Clockwise [1986]

Monty Python's John Cleese makes this lighthearted farce work as a tightly wound, punctilious public school headmaster whose well-organized life unravels in a series of disasters on his journey to a conference. Cleese is a master of fussy, fastidious characters in exasperating situations, bottling up his frustration under good manners and sardonic comments until he finally blows, but he's also startlingly vulnerable as he systematically loses all sense of himself. Dressed in monk's robes and stranded on a lonely country road, he looks down at his naked wrist and sighs, "I've even lost the time." Michael Fryan (the playwright of Noises Off) doesn't really have much of a story behind the situations, but he provides plenty of complications, and Cleese holds the film together with his brittle manner, single-minded drive, and hilarious headmaster's condescending haughtiness. While it will seem slight to many, Cleese fans will love it. --Sean Axmaker

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