Genre: Drama Romance War
Starring: Diana Wynyard, Clive Brook (Shanghai Express)
Directed By: Frank Lloyd (Mutiny On The Bounty; Blood On The Sun)
Overview: Based on Noel Coward's play, this story follows the lives and tribulations of wealthy Londoners from New Year's Eve, 1899 and through these fast-paced times until the present day (1933).
Acting: The original was a play, so why not act this one out the same way? Because 'Film' and 'Theater' are different mediums, and just because a cactus is shaped like a chair doesn't mean you should sit in it. Maybe it was the whole haughty accents and "oh my, mummy, wouldn't going to war be grand, mummy?" Britishstocracy crap that turned me off early, but it gets worse as the film progresses. Maybe it's just that I couldn't take it anymore, like a dentist drilling in that nerve, there. Clive Brook tried, but sadly couldn't carry everyone.
Cinematography: There is far too little usage of the original and unique double exposure shots that are used to symbolise a quick passage of time. The best montage is when 1914 rolls around: soldiers march joyously while singing "It's A Long Way To Tipperary", approaching a battlefield, a church in the foreground. This is overlaid by double exposure shots of the occasional man falling from the line, clutching his chest. The years drift by, as the background of men marching get slower, become more haggard, and the church transforms itself into a bombed out husk of what it once was, with the field turning from verdant to wasteland. Sadly, most of the picture, though in different settings, are far too typical static shots.
Script: I suppose the plot elements were delivered appropriately as mother rambled on about how these crazy wild times are changing all too quickly. How dated. Perhaps in today's day and age a passage of time from 1889 to 1933 may seem trite, but I don't consider these present-day times all that crazy myself. I guess the point was lost on me. Those romantic declartions on the bow of the Titanic, how ridiculously sappy, urgh.
Plot: When reviewing Fanny and Alexander, I said "The fact that the scenes taking place are important life event moments to our players is the key." In this one it seems like all of it's too much. Oh, my you're in the Boer War! No! the Queen of England has died! Ack, you're on the Titanic! Wait a World War! Highlighting all the world's tragedies that take place over a lifetime and making them the cause of your 'my world interferes with my life' theory is weak. The best dramas are personal, not an inventory of the world's ills. I've seen far better 'span of a lifetime' films about a family that had far more intense worldly influences, like Sunshine for example. That was great, and it spanned THREE generations!
Mood: The mood was 'Early Talkie British Hoity-Toity'. Wow, am I ever sick of that. Why Hollywood made so many films about Londoners I don't know, but I can't say I've ever liked it. This is another example of suffering for the things you love, just to gain greater perspective. The mood is perfect if it is Hollywood's way of explaining how historically this was their worst era for filmmaking. But I don't think that's what they were going for, even with snooty little brats growing up to be snooty little dolts.
The best part of the film: a guy who doesn't have a visible pickle up 'is arse.
Overall Rating: 48% (Don't Beckon The Cavalry)
Aftertaste: Sometimes you can tell by the cover that something's just not all that great, but when you've vowed to watch every film in 1001 Movies you Must See Before You Die, it's a small price to pay. Geez, what will I do when it's done?!