning precision.
Bates and an expert supporting cast, including OscarÃ‚Â® winner Jessica Tandy (Driving Miss Daisy), joust with a sly, self-referencing wit and an unselfconscious exuberance that is breathtaking. With every verbal parry and valedictory flourish of wordplay, Butley’s life becomes more of an inescapable bear trap of thwarted ambition, clandestine affection, and squandered brilliance.