December 08, 2019

Review Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966)

By Mike Nichols | USA
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Before he changed the norm of Hollywood, shifting the old ways of the studio controlled industry into the era of the new young talents, Mike Nichols made his feature debut with “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”. Whereas most probably know Nichols for his follow up work, “The Graduate”, it’s safe to say that I stand in the minority of things, for I personally think that this first film of his is in fact more superior.
Threading the same themes of generational gap, the story follows an old bickering couple terrorizing a younger couple as they visit their home late in the morning. The story started from being a seemingly harmless Billy Wilder rounchy comedy and it slowly yet constantly progresses into something a bit more disturbing. Throughout two hours, Nichols fit a lot of dynamics of relationships and social stratifications. This of course were done sharply and full of wit thanks to the fantastic script by Ernest Lehman. But even then, the film wouldn’t hold as much ground without the riveting performances by Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton — these two, truly gave two of the best performance of the decade.
Adapted from a play of the same name written by Edward Albee, Nichols elevated the existing material to new heights by his usage of camerawork and editing. Taking advantage of the artform, it took Albee’s play and make it all the more intimate and intense; utilizing close-ups, tracking shots and abrupt cuts to mimic the wild and spiraling story the film tells. Even in the most simplest shots, Nichols along with cinematographer Haskell Wexler went ahead of themselves to paint the most beautiful or the most jarring (when needed) shots, earning the film its rightful Oscar nomination along with four others — two in which, they won.
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“Who’s Afraid of Virgina Woolf?” is a remarkable debut that established the themes and creative direction Nichols is known for bringing in his follow up film. A picture that is both hillarious and gut wrenching at the same time, this film deserves a place amongst the best of its time.
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