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Amadeus remolded by Forman
Was Amadeus a hippie, a hedonist, a proto rock-star, a rebel, or is Forman just portraying him as such to fit the patterns of his continuing cinematic exegesis of historical figures? Forman was raised under two dire dictatorships, the Nazi and then later the Stalinist. No doubt that such a background fostered in his heart a dislike for all formal authority, for legalistic structures, and inspired in his mind a love for that archetypical rebel figure, the one who does not so much fight authority, because he despises it, but through virtue of higher alligence, to his own personal vision or inspiration, simply comports his life as though authority did not exist.
Mozart as presented by Forman fits this mold, and is a spiritual brother to Andy Kaufman, Larry Flint, and Randle Mc Murphy in Man on the Moon, the People vs. Larry Flint, and One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest respectively. He is giving us the same character over and over again, and telling us the same story at different times and places throughout the ages. This is fair enough if Forman sees this as the essential struggle occurring within the confines of the cosmos, but does his vision also encompass the masses or is he giving us the anti- Tolstoy an view that history is driven only by the actions of a few isolated great men, visionaries and revolutionaries? Yes, I like this movie, but it does not give us the sweep and grandeur that would properly reflect the music of it's subject. Ultimately it tells us more about it's author then it does about its main character. Is this a case of the cannibalism of history in order to support a director's personal vision, or simple appropriation of powerful `symbolic' personalities in order to present a Manichean view of the universe? I cannot pretend to know.
I know this, the film is energetic and amusing, like all of Forman's work that I have seen, and leaves the audience with a stronger feeling of connection with the misunderstood individualist visionary then it does with the gray world which is bent on crushing him, here represented by rival composer Salieri. The best thing it can do is inspire an audience member to take the first few tottering steps out of hypnotic TV created reality and try to create a world of his own. Why Forman hasn't gotten around to filming the life of Vincent Van Gogh is a mystery that remains unsolved.
Greatest Pacifist Film
All Quiet on the Western Front is the finest film ever made about war. Germany during World War 2 suppressed it, so powerful a statement it is against the inhumanity of war it is no wonder our leaders fear it.
The film focuses on the process by which young men are turned into killers for the state. We see naive boys deceived by a nationalistic sermon on the virtues of self sacrifice and the glory of combat delivered by a loathsome schoolteacher. They are thoroughly indoctrinated, and the lot of them signs up to fight in the Great War. Only after basic training begins do they begin to realize the magnitude of what they have set themselves up for.
There are some of the most stunning and grisly combat scenes ever filmed. One remembers a soldier hit by a bomb near a barb wire fence, when the smoke clears we see nothing left of him but his hands desperately clutching the barb wire. Another scene involves a soldier forced to spend the night in a crater with the corpse of a man that he has just killed. In a fever of madness, he engages the body in an imaginary dialogue, first attempting to justify his action then finally begging the inert object for forgiveness. The scene is lurid, nearly surrealistic and terrifying.
The main character of the film is death, and the soldiers slowly getting used to his presence until they are hollowed out and numb. They come to realize not only the brutality of but also, more importantly, the pointlessness of war. In one discussion they wonder what they are doing trying to kill the English and the French, considering that none of them have ever known an Englishman or Frenchman.
Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket was modeled on this film in both structure and theme, but despite that film's undeniable value, this one remains superior. At the time of my writing this review George Dumbya Bush is planning to push America into yet another pointless war with Iraq, I wish I could get every American to watch this film, it might just turn popular sentiment against the war and save tens of thousands of lives.
All About Eve (1950)
A bumpy night.
This film was the basis for Fassbinder's superb The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant, it also must have had an effect on David Lynchs Mullholland Drive. We are presented with scheming women situated in a world that thrives on deception and illusion. Likewise all the relationships between the characters are illusory. What seems to be love or devotion is in fact hidden cruelty, and desperation. Everyone is exploiting everyone else.
Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter) forges an unlikely relationship with Margo Channing (Bette Davis). Eve has enormous ambitions in the cutthroat, and deceptive world of the theater, and hopes to study her idol with the eventual result of taking the place that she held in the theater world. Margo is smart enough that she probably knows this from the start, but she is aging, and her theater career, is consequently on the verge of decaying, and as a result she allows the flattery and sycophantic behavior of Eve as a way to ease the pain that is destroying her ego, and relive some of the adulation that existed in her earlier years.
The other players include Lloyd Richards (Hugh Marlowe), as America's most commercially successful playwright and Bill Sampson (Gary Merrill) as a brilliant director. It's Bill that delivers a sparkling monologue defending the position that the theater exists in many incarnations, thus explicitly linking the movie's portrayal of the Broadway way of life, to the way of life of Hollywood. Finally, there's George Sanders as Addison DeWitt, a theater critic, and power-hungry social climber, who's the only character who is not a self-deceiving hypocrite and hence the only character who understands Eve.
The name of the main character alone is enough to communicate to us that this is not just a film about theater, however, but also about women, the compromises they have to make and the poses they have to strike to get by in the world. Both Eve and Margo are aware of how low and cruel they are, but justify themselves by the very fact that the world is equally cruel and unfair to them. Except for DeWitt, all of the men in the film exhibit a selective blindness to the real nature of Margo and her student Eve, not out of kindness though. The movie is about the way women, to succeed, must provide men with illusions, and how the men look the other way when any sign is made manifest that those illusions might be false. This kind of game playing is almost universal between the sexes, and it's of vital importance to the film's world view that it's the effeminate DeWitt who sees through this heterosexual game playing, and exploits it as an outsider.
In a magnificent stroke of irony, this film also features an early performance by Marilyn Monroe, the high queen of illusion of the American cinema, as an ambitious and none too bright young starlet. The movie is revolutionary because it marks a rare time that Hollywood decided to be honest about what it was doing, to it's stars and audiences alike. All About Eve also has a script by Joseph Mankiewicz that features some of the most razor sharp and cynical dialogue ever to crackle from the screen. If you haven't seen it, then see it, by all means.
L'albero degli zoccoli (1978)
An unusual film and a definite change of pace from the rapid-fire filmmaking that Americans are used to. This film follows a year in the life of rural Italian peasants living at the turn of the century. There is a central plotline, a family who wants their son to know a better life then they have tries to send him to school. However the clogs that carry him on the long and hard journey to school are broken, making the path impossible. The central message of the film is that God will provide. It is a sermon on the virtues of simple faith.
However, this central plot, very similar to a fairy tale is only a device to allow the film to devote three and a half hours to showing in great detail the lives of the Italian peasantry during this period, the way they worked, loved and lived. It's a slice of life film like Fellini's Roma, or Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing, but it's much less frenzied and sensationalistic then those works. Like most Italian cinema that I have seen it is more focused around intense images then around plot of dialogue, I will never forget the shots of the landscape, or the scene of the peasants preparing a pig for eating. Central to the film is the beautiful sermon that we hear the village priest offer.
Interestingly, the film focuses on the lives of those people that Pasolini glorified in his films and novels. Pasolini died a few years before the film was released, during most of his life he considered the values of the peasants to be sacred, an antidote to the fierce and brutal ethic of the modern world. By the end of his life, he had given up hope in the peasants, believing that the mass media had exterminated their native culture and way of life. It would be economically and culturally impossible to revive in the modern world the system of living that the peasants shared.
The Tree of Wooden Clogs is a requiem for a dead way of life, released at precisely the time that that culture was drawing its last breath. Watching it is a beautiful and melancholy experience. It's a wonderful film, but one cannot escape a feeling of irrevocable loss.
The African Queen (1951)
Bogey is a deity!
