I Saw A Film!
And so I’ve been on a bit of a Hemingway kick while reading a brand new book (Just released) by favorite author Mark Kurlansky. Kurlansky tracks some of his adventures in journalism alongside those of Hem while on assignments and travels in Europe, Cuba and elsewhere. I didn’t read this particular tale, though I read some short stories and A Farewell to Arms as well as the most famous The Sun Also Rises. And so I won’t be making any literate comparisons.
This film, with Cooper and Bergman (looking like a youthful Shelly Winters) is slathered thick with the sauce of big string orchestras and tiresome tension stings. There’s not really enough here for a war film of nearly three hours, but the tale of a leaked secret attack on a bridge is fairly harrowing even if most of the action takes place in a cave among a half dozen partisan anti-fascists. The relations get a little strained, and an old leader who has spent too much time boozing has to go through a bit of a maturity crisis before the film can get beyond itself. There’s no beautiful filming, no lovely scenery, it’s an ancient thing shot on a soundstage and padded with some stock footage and terrible old school studio effects (superimposition and miniatures). I don’t really know how to review these old movies. For me everything before the sixties was horribly over-acted, people take long soliloquies and work themselves into goofy rages that lead to plot points. Possibly we’re supposed to be awed when Cooper and Bergman share a screen together in giant closeup while the strings swell into a gut wrenching cacophony of overwrought squealing, but I don’t get it. I’m not feeling it, I just keep thinking, let’s blow up that damned bridge!
The Spanish Civil War was a horror. And like an old George Carlin joke, it seems the hats were what was important. Even the fighters, and Hemingway himself apparently sometimes got confused about who was for what. There’s a bit of a joke in the film about how the main character is a Republican, the partisans ask if his father was too, and so our hero Roberto says, Yes he always voted Republican. The fighters are amazed that he was never shot. In America we aren’t shot for our politics (yet). But these lessons are things we can watch repeat. Our leaders aren’t the first or last to attempt coups. Our recent history is deeply redolent of the history we have seen elsewhere and can breathe freely because it’s history even when the outcomes were things like Franco winning. So many were slaughtered, we may never know the true tallies and therefor the breadth of injustice. Meanwhile enjoy Ingrid screaming for her love, her first kiss, and all that ridiculous mush.
This is running on Prime USA for about 4 bones. I’m betting the novel is absolutely the place to be. These old films reflect a kind of audience immaturity that frankly embarrasses.