A Coast Guardsman suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress becomes involved with a beautiful and enigmatic seductress married to a blind painter.A Coast Guardsman suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress becomes involved with a beautiful and enigmatic seductress married to a blind painter.A Coast Guardsman suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress becomes involved with a beautiful and enigmatic seductress married to a blind painter.
I've seen the film three times now and I'm still trying to figure out what exactly happened to Ryan in his career during the war (Navy? Coast Guard? As a previous reviewer here suggested, it's weirdly unclear what Ryan's duties were before and after the war) and what is supposed to be wrong with him.
The secondary characters seem to have wandered into the noirish landscape from a Ma and Pa Kettle film and frankly I'm not all that surprised that Ryan seems ambivalent about marrying good girl, Nan Leslie. Renoir doesn't seem to have known just what genre of a film he was making. We go from the woman's film to film noir to hokey comedy and back again. Irene Ryan is wildly out of place and her performance is over the top in the worst kind of way.
But the gems in this film are Bennett and Bickford. Their characters' seamy, violent, sado-masochistic relationship is riveting and you can't help but wish that Renoir had spent more time focusing on it and less on the antics of the Wernecke brood. Joan Bennett usually needed good material (`Scarlet Street', `The Reckless Moment', `The Woman in the Window') to shine, but she does quite well here, particularly in her scenes with Bickford. There's also a wonderful moment where Ryan is beginning to realize that she isn't quite the put-upon little woman he thought she was. Her reaction is worth suffering through scenes about chocolate cake and the decorations at the coast guard station.
Charles Bickford is fabulous as the blinded, bitter and jealous artist, easily outshining the usually excellent Robert Ryan, who appears merely dazed and confused. This was the film that got me interested in Bickford's career. I've yet to find the movie where he isn't excellent.
- Feb 17, 2001