Playing at Academy’s Best of Black Comedy Festival, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? is a classic picture that stands the test of time. The two-hour 1966 film follows a late-night gathering at the home of Martha, Elizabeth Taylor, and George, Richard Burton, a drunken couple drenched in riotous animosity and resentment. They are joined by a younger couple, and the addictive chaos of volatile domesticity ensues.
The film is derived from a 1962 play of the same name and has carved itself a place within the halls of Hollywood greatness. It recently served as a point of inspiration for Sam Levinson’s much worse film, Malcolm & Marie. More comically, it also inspired the legendary ‘Dinner Party’ episode of The Office. Virginia Woolf sees one of the most notable performances of Elizabeth Taylor’s career, as she bursts from the screen with such impressive energy. The black and white film only fuels her committed character work. The dialogue is lively, quick and clever, each character fleshed out in full. It serves up more than enough drama to supply the long run time, and is an excellent break from some of the newer Hollywood flicks that fall a little limp.
A rewatch nearly sixty years later isn’t as challenging as you might expect. The rolling plot pulls you along with every emerging mystery and comedic line. It’s likely that, with its preservation in festivals and theatres like Academy, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? will serve as inspiration for years to come.
Academy’s ‘Best of Black Comedy Festival’ starts on the 14th of April and closes on the 4th of May.