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Do or Dieterle!

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I’ve often ranted about William Dieterle on my blog. He, along with Frank Borzage, is one of the cornerstones of the “soft-boiled noir” tradition I hope to write something substantial about one of these fine days… So naturally I’m pleased that the good folks at MGM DVD (who seem to have acquired the rights to all of the Selznick International films) have seen fit to release two of the unacknowledged master’s mistier forties fantasies (now if only they’d put Love Letters, The Accused, Rope of Sand, Paid in Full, Dark City, Volcano into circulation–to say nothing of the insane
Juarez and Fog Over Frisco–which I must see before I die!–we’d really be getting somewhere!)

Anyway, for right now, put down that motherfuckin’ Star Wars Box Set and do yourself a favour friend–
I’ll Be Seeing You (a holiday melodrama starring Ginger Rogers and Joseph Cotten that Dieterle didn’t get a chance to finish himself–and it shows!–but there are more than enough brilliantly characteristic scenes–most of them involving Joseph Cotten’s attempt to deal with nerve-damage–to make up for that! The scene in the cafe with Chill Wills is, if you’ll pardon me, absolutely chilling–and the scene after the fight with the dog [“you’re in for it now, Zack…”] is unbelievable! Quite apart from this, the film does a magnificent job of forcing the viewer to participate in the intimacy of the “charmed interval”–blips of “tangible ephemerality” that humans build together and then savour until the inevitable “tragic word” or action dispells them…) and Portrait of Jennie (which is indescribably great–well, maybe I’ll try to describe it soon, but I doubt my powers! Among other things, the film is cinematographer Joseph August’s liebestode: he was so satisfied by the images he brought to light that he decided it was time to die just as they wrapped the shoot–and I, for one, think his judgment was sound. For now, let’s just call POJ Somewhere in Time to the power of ten and leave it at that!) await you in the classics section (assuming the store you buy DVDs from doesn’t suck, which is unlikely! I just laugh when comics people whine about their retailers…)

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About David Fiore

  • Portrait of Jennie is an American masterpiece and compares with Vertigo as one of the dreamiest films I know.

  • agree with you 100% Rodney!