The African Queen is splendid fun and a must for Bogart fanatics like myself. Bogart once again plays a rough around the edge everyman character, in this case Charlie Ulnet, a riverboat captain, who engages in an unlikely romance with Rose Sayer, an upper class missionary played by Katharine Hepburn. She left alone and helpless when German troops overrun a mission run by her brother, and he takes her aboard out of pity. She proves however to be far from helpless, devising a crazy scheme to get revenge on the Germans who are responsible, by sinking the Louisa a German warship that provides the primary German military presence in the area.
The character essentially recaps Bogey's role in Casablanca, he's a man who's a selfish and roguish outsider, on the surface, but he has the heart of a lion-hearted idealist. Like in Casablanca, it takes the love of a woman to crack his cynical shell and make him into a paladin. Of course in Casablanca, he was already in love with the woman who fills this role, and in fact her initial rejection of him was one of the things that turned him into a hardened cynic. In Casablanca, also, the two lovers have to sacrifice their connection for the greater good at the end. In the African Queen Bogey gets to cream the bad guys and get the girl, this makes the film less bittersweet, but also less complex. (In case anyone was wondering the characters that Bogey plays in this one and in Casablanca were obviously the basis for the character of Han Solo in Star Wars).
Most of the fun in the African Queen comes from the chemistry between Bogey and Hepburn. It's a relationship that crosses class lines and as a result changes them both. Like so many great movie relationships they begin as antagonists and a series of dangerous situations, survived by reluctant cooperation drive them together. The process changes them both. Sayer has a civilizing effect on Charlie, steering him away from his self destructive excesses, at the same time Charlie and the river itself drag Rose off her upper class pedestal, she is made tougher and earthier and infinitely more appealing by the ordeal. Nevertheless, they retain their essential natures, no matter how she smoothes his rough edges, he remains wild and undomesticated, and no matter how much she weathers the elements, she retains an aristocratic elegance (Hepburn always has this). The two have their lives redirected by their romance without loosing what makes them uniquely them.
Like Aguirre the Wrath of God, and Apocalypse Now this movie studies the effects of being isolated with the forces of nature through a long ride down a dangerous river. However this movie is almost the polar opposite of those films. Herzog and Coppola assume that the wildness of nature and the oppressive claustrophobia of a people in close proximity will spawn hatred distrust, decay, and eventually self-annihilation. John Huston takes a far more optimistic view of human nature, believing that shared hardship will unite and strengthen people. Which view is true? `The opposite of a small truth is false; the opposite of a great truth is also true.'. The African Queen, shows us one side of human nature, those later more cynical films, show us the other. Made after the Vietnam War, those later films are less crowd-pleasing, more uncompromising, bleaker and more artistic in their intent. Still the African Queen is both a triumph and great fun. It's scripted by the Pulitzer Prize winning novelist and movie fanatic James Agee. Based on a novel by C.S. Forester.
Self confession as cinema
I remember seeing a poster for Eight and a Half at an Italian restaurant as a child. It was on a wall mostly dominated by opera posters (appropriate Eight and a Half has an operatic sensibility). I will never forget Mastroianni's cynical care worn face looking out from beneath a fedora with a magnificent spacecraft on a launching pad in the background. Later on I finally got to see it on the big screen at the Harvard Film Archive. Wow!
Imagine the originality of Eight and a Half. At the time that it was released, no one had fashioned a film so intensely personal. Even Orson Wells' Citizen Kane did not more directly reflect the director's obsessions, fears, ambitions and raw emotional needs as closely as Fellini's autobiographical masterwork. The level of self-confession and vulnerability is unparalleled as well. Fellini was one of the most well known names in the world. At the height of his career Fellini made a film wherein he depicted himself as a restless failure, and admitted to the world that he had thoughts of suicide.
