07 January 2007

Edge of Darkness (1943, Lewis Milestone)

{46, C+/C, **} | Museum of Modern Art, "Franz Waxman: Music for the Cinema"

• There's gung-ho wartime propaganda delivered with class and style—Foreign Correspondent, Air Force, Five Graves to Cairo, etc.—and then there's two solid hours of noble declamation. Every character who isn't a sneering Nazi villain is either an aspiring martyr or a weakling-to-be-redeemed-later, and all three types yammer truisms nonstop.

• Somebody wake Errol Flynn. Somebody sedate Walter Huston. Somebody please please euthanize Ann Sheridan.

• Milestone does his best to enliven the speechifying via robust camerawork, even reviving the lateral tracking shots of charging and falling soldiers from All Quiet on the Western Front. (Still impressive.) For all I know, this may be an auteurist favorite, since I imagine it'd look sensational if you watched with the sound turned off. Most memorable is the montage that introduces various members of the Norwegian resistance, with each one striking a hilariously iconic pose; shame that's the last moment of playfulness in the entire film.

• I'd always assumed Ruth Gordon's quavery, sing-song speech pattern in films of the late '60s and early '70s was a product of her age, but she sounded exactly the same 25 years earlier. I recognized her voice before I recognized her face, despite having seen her name in the opening credits.

• Basically, the kind of movie in which the priest who counsels pacifism and prayer in reel two unexpectedly turns up at the window with a machine gun at a crucial moment in reel five. Enough said.

1 comment:

Victor said...

Basically, the kind of movie in which the priest who counsels pacifism and prayer in reel two unexpectedly turns up at the window with a machine gun at a crucial moment in reel five.

A priest whom I befriended through the Catholic blogosphere would sometimes program "Peace and Justice Movie Nights" when he was in formation at North American College in Rome. Another priest whom I know told me those nights were legendary because the seminarians would sometimes see some tedious art film. But just as often, the second priest said, "it would be something starring Charles Bronson or Clint Eastwood. And you would never know until the movie began to play."

More seriously, I would be stunned if a priest bearing arms were not a violation of Canon Law (both under today's Code and that of 1917) and possible grounds for defrocking.