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Screenshot Saturday: Peter Medak’s The Ruling Class (1972)

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I’m going to cut straight to the chase here: The Ruling Class is about Peter O’Toole as madman, who thinks he’s Jesus, and then is “cured” into thinking he’s Jack the Ripper. The movie is grand, self-aware, theatrical and divisive, with some critics still convinced it’s disjointed bullshit, and others (including the Criterion Collection) lauding its boldness and artistic vision. Disjointed? Undoubtedly. Brilliant? Absolutely.

One of the great charms of The Ruling Class is its unclassified nature. It exists in an uneasy limbo between comedy and drama– a murder mystery where everybody laughs and a slapstick comedy where everybody cries. It’s divided firmly into two halves, a leftover stage device used to facilitate the absent intermission, and yet it is also distinctly filmic. O’Toole is a beautiful but ultimately pitiful farce of a man; his life is a delusion wrapped in a sad joke. The film is certainly a comment on the British…

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