Great looking, idiosyncratic movie with a fascinating cast and the kind of painterly imagery that lingers in the memory, but the story is a jumble and unwisely structured around a limp, spineless, infuriating character. There are so many terrific little details on the fringes that so powerfully convey a sense of time and setting (an outdoor wedding on a windy day in a bombed out Italian village, overheard conversations through thin walls on a walk up the steps of a cramped New York apartment building, an exuberant mob of WWII servicemen reuniting with their wide-eyed war brides the moment they step off the boat - sprinting to meet them and gather them up in their arms as each bride's name is called out on a loudspeaker to wild applause) that it's a shame they're attached to such a diffuse storyline.
John Ericson is a revelation (to me, at least) as the smothered, neurotic veteran (with similarities to "REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE", as others have pointed out). He looks astonishingly like Marlon Brando in many shots, and he IS a good, sensitive actor in the classic brooding mold. His scenes with the angelic Pier Angeli (future love of James Dean) are unusually tender and achingly romantic and he does an excellent job in one agonizing scene where he bombs in an ill-advised effort to make a living as a door to door salesman. The problem isn't really with his performance; it's just that his character is written in such a way that many of his actions don't seem to mesh with what's going on around him. The character loses our respect early with a terrible act of cowardice and seems to possess mild (at best) interest in getting it back. His behavior towards Angeli at one point late in the movie, is impossible to accept, as is the slushy resolution.
Extremely interesting cast if you're a movie buff. There's Ralph Meeker, the actor who replaced Brando in the stage version of "STREETCAR", if I'm not mistaken. There's Angeli and her association to Dean. And then there's Rod Steiger in his film debut, a five or so minute part as a psychiatrist. Not realizing he was in it going in, I was floored to see him turn up here and was certain at first it must just be some other actor who looked like him.
Really good movies just "nail it" somehow. Despite all its strengths, "TERESA" never quite zeroes in on what it's trying to say. It never quite achieves lift-off. Nevertheless, it's well crafted by Fred Zinnemann and parts of it really stick in the mind.
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