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Leave Her to Heaven Review


Extraordinary
The second half of a double feature shown at The New York Film Festival with Drums Along the Mohawk, and introduced by Martin Scorsese under the auspices of Scorsese's The Film Foundation as a restored three-strip Technicolor masterwork, Leave Her to Heaven, was clearly a film that Scorsese holds close to his heart. Scorsese could be seen at the screening in his seat, his head cradled in his hand, absorbing a climactic courtroom scene with vindictive prosecutor Russell Quinton (Vincent Price), as if seeing the damned thing for the first time, when you know the guy must have seen the film dozens of times already. It certainly holds a peculiar place in Scorsese's personal life. He related at the screening how he first encountered the film in the middle of the night in a big house in Hollywood. Awakening by a dreadful asthmatic attack, he switched on a colossal Zenith TV, and saw an otherworldly close-up of Gene Tierney on the set that hovered over the Los Angeles landscape through the window of his room. He proceeded to watch the rest of the film "through long gasps of breath."

Leave Her to Heaven stakes out its territory in the form of a flashback, as novelist Richard Harland (Cornel Wilde) returns to a small lakeside town that has now become tainted with the aftertaste of murder. Homespun lawyer Glen Robie (Ray Collins) relates the sorry tale of how things came to such a pass and the film-length flashback begins -- noir fatalism in the blinding daylight. We are taken back to the genesis of all this misery, the ravishing but deadly Ellen Berent (played to evil perfection by Gene Tierney, in an iconic film noir role), who meets Harland on a train and quickly latches onto the poor sap, and soon her berserk compulsion for him drags the innocent Harland and his loved ones down into the dark waters of tormented possessiveness.

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The Fountainhead Review


Excellent
Ayn Rand's own adaptation of her highly-regarded (and extremely thick) book. While I haven't read the novel (yet--it's in my stack), the film seems faithful to her work and is certainly faithful to her spirit. Gary Cooper and Patricia Neal (in her first film) do great work and have no trouble with the objectivist mentality. In the end, all questions are answered but one: What the heck is The Fountainhead? (Turns out it's a building. D'oh!)

Citizen Kane Review


Essential
I first watched Citizen Kane in 1997. For me 1997 was the year I actually buckled down and decided that I wanted to be a critic, and that I had better take this job seriously. With that in my mind, I switched my focus from new releases to retrospectives, designing myself to be able to do what I had at first loathed in critics: make obscure references to movies I had never heard of.

As a point of fact, when I actually got into the business I heard of those movies. And I heard more about those movies. And more. And, when the AFI named Citizen Kane as the best film of all time, I decided that it might just be a good idea to see it.

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The Fountainhead Review


Excellent
Ayn Rand's own adaptation of her highly-regarded (and extremely thick) book. While I haven't read the novel (yet--it's in my stack), the film seems faithful to her work and is certainly faithful to her spirit. Gary Cooper and Patricia Neal (in her first film) do great work and have no trouble with the objectivist mentality. In the end, all questions are answered but one: What the heck is The Fountainhead?

The Magnificent Ambersons Review


OK
I've never been a fan of The Magnificent Ambersons, despite its reputation as one of Orson Welles' best works, but I'd recently heard it would become a TV miniseries, so I figured a repeat viewing was in order. My thoughts remain unchanged.

The story, involving a rich family in a small town during the late 1800s/early 1900s, doesn't go very far. It's a romance of sorts between an Amberson elder (Dolores Costello) and her beau (Joseph Cotten), and an Amberson junior (Tim Holt) and his beau (Anne Baxter) -- who turns out to be the daughter of Cotten's character (an automobile pioneer). Backstabbing and lunacy abound, never really amounting to much, until we finally realize what we've been watching is little more than a primitive form of soap opera, with overwrought betrayals that are ultimately vapid and meaningless.

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