The Morning After: Sep. 9, 2013

Welcome to The Morning After, where I share with you what I’ve seen over the past week either in film or television. On the film side, if I have written a full length review already, I will post a link to that review. Otherwise, I’ll give a brief snippet of my thoughts on the film with a full review to follow at some point later. For television shows, seasons and what not, I’ll post individual comments here about each of them as I see fit.

So, here is what I watched this past week:

Portrait of Jennie

William Dieterle’s drama stars Joseph Cotten and Jennifer Jones in a fantastical tale of a painter searching for a muse and finding one in a young girl he randomly meets in Central Park.

Cotten plays the painter and Jones the muse who ages from young child to adult over the span of the film. Jones trades on her naturally youthful countenance to convey varying ages of her character with the help of forced perspective and period costuming by Lucinda Ballard. The subtlety of this transformation is one of the more fascinating aspects of the film. Cotten is the weakest link of the three principles, which also includes acting legend Ethel Barrymore as the kindly art dealer who sees potential in Cotten’s artist provided he can find something or someone to paint for.

The film won an Oscar for Best Special Effects, with a richly cinematic storm that opens and closes the film. Cinematographer Joseph H. August was also nominated for his work on the film, which was for both his ability to make Jones look so young and for his use of textured filters to give certain scenes with movement seem like the movement of life on a convas. The closing shot of the Portrait of Jennie was a spectacular finale, but producer David O. Selznick’s tinkering created a few burdensome effects, namely the various color tints used for the film’s climax. The green tint seemed fitting for this black-and-white narrative to close out the storm, but afterwards, both red and blue tints were added for questionable effect.

Wish You Were Here

Joel Edgerton stars in this character thriller about two couples who return from a vacation in Cambodia where one of them has gone missing and no one is certain where he went.

Edgerton has shown amazing talent in his home territory even if his American film work has been less than spectacular. Here, he employs anger, frustration and sorrow with the experience of a painter enlivening a canvas. While he has some solid support behind him, he commands the screen so frequently, it’s hard to remember what everyone else has done.

The narrative twists and turns, taking the audience on several flashbacks to the events in Cambodia while slowly unwinding the story. The transitions to these flashbacks aren’t always easy to catch until you’re already in them, but these frustrating switches are kept to a minimum. A fractured narrative can often struggle with both keeping the audience’s attention and preventing the plot from getting hopelessly and needlessly jumbled. Director and co-screenwriter Kieran Darcy-Smith along with his co-writer Felicity Price (who also appears in the film as Edgerton’s wife) and editor Jason Ballantine (The Great Gatsby), have crafted a compelling piece of cinema that has been unfortunately ignored.

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