Connecting Rooms (1970)

Synopsis:

A middle-aged cellist (Bette Davis), a disgraced schoolmaster (Michael Redgrave, Dead of Night) and a struggling songwriter (Alexis Kanner, Goodbye Gemini) share a shabby boardinghouse. The three tenants have a profound effect on each other.

Reaction & Thoughts:

“Faith is the only hope in this terrifying world.”

Connecting Rooms is compatible with the British New Wave’s kitchen-sink dramas of the 1960s. Like Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1960), A Taste of Honey (1961) and The L-Shaped Room (1963), Connecting Rooms deals with issues that affect ordinary people living a hand-to-mouth existence.

Written and directed by Franklin Gollings, based on the 1962 two-act play The Cellist by Marion Hart, Connecting Rooms primarily explores alienation in modern society. It’s also about how missed opportunities sometimes bring a sense of loss. What do you do when your life doesn’t turn out the way you expected? The film attempts to examine life’s harsh realities without passing judgement. It works for the most part.

While a bit on the maudlin side, I liked the fact that the movie didn’t sell out at the end — the finale is appropriately bittersweet. There aren’t miraculous solutions to serious social problems, but characters grow and become more self-aware as the story progresses. It’s all about “making lemonade out of lemons” and hoping for the best. This is the kind of “realistic-optimism” that I support wholeheartedly.

Connecting Rooms has some flaws that are difficult to ignore. I thought the color cinematography, by John Wilcox (The Last Valley), was a mistake. Color tends to make everything look pretty, so black and white would have fitted much better with the dreariness of the characters and the environment.

The pacing lags here and there — some scenes last longer than needed. The film also has some gratuitous nudity (maybe they were trying to attract a younger audience). But despite its blotches, Connecting Rooms remains a nice little film boosted by some genuinely poignant moments and the fine work of the main actors.

Bette Davis (her cello work was done by author Ian Fleming’s sister, Amaryllis Fleming) and Michael Redgrave give beautifully understated performances. Davis and Redgrave got along so well that they “spent a lot of time in her dressing room blue penciling and rewriting the script” (Lawrence J. Quick’s book Fasten Your Seat Belts: The Passionate life of Bette Davis), which both actors found lacking in some areas.

Alexis Kanner is the weakest link here. Kanner struggles to keep up with Davis and Redgrave. Davis apparently tried to replace the actor but the producers informed her that there wasn’t money to re-shoot Kanner’s scenes with another actor. The cast also includes Kay Walsh (Oliver Twist) as Mrs. Brent, Leo Genn (Quo Vadis) as Dr. Norman and Olga Georges-Picot (The Day of the Jackal) as a popular pop star.

Conclusions & Final Thoughts:

Connecting Rooms had problems finding a distributor. After soft releases in both England and the U.S., the movie quickly vanished from the public consciousness. It has remained an obscure property ever since. Kino Lober recently released it on DVD/Blu-ray (screenshots were taken directly from the Kino Blu-ray). Connecting Rooms is a touching British chamber piece worthy of a look. Color, 103 minutes, Rated PG.

5 responses to “Connecting Rooms (1970)

  1. Wow! This sounds very interesting. Thanks for posting this. I love when unknown to me movies land in my lap like this. And this one gives me something to look forward to, so, thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

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