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A young girl and her father are kicked out of their house by a cruel noblewoman, and the girl's heart is broken when her sweetheart, the noblewoman's son, won't go to Paris with them. After becoming an opera star in Paris, the girl returns to her homeland and finds her romance with the nobleman rekindled. Written by
Garbo's first two films were adaptations of Ibanez novels. This first, TORRENT, fares much better than the second, THE TEMPTRESS. The latter was overlong and uninteresting, giving Garbo little to do but stand around and look seductive until her last scene, when she is finally allowed to act. Here in TORRENT, she is in total command from beginning to end and as convincing as a Spanish peasant girl, all innocent and loving, as she is portraying a famous diva.
She and Ricardo Cortez are in love but he is a landowner and his mother forbids the alliance, causing the young girl's family to be ousted from their home. The father takes his daughter off to Paris where her trained voice (she had been taking lessons from the local barber) is sure to be a hit. Mother is left behind. Cortez gets his second chance when the famous La Brunna (Garbo) returns to her home to see her mother and entice Cortez yet again. He fails to win her and she leaves. As she is about to depart for America he visits her again but again he fails to have the courage to "break his mother's heart" and marry against her wishes.
The only thing difficult to sustain us through all this is that Garbo still loves him although he is obviously a weak-willed, mother-dominated man. Garbo is radiant and totally believable throughout.
The film holds up well despite some plot problems. Why did the moneyed and successful La Brunna allow her mother to continue to live in poverty as a charwoman? Why is everyone in the home town so dim as to not figure out how La Brunna got her wealth until the confrontation scene where even Garbo's mother rejects her for being "a bad woman?" She does have a wonderful scene when confronted by Cortez, she blames him for her state, since his initial rejection of her led her to her current path for survival.
Despite these bits of unbelievability, this tale of lost love and bittersweet romance plays well. In Garbo's first two films she was paired with "latin" hopefuls, Ricardo Cortez and Antonio Moreno. Neither could hold their own against her, although Cortez is memorable here in the last scenes as an older broken man.
TCM shows a tinted print using four tones (sepia, blue, lavender, red) with a fine orchestral score and sound effects. The new score is by Arthur Barrow. There is some obvious deterioration in some of the title cards. The special effects of a dam breaking during a rain storm and the torrent gaining on two characters in a boat are quite well done. Another dam breaks in THE TEMPTRESS- Ibanez was fond of this device, no doubt.
Garbo wears two wonderful creations - a striped chinchilla outfit and a harlequin outfit. There is a brief kissing scene where Cortez is prone and she takes the active on top position - this was to be repeated in FLESH AND THE DEVIL with John Gilbert.
All in all, this tale of honor, love and the importance of being true to oneself is well done - the double irony at the end is quite poignant.
Recommended for all, not just Garbo fans.
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