The Tamarind Seed (11-Jul-1974)|
Director: Blake Edwards
Writer: Blake Edwards
From novel: The Tamarind Seed by Evelyn Anthony
Keywords: Romantic Drama
Review by Andrew James Carr (posted on 22-Sep-2008)
Evelyn Anthony's book captures the times perfectly - the Cold War and the exciting if imperfect late sixties and early seventies in London and Paris.
It is the nuances which make the book and these are most successfully translated onto celluloid - about a disaffected Russian spy masqerading as the ubiquitous Military Attache, it is a hackneyed story in isolation but poignantly vibrant because it deals with his personal life, his feelings, conscience and more delicious than any exclusively professional plot so to speak, what makes him feel alive and want to live.
Feodor Sverdlov becomes alive again when he meets Judith Farrow and here their meeting requires artistic licence - but not ridiculously so. She is beautiful but so awfully English - sexual but repressively so, both naturally and through the painful and debilitating experiences of her husband's recent, fatal car crash and then wretched 'rebound' affair with an equally but irrevocably English repressive, the dull and conventional Group Captain Paterson.
The ostensibly prim Mrs. Farrow doesn't realise immediately but she too at last becomes alive again when she meets the handsome, mysterious and engaging Sverdlov. With beach front chalets on a beautiful and tranquil Carribean island, next to each other of course, the story unfolds as his bold self introduction to her leads to the most complex of romances against a backdrop of an entangled, grave web of espionage involving the French, British and Russians at the highest and most dangerous levels.
Paris, London, the Carribean - encapsulating the jet set age, the film exposes the truth about the diplomatic services as the surface beneath which lurk state skullduggery, espionage, counter espionage, trade offs. Love, sex, fashion and even the music make The Tamarind Seed sumptuous in exposing this exciting post war era with the decadence of the West in contrast with the apparent severity and dotrinal discipline of the Soviet Union - but barely concealing their own furtive and polemic thirst for the "sins" and advantages of capitalism.
The cameos in the film are also excellent and lusciously entertaining. Anthony Quayle's gruff, austere and deeply suspicious Loder, the 'engine room' British spy, is wondrous, for example, and to a man and woman, the Russians in their Paris Embassy are credible and descriptive.
I will not describe the main airport sequence, complete with appropriate music, excellent but simple cinematography and editing, but it is the 'building climax' and typifies all I have unashamedly, gushingly, alluded to above.
For those drunk on the memories of the aromas, fashions and omnipresent sense of danger yet fun at all costs attitude with such volatile East/West shenanigans in the early seventies, it's a 'must watch' with its lovely little, linked sub plots, admirable attention to detail and specific study of anthropology represented through a marvellous array of disparate characters.
.......and the ending is suspenseful, daring, dry yet human.
Escapism yes. Life wasn't (and certainly isn't) really like this, even for the diplomatic/espionage circus - but it was!
This is a now dated (of course) but underrated film. It is nothing short of a masterpiece, even with its rudimentary sound track.
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