Tuesday, October 13, 2015

A PLACE IN THE SUN (1951)

This is a really good movie.

Montgomery Clift is a estranged nephew of the richest guy in a small town.  After a chance meeting (before the movie starts) in Chicago the uncle invites Clift to come see him sometime.  Clift immediately sets out to do just that and as the film opens we see Clift hitchhiking into town.  He's given a low-level job in his uncles textile mill and forgotten about.  While working on the floor he meets homely Shelly Winters and they start a relationship.  Things would have been just fine had it remained a simple fling, but Clift secretly has his eyes set on young socialite Elizabeth Taylor.  He longs to be with her and to live the good life of parties, privilege and expensive toys.  Suddenly it looks like that dream could become a reality when he receives a promotion at work and Taylor falls for him at a party.  Then sad sack Winters reveals that she's pregnant.  

There were a number of great serious dramas coming out of Hollywood after WWII and the early 1950's.  A PLACE IN THE SUN is one of them.  Director George Stevens headed a U.S. Army film unit from 1943 - 1946 and documented on film all kinds of the horrible things that men can do to each other, including the landing on D-Day and the Hell on Earth horrors of the Nazi concentration camps.  He even helped prepare footage for use in the Nuremberg trials.  The darkness that he saw can be felt in A PLACE IN THE SUN.  Clift's inescapable doom.  The unfair hopeless fate of Winters.  The destroyed innocence of Taylor.  Clift's heartbroken mother who's failed upbringing of Clift contributed to his all consuming desire to escape the shackles of poverty.  None of the main players in this tragedy escape destruction.  Depressing story, doomed characters, death, love, heartbreak, veiled talk of abortion, fear, deep shadows...this film is haunting.

Another thing that impressed me was the photography.  I mean, Jesus Christ, that scene where they first kiss...holy fook!!!  It's interesting that Clift and Winters first kiss was done all in silhouette, but then when Taylor and Clift kiss for the first time...wow!  I mean, I think, I actually stopped breathing for a few seconds.  The idea to film it that way has to be one of the greatest decisions in film history.     

I could go on for hours about A PLACE IN THE SUN, but I don't like writing long reviews or giving away too much.  Instead, if you're a fan of classic Hollywood, then just go watch it for yourself.  It won 6 Oscars and it's easy to see why.  Also, I've always been a fan of Shelley Winters but her performance here completely blew me away.

Double feature with Woody Allen's CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS.