Gene Tierney in Leave Her to Heaven (dir. John M. Stahl, 1945).
Beautiful people made of breathing wax live in a technicolor country of sleepy lakes and impossibly huge swimming pools, falling in love and freaking each other out and succumbing to crippling ennui. On the surface, it looks very much like a Sirk film, but Sirk's people are always straining after an ethical ideal that is ever so close to being actually grounded in the real world and its material conflicts. They burst their hearts open with glamorous social relevance. Stahl's players are oblivious to things like racial injustice and oppressive labor conditions. There is no working class. There is little evidence of any kind of work, beyond that performed smilingly and voluntarily by placid extras who cease to exist once they have added their small flourishes to the general human decor. What there is is an awful lot of water. Even the indoor scenes have a strange liquid quality, as if at any minute all the characters and their problems and their pretty houses might sink into a spreading ocean of bad consciousness. Gorgeous to look at, but arid, trite, and depressing overall.
Labels: John M. Stahl