(Note: Spoiler Alerts)
Oh what a difference sobriety makes. Seeing Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf on the big screen while not drunk has helped me see that beneath the film's bravado is the terror of living life as a childless couple, growing old without children to block the vanishing point on the Grim Reaper's scythe swipe horizon. Taylor and George Segal have the 'animal magnetism' - the drive to claw your way up - while Dennis and Burton are the drunken dreamers. It never occured to me until tonight how much the latter two have in common, right down to her hysterical pregnancy mirroring Burton's invisible son. Taylor is ferocious but Dennis is irrepressible, her innocent, booze-fueld mania the upward flip side of Burton's booze-fueled depression.
I dig that, because I'm childless myself, divorced, better, best and bested, and I know lots of other childless folks and we all struggle with it as we pass "the point of no return" - of course it's different for guys, but still... It's a little more acceptable now, but for the couple of George and Martha, having no doubt married in the conservative 1950s, it has to be a bit of a sore spot, hence the creation of their imaginary child, the little bugger. And yet, just as the bugger is imaginary, so too is the ominous specter of the furred and fanged Woolf (pictured left) who looms over the film like an ominous towering menace.
If this blog entry seems a little whacked, forgive me. It's soggy and warm outside and after a stretch of biting cold, my body is reeling in a cosmic puppy dance of uncertainty and emotional ping-pong. Such spontaneous, seemingly off the cuff ramblings seems only too pertinent when attempting to discuss such a sprawling masterpiece as Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, wherein great gobs of brilliant psycho-sexual insight come ripping across the screen in torrents of Taylor and Burton, and let's not forget Sandy Dennis! In the newest DVD transfer, things are so sharp and clear you can see the spittle in her mouth. Wait, did I say that already? Have I been repeating myself again? Hannah? Hannah? Oh yeah, Hannah is in Night of Iguana! (pictured at right). Life's a half-familiar song a drunken fiddler plays / staggering merrily along / crooked alleyways.
I wish there were more films with dialogue by Albee or Williams - these were men who knew how to find the nuggets of truth and wisdom amidst the leavings of their rampaging drunken demons. No matter how much tripe the Taylor-Burton pair bond may have served up in their onscreen time together, they'll always be forgiven; even if Woolf was the only film they ever made together they would deserve to be revered forever. Luckily they made one more film based on a good play together, Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew, and some decent camp, like THE SANDPIPER, DR. FAUSTUS and BOOM! That's better than a child, any day. Films are immortal and sometimes anamorphic, kids just get uglier, and then morph blurrily into teenagers. What if you have a son and it grows up... you know, drinking bergen?