In Ronald Neame's film of Joyce Cary's classic novel, Alec Guinness transforms himself into one of cinema's most indelible comic figures: the lovably scruffy painter Gulley Jimson. As the ill-behaved Jimson searches for a perfect canvas, he determines to let nothing come between himself and the realization of his exalted vision. A perceptive examination of the struggle of artistic creation, The Horse's Mouth
is also director Neame's comic masterpiece.
Alec Guinness was in the full bloom of his stardom when he suggested, scripted, and starred in this wonderfully odd 1958 adaptation of Joyce Cary's novel
. As Gulley Jimson, a gravel-voiced, antisocial painter, whose artistic drive is as single-minded (and as self-absorbed) as a terrier's, Guinness sketches one of his carefully constructed marvels. The film has a bumpily episodic structure, but when it works, it really works: Gulley inhabiting (and mostly destroying) a penthouse apartment when the upper-crusty owners go on holiday for six weeks, or marshaling an army of apprentices to create a masterpiece on a giant wall in a condemned building. Departing from the novel, Guinness concocted the movie's madcap ending, which is guaranteed to bring a smile. Adding verve is the music, adapted from Prokofiev's Lieutenant Kijé
, which fits Gulley like the paint under his dirty nails. The artworks, vivid and thick, are by John Bratby. --Robert Horton