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#92 - A Place in the Sun

George Stevens directs this 1951 adaption of Theodore Dreiser's novel An American Tragedy. Montgomery Clift plays the handsome-but-aimless nephew of a rich industrialist who gets involved in a love triangle with a sophisticated socialite (Elizabeth Taylor) and a dowdy factory worker (Shelley Winters), with tragic results.

What a strange film. I wasn't sure what to expect out of this one, as I came into it having not read anything about it. From the trailer and the first half-hour, it seemed like some sort of pulp romance -- Cllift and Winters toying around at the door to her apartment, Clift and Taylor making doe-eyes at each other... Samantha and I were cracking jokes at the sappy situations. I just about lost it at Taylor's infamous "Tell mama... tell mama all" line.

But after that point, when the plot starts unfolding in earnest, we got a lot quieter, and the jokes we were cracking got a lot darker, and eventually I just found myself saying "Oh my God" and "you've got to be kidding me." Clift's character takes some unexpected but strangely unsurprising turns and the movie quickly turns to tragedy and courtroom drama. The characters and events become complex and the moral fibre of the movie becomes hard to discern.

The film honestly surprised me, which is a first so far in our little trip through movie history. And it kept our attention rock solid through to the bitter end. When I think about such nebulous praise as "great cinematography," I am reminded that such things are less noticeable outright than they are in the details, like the fact that some of the extraordinary shots (the radio on the dock with the boats going by in the background) hold your attention really well.

A good film -- made us think. That's all you can really ask for.

Note: This is also our first film with costume design by Edith Head, made somewhat more famous by the They Might Be Giants song "She Thinks She's Edith Head." At least five more films on this list have her hands in them. TMBG has taught me all sorts of trivia over the years...

(See this post if you're confused why I'm reviewing movies.)


This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on June 30, 2005 1:40 PM.

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