Considered by some to be an underappreciated masterpiece, Lilith is more accurately described as an admirably ambitious film whose considerable reach unfortunately exceeds its grasp. Those who are willing to cut the film slack due to its ambitions may be amply rewarded, but it's hard for even them to deny that Lilith is deeply flawed. Primary blame (or credit) must rest with writer/director Robert Rossen, whose adaptation of the J.R. Salamanca novel is muddled, fuzzy, and frequently ponderous. Even so, there are bits that break through like lightning, providing brief moments of dazzling illumination, but these are too few and far between. Equally problematic is Warren Beatty's performance, which is consciously removed and distant (as befits the character) but still lethargic and uninvolving. Much better is Jean Seberg, who is alluring, intriguing, dazzling, frustrating, and maddening -- sometimes all at once. There's also an excellent cameo from Gene Hackman and very good work from Peter Fonda and Jessica Walter. These performances -- plus Eugene Schuftan's enigmatic, white-drenched cinematography -- help, but ultimately Lilith never becomes the film it intends to.
by Craig Butler review