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Adapted from The Paul Street Boys, an autobiographical novel by Ferenc Molnar, GLORY is an unusually sensitive evocation of the pain of youth and the senselessness of war. Frail Nemecsek, a... See full summary »
George P. Breakston,
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William A. Wellman
Douglas Fairbanks Jr.,
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This is a film based on a classic story reworked elsewhere by Fritz Lang, amongst others. It's a love story set in old Budapest about a carnival barker called Liliom, and a servant called Julie (pronounced with a decidedly odd "dj" sound throughout the movie) who is smitten with him. Julie is a remarkably attractive young lady who we first see toiling amongst an exuberance of glass vases, one of the more charming shots in the movie (wasn't life better when directors composed shots like painters?).
In this film and others, Borzage sets out his stall regarding love, his "faint heart never won fair lady" principles. I can live with that though he is rather brutal on the subject, quite happy to let the Fates unravel the threads of any man even faintly milksoppish. He really surpasses himself this time though, there's a carpenter who proposes to Julie and is knocked back, seemingly every week for a decade; perhaps he carries on after the end of the film until the undertaker is measuring him, who knows? The carpenter is an honest hard-working man who however is not the exciting razzmatazz individual we see with Liliom. There's a philosophy here. Liliom is lazy and a brute, Borzage shows no distaste even at the idea of him beating a woman. But he is carefree and charming. Borzage is telling us that there is no other value for a man in life than to be a rascal, beloved of the crowd. Indeed Liliom, absolutely without precedent, is selected as the first human to be allowed to return to earth after dying. That's the level of value that's associated with his lifestyle by the filmmaker.
My opinion is that Borzage stretches his philosophy too far with this movie and ends up seeming obnoxious. Love is a prize that women dangle from on high and men must make superhuman existential efforts to leap for. There's something antediluvian about his attitudes to gender. In Lucky Star, for example, it's charming, because you have a goodie up against a baddie, and it's a feel-good story with a spunky female. But here I just feel sorry for the carpenter, a much kinder man than Liliom, who works hard at life. I get the feeling from watching a few of his movies that he has fairly skewed ideas and would have a lot of sympathy with social Darwinists and also Objectivists like Ayn Rand.
It's an exasperating movie because it really is so beautiful, the fairground set is marvellous for example, and there is some beautiful heavenly footage. On the other hand Borzage hadn't managed to come to terms with sound here, at times it's almost like the actors are being prompted, that's how leaden the delivery can be. More fairly perhaps I should say that he hadn't come to terms with dialogue, because the sound design is actually very good in all other respects, the music in the beer garden is time wonderfully well with the conversation. What's really very nice to hear is the hammer dulcimer, which has a very unusual sound.
All in all a very mixed bag. In my opinion it's still totally unforgettable though.
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