In many ways the film is a continuation of his previous success, La Dolce Vita. People will always debate the comparative merits of the two films, for my money, Eight and a Half is the more innovative, elegant and emotionally honest of the two films. In Vita, Marcello Mastroianni played a version of Fellini as a young man, when he was still working as a hack journalist. Here he is Fellini as a mature, successful disillusioned adult, called Guido for the movies purposes, now a film director. The movie follows its main character in a stream of consciousness manner. Daydreams, memories, fantasies, and everyday life blend seamlessly. This makes the film difficult, to an extent. It also allows it to be truly revelatory in a way that would not if we simply observed Guido's actions from the outside. `There is no such thing as objective memory' Fellini once said, and in Eight and a Half, the hero's particular beliefs, fetishes and evasions skew everything we see.
Guido's last film was a worldwide smash hit (like La Dolce Vita) and he has had a nervous breakdown due to the pressure to create a successful follow up. The gigantic spaceship that has been built for the film's set represents his enormous artistic ambitions, he hope to create something both truthful and unprecedented. Can the tower stand? He is enslaved to commercial interests, here represented by philistine producers and sycophantic actresses and a contemptuous `intellectual' writer, all of who have there agendas of their own.
Guido is not necessarily a sympathetic character. He is selfish, egomaniacal and unable to control his sexual urges. He tries and fails to juggle a beatnik wife (Anouk Aimee) and a sluttish mistress(Sandra Milo). Still, he is deeply and palpably human. We see his early childhood traumas, at the hands of sadistic priests (relived later on when he asks an unsympathetic cleric for advice and receives as a reply only that he is damned without allegiance to the church) and his boyhood obsession with a strange local prostitute (relived in his sexual game playing as an adult). We sense that he is one of us, that his desire to create some meaning in life is equivalent to our own.
An unhappy old man desperate to be useful at the studio Guido owns shadows approaching old age and the possibility of failure. Unable to control his environment, Guido retreats into a world of fantasy, but even his daydreams begin to veer out of his control. Still within his memories and fantasies he manages to finally find some thing sure and meaningful. In a sense La Dolce Vita asks a question concerning the loss of values in the modern world, and Eight and a Half provides an answer.
The movie provides unforgettable images, the obese prostitute dancing on the beach (echoed later on in Lynch's Blue Velvet), the circus like parade that celebrates the hero's final triumph over his self doubt, the press conference, where the hapless director is nearly assaulted an army of scandal hungry journalists (right out of La Dolce Vita).
Ultimately the film's philosophy, it's proffered answer to life's questions, is a little bit shallow and superficial, but in this it reflects the director. He was an old fashioned modernist, a sentimental genius. He presents himself to us with all his flaws and simply gives us the choice of loving or rejecting him. For one I will always love Fellini, and will always be grateful that he chose to share his imagination with humanity.
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
Magnificent and deliberately mysterious
2001: a Space Odyssey is without a doubt the most challenging and successful film by the late Stanley Kubrick. This is not a film that you watch in order to be entertained or amused. Instead it provides you with a banquet of food for thought, images that linger in the mind's eye long after the movie itself is over. It is a film that you could meditate on.
The film intentionally offers us more questions then it can answer, it is made to puzzle and mystify, but leaves the viewer nevertheless with a sense of awe and reverence (that is allowing that he has engaged himself in the process of viewing it, enjoyment of this film requires some effort on the viewers part) the questions that it does pose are large and ominous, concerning the genesis and destiny of the human race, it's ultimate place in the cosmic design and the existence or lack of some creative intelligence behind the structure of the universe itself.
The first of the films Four Quartets gives us a distinct view of the species past. We see our distant ancestors, half-ape half human, in a state of near starvation. The climate has destroyed most of the plant life and the vegetarian beasts are near starvation. An extra-terestial object, a perfectly smooth and angular black monolith, appears and the animals are simultaneously inspired by it's presence to tool-making and violence. They are transformed overnight into carnevores, and when two tribes encounter each other near a water source, the tribe that has developed tool making capacity, as well as beligerence, soundly destroys the neighboring tribe. The new chief of the winning tribe, empowered by the first vestiges of technology triumphantly throws the bone that he used as a weapon in the air. We see the bone transformed into a floating satellite, which contains nuclear weapons. We soon learn that the world is torn apart by nuclear paranoia. The characteristics inspired by the monument's appearance that once helped us to survive now threaten our very existence.
Once again humanity is in crisis, once again the unearthly presence represented by the black monolith will step in to aid humanity in the next step in it's development. On an exploration of the Moon a monolith identical to the earlier one we have seen is discovered. The governments of the world, normally mortal enemies, have come together in secret to discuss the implications. A mission is arranged. the monument has been engaged in some kind of radio communication with Jupiter. A few men will travel to the destination of the transmission. Most of them will, for most of the time, be kept in a state of suspended animation. The pilot of the spacecraft will be HAL a super computer who has been programmed to imitate all of the traits of human beings.
The film has many outstanding sequences. As usual for Kubrick the use of classical music is outstanding. Most memorable are "Blue Danube" and "Also Spake Zarathustra" (particularly appropriate given the film's theme of transcending ordinary consciousness.) The cinematography is particularly excellent as well, after a single viewing the film's final 30 minutes will haunt you for the rest of your life.
The character of HAL is the most important from the view of the film's central thesis. In imitating all the characteristics of human beings he comes to have their negative traits as well. The paranoia he develops which almost leads to the mission' s ruin is an exact mirror of the paranoia that has allowed the political situation back on earth to reach a point of desperate crisis. The film suggests that these are the traits that we must leave behind if we are to proceed to the next phase in our evolution.
The architecture of the film is also meaningful. The designs of many of the spacecraft are intended to suggest reproductive organs and the process of birth and rebirth, the central motif of the movie. The ending of 2001 is the most spectacular and triumphant ever filmed.
This movie takes a view of life similar to that presented in the poetry of William Butler Yeats and James Joyce's novel Finnegan's Wake. It posits a pattern to history and human evolution that is cyclic, yet progressive, repeating the same events at large intervals, yet with the human race as developing according to the will of a being with a larger purpose in mind. Though we never learn what this purpose is, the film assures us that the human race is not meant for failure, it's destiny is grand beyond it's capacity to imagine. It continues to amaze me that in spite of this film many people continue to regard Kubrick as a misanthrope.
This is a religious film, not in the conventional sense of adhering to any specific creed, but because of it's invocation of wonder at the vast panorama of existence and it's involvement with the deepest and most vital questions of purpose and truth.
In the hands of any other director, this would all be perhaps a little too much. Hollywood's view of life is too puny, usually to encompass the grandeur and intensity of a vision such as this one. But Kubrick was a visionary, he directs with utter confidence, not only that he can handle material of this kind, but that he is the only one to do it. The process of making this film used all of his creative resources. The writing partnership with Arthur C Clarke is the most fruitful in cinematic history. Kubrick had to invent some of the special effects that were used in the movie's astounding climax. The resources to bring his vision to life did not exist at the time, so he brought them into existence.
2001 is a absolutely unique movie experience. Those who miss out on it do so at the detriment of their own intellectual and imaginative capacities.
Citizen Kane (1941)
The march of time...
Citizen Kane is majestic, elegant and noble. It begins at the end, we see a man of obvious wealth and power breathe his last, and then the mysteries of his life are unraveled via a series of anecdotes, barely remembered scenes and highly subjective memories. The boldness of this approach cannot be overemphasized. At the time that this film was made Hollywood was for the most part used to creating straight-forward stories with clearly identified heroes and villains. Kane dared to present Man as he is, rife with confusions, internal contradictions and uncertainty.
As the film progressed, we see Kane, loosely based on William Randolph Hearst, the famous newspaper tycoon slowly sacrifice his ideals in order to build his financial empire, losing his friendships with those who believed in him until ultimately he looses everything he has, his marriage, his friends, and his integrity. Though he is the richest man in the world he lives his remaining isolated in his privately built mountain estate where he has surrounded himself with material pleasures, alone and despairing, one senses that he welcomes death. The film takes the view that wealth and power are inherently destructive of human values. Kane himself states `If I hadn't been born rich I might have been a really great man.
