Thursday, June 5, 2014

#503: The Tarnished Angels

Directed by: DOUGLAS SIRK
1957, TSPDT Rank #951

Jean-Luc Godard famously proposed that "all you need for a movie is a girl and a gun". Substitute an airplane in place of a gun and you've got The Tarnished Angels. My one and only previous encounter with the king of classic Hollywood melodrama, Douglas Sirk, was his 1959 remake of Imitation of Life featuring Lana Turner - which I saw a few years ago along with the original. The Tarnished Angels is the first of Sirk's famous collaborations with Rock Hudson that I've seen - although it was the last to be made. It's an adaptation of the William Faulkner novel, Pylon, and Faulkner was known to have held this film in higher regard than any other screen adaptation of his work. The plot is quintessential melodrama, with high-strung emotions and characters with troubled, off-key relationships - along with a slight Southern gothic feel, being set in New Orleans during Mardi Gras. A highlight is a passionate, drunken kiss between Rock Hudson and Dorothy Malone being abruptly interrupted by a raucous group of revelers led by a man wearing a skull mask and laughing insanely. The film is taut and engrossing for the most part - although it veers toward the saccharine near the end, it is anchored by a few strong closing scenes, including a potent and impassioned speech by Rock Hudson which sums up the plotline's strange emotional impact. Overall, a unique and artfully-rendered execution of material that might seem run-of-the-mill and dull in another director's hands.

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