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I was lucky enough to catch a rare screening of this never-on-video film at the Cinematheque here in Hollywood last night. It was very beautiful, moving even, with lovely black-&-white cinematography by Woody Bredell. Other users' comments to the contrary, Gene Kelly's role is most definitely not insignificant - he's the villain, for crying out loud! His genuinely complex and subtle performance is a real standout in a film filled with wonderful work by all of the actors. Gale Sondergaard, also, is clearly well-cast, too, as Kelly's mother; she may have been a little young for the role in real life, but that certainly doesn't come across in her portrayal of the stifling, weak-willed, coddling mother of a killer. Deanna Durbin, though always more of a performer than an actor per se, is more than convincing as a world-weary singer in a whorehouse (not a night club; though it's never explicitly identified as a house of ill repute, only the most boneheaded viewer would take it for anything else). Her tearful breakdown in the church during Christmas Eve mass (an exquisitely rendered set piece, full of deep, soft shadows and luminous pools of communal light) is genuinely touching and heartfelt. And the film's final moments, if accepted unironically (as they were intended), are truly poetic and uplifting.
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