What is so masterful about Kane is its ambiguity. We never are certain if Kane really did believe in the values that he professed. At the same time that he sets himself up as above the world, he longs for the affection of the common people. This is symbolized by his exploitative, and patronizing love for a chorus girl, Susan Alexander (Dorothy Comingore). Her character is given a paper-thin characterization, the only obvious flaw in a nearly perfect movie.
Orson Wells gives a bravura performance as Kane, both identifying with and condemning the man. This film was his first venture into movie making after the infamous War of the Worlds radio broadcast that threw America into an uproar. Wells, a child prodigy, had a background in Shakespearian theater, offering modernized adaptations of the Classics, a bold and unusual gesture at the time. He brought that kind of sweeping tragic romantic sensibility to his first film.
Unconstrained by Hollywood's traditions, he broke all the rules. The deep focus photography that gives Kane its theatrical look was one of his innovations. A mastery of sound, gained from years of working in the radio was another. Kane is an avalanche of technical innovation, unmatched in any other Hollywood film.
Despite the film's pessimistic outlook, it is studded by moments of joy, beauty and emotional truth. The supporting cast of characters, most of them regulars from Wells' Mercury Theater are also superb. Joseph Cotton is memorable as Jed Leland Kane's close friend who believes in him more then he does. And Everet Slone is wonderful as Kane's would be mentor Mr. Bernstien.
So many scenes in this movie linger forever in the memory, one is left with a stirring vision of the frailty of the human condition, the film gives us no easy answers and while being fiercely critical of many of it's characters is universal in it's compassion and sympathy, this is perhaps the most vital ingredient for great art.
Kane was one of the most controversial films ever made. Hearst, offended by his portrayal, offered RKO a small fortune to destroy the film. When that didn't work his newspapers embarked on a campaign of defamation against Wells, thus proving that the film's criticism of the power and corruption of the press were precisely on target. Wells was never given a free hand to direct how he liked again and American Cinema was deprived of the one of the greatest geniuses to adopt it as a medium of self-expression.
It's influence, was immediate, incalculable and mostly unacknowledged, the film was a box office and critical failure due to Hearst's efforts and it was not until years later that this film got the respect it deserved. Nowadays there is not one living film director of serious artistic intent that has not been deeply influenced by Citizen Kane. It's not just a masterpiece it's a creative touchstone.
Of course there were other talents at work in making Kane, Hermann Mankiewicz's efforts on the script were indispensable and Bernard Hermann, the composer most famous for working with Hitchcock provided the films beautiful music. Still, the film remains most obviously the work of Orson Wells, a veritable hall of mirrors reflecting the great artist's dreams, obsessions and fears. Citizen Kane is not just one of the great works of cinema it is one of the greatest artistic creations of the century
One of the best.
Casablanca is certainly one of the most exciting and touching films ever made. We like it's main characters because of what they do, they are willing to sacrifice there most vital relationships for the sake of a greater cause. They represent the best within us.
The story is set in Casablanca a Moroccan seaport that is the last portal of escape for Europeans who are fleeing the spreading menace of fascism and the World War. Casablanca is full of intrigue and danger a city full of refugees from all over Europe as well as those ready to aid them (for a price) or prey on them.
Humphrey Bogart plays Rick Blaine, the tough cynical owner of a restaurant where expatriates congregate. He reveals himself at first to be a selfish and cold hearted man. As the story progresses we learn that despite his motto `I stick my neck out for no one' he in the past has placed his life in danger for many worthy causes. He is a romantic and idealist whose spirit has been crushed by the harshness of the world.
