1952. John Ford.
Thursday 2/14, 730pm, The Egyptian
After having a nice lunch with Tara, I was doomed to spend Valentine’s Day evening alone while she trotted off to work and so I sat alone amidst lovers and daters of all ages in a crowded Egyptian theater watching one of the most delightful romances of the early 50’s. The Quiet Man is remarkable mostly for being a product from that time period that deftly straddles the line between authenticity and stereotype when it comes to the Irish villagers. There’s the drunk, the other drunk, and the brash, independent red-headed woman all played up for laughs but never feeling disingenuous towards the people or the culture. John Wayne represents the audience taking it all in and chuckling to himself and I’m pretty sure I had a smile on my face during the entire runtime.
There’s a story on the internet that claims editor Jack Murray cried the first time he saw all the raw footage because he knew how useless he would be to Ford in post-production. He claimed that Ford was such a master that he edited the entire film in camera and didn’t shoot an ounce of footage that he wouldn’t later need. I don’t know if that’s true but the film definitely possesses that kind of confidence and economy. The flashback scene to the boxing match is handled especially well and surprisingly stylized, considering the rest of the film. I’ve never been a huge fan of John Wayne and John Ford has been mostly hit and miss with me, but I was completely bowled over by the charm of them and this film. Even as a I watched with an empty Peanut M&M’s bag as my only company in the seat next to me.
The next night was when Tara and I got a chance to see something together and celebrate our love belatedly. She chose The Umbrellas of Cherbourg based on, I think, a blurb she read in the Cinefamily program and I had never seen a Jacques Demy film, so I was game. It turns out that there’s a lot to admire about this film, which features a soundtrack composed entirely of songs and your enjoyment of the film will depend largely on how willing you are to accept mundane dialogue being sung as a storytelling device. At first I was annoyed by it, but found at the end that I had at some point submitted and fell into the spell of the melodrama. But it’s essentially a one joke premise and dialogue that was otherwise witty and possibly funny became less so because the fact that it was being sung would always become the overriding joke.
The film is famous mainly for its wonderful color cinematography (not 100% on this particular print) and the introduction of Catherine Deneuve to the world and for both of these reasons, the film is justly celebrated. And as a testament to the power of the music swell and the soaring crane shot, there may be no other equal in cinema. Demy clearly loved his Hollywood musicals and even though he subverts them with his subject matter, he knows what manipulations work and why. The movie will have you believing again in the power of love and the power of the movies.