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Misery’s Company: Gollings Squanders Dream Cast in Sole Directorial “Connecting Rooms” (1970) | Blu-ray Review

For his one and only directorial effort, Franklin Gollings managed to finagle an impressive cast with 1970’s Connecting Rooms, based on the play The Cellist by Marion Hart. Bette Davis and Michael Redgrave play down-and-out lodgers in run-down boarding house manned by an onerous Kay Walsh in what plays like a riff on Separate Tables. Gollings does his best to expand the material’s staginess, but a variety of long-winded monologues tend to undo the cinematic good will of various London exterior shots.

Disgraced school teacher James Wallraven (Redgrave) has recently lost his position, forced to move into a ramshackle boarding house in London. However, the door connecting his room with Wanda Fleming (Davis) doesn’t latch properly, which they discover when he drunkenly crashes through it one particularly depressing night. But Wanda, a talented cellist, has secrets of her own. Her current infatuation with another tenant, wannabe songwriter Mickey (Alexis Kanner), has Wanda embroiled in a flirtatious game where she is doomed to despair, while connecting them all is the meddlesome landlord Mrs. Brent (Kay Walsh).

Redgrave, who seems somewhat gone to seed as the pitiful James Wallraven, is interesting casting considering his signature role is that of the stern professor in The Browning Version (1951). However, Gollings doesn’t attempt to expound on the schoolmaster’s scandalous demise, though it seems like rumored pedophilia for a ‘favorite’ male student was his ultimate undoing (Gollings also misses the opportunity to dig into some sordid possibilities considering Redgrave has kept a framed picture of said young student in his room).

Meanwhile, Bette Davis, try as she might, feels a bit miscast as the vulnerable street busker who entertains a flaccid romance with Alexis Kanner, a supposed writer of pop songs. Davis doesn’t seem altogether keen on some of the more romantic passages she’s supposed to lavish upon Kenner and she doesn’t ever seem in danger of falling for his schemes.

Meanwhile, Kenner is actually hot and heavy for an actual rising pop star, played by Olga Georges-Picot (who headlined Resnais’ 1968 classic Je t’aime, je t’aime and Woody Allen’s 1975 film Love & Death). Kay Walsh is delightfully crusty as the nosy landlord and one wishes she had more to do (or at least a few more shared sequences with Davis). A low-key character study trying too hard to be a tear-jerker, it’s a definite item of interest for fans of Davis or Redgrave, but that’s about it.

Film Rating: ★★/☆☆☆☆☆
Disc Rating: ★★★/☆☆☆☆☆

Los Angeles based Nicholas Bell is IONCINEMA.com's Chief Film Critic and covers film festivals such as Sundance, Berlin, Cannes and TIFF. He is part of the critic groups on Rotten Tomatoes, The Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA), FIPRESCI, the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) and GALECA. His top 3 for 2023: The Beast (Bonello) Poor Things (Lanthimos), Master Gardener (Schrader). He was a jury member at the 2019 Cleveland International Film Festival.

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