Soon we learn the exact circumstances of his disillusionment. Ilsa Laszlo, played by Ingrid Bergman, wanders into his restaurant, accompanied by Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid a hero of the anti-Nazi resistance. They need letters of transit to escape Casablanca, and continue to fight the good fight, and soon learn that Rick has got them. Rick however wants to retain his political neutrality, and we soon learn, is bitter that Ilsa walked out of him during a love affair that they had in Paris years ago.
At its heart, the film is about the need to sacrifice personal happiness for the greater good. It probably cannot be divorced from its historical context. It was released in America when the country had just plummeted into World War 2. In order to prevent the world from being annihilated or enslaved, ordinary people had to put aside their petty grievances and find within themselves that which is heroic. That's what this movie is about.
It's also enormously entertaining. The film boasts wonderful performances by Claude Rains as Captain Louis Renault, another idealist trying to pass himself off as a cynical profiteer. Peter Loore is delightfully slimy as Ugarte, a petty thief who tries to turn every situation to his advantage. As countless others have already said the dialogue is second to none, providing a plethora of instantly quotable lines.
Casablanca, is rousing, thrilling and deeply moving. It gives us the great themes within a framework small enough to feel personal. This is moviemaking at it's best.
Gone with the Wind (1939)
A flawed but still vital masterpiece.
Gone with the wind is first rate in spite of its obvious flaws.
Essentially it is the story of a woman of enormous psychological power and ambition who finally meets a man who is a match for her. All this takes place against the backdrop of the demise of the Old South during the civil war.
Essentially the Old South is presented as an agrarian civilization that is destroyed by the waves of industrialization from the North. The culture and its traditions, both good and bad we¡¯re entirely destroyed.
Gone With the Wind soft-pedals the horrific realities of slavery. The south is given the glow of a grand and dying better way of life. It is presented as though it were an idyllic paradise. The film¡¯s magnificent baroque cinematography contributes to this effect, who can forget that scene where Scarlett O¡¯Hera stands with her father atop a hill listening to him give a speech about the beauty of devotion to the land that you own. The camera pulls back and we see a magnificent panorama of the white mansion surrounded by the green land and the red glow of the setting sun. The scene is precisely mirrored later on when she looks down on the ruined mansion after the war has struck. We are given a powerful contrast between the civilization as it once was compared to how it is after it has been crushed by war.
Much of the movie¡¯s emotional power draws on its image of the remnants of a thriving culture and civilization slowly decay and vanish. Against that backdrop, we see the passions and lusts of an arrogant and selfish young woman destroy lives.
Vivien Leigh, displaying none of the wary vulnerability she shows in A Streetcar Named Desire, is a woman of iron. She is in love with Ashley Wilkes, a quiet reserved southern gentleman. This love seems most improbable, it is never explained, most likely she wants him simply because he is the least likely human being to return her feelings. Her advances are known, but not objected to by Melanie played by Olivia de Havilland, a gentle ill soul who is supposed to represent the true Christian spirit. To get her hands on Ashley, Scarlett betrays and manipulates everyone in sight. She finally meets her match in Rhett Butler, a dashing, dangerous and brilliant cad, played by Clark Gable, the most lusted after actor of his day. Originally connecting with Rhett in order to drive Ashley mad with Jealousy eventually the two become indispensable to each other. Throughout their years together they are both steadfast partners and opponents each vying for the upper hand in the relationship. All this emotional turmoil takes place, as I have stated, against a background of social and political upheaval that seems to mirror the turmoil in their lives.
Gone with the Wind successfully invokes the feeling of a world entirely different from our own. It really does immerse you in the world of the old south. For that reason the airbrushing of the issue of slavery and the racist depictions of the black characters are unforgivable. Though it is worth noting that despite her stereotypical image, the character of Mammy, played by Hattie McDaniel in an Oscar winning role, is portrayed as having greater intelligence and maturity then her master Scarlett.
Despite these reservations, Gone With The Wind is a cinematic landmark that demand to be seen by anyone with interest in the history of the film.