On Sunday afternoon, Kevin, H., Gina, Lisa, Carlos and myself went to the Brattle Theatre to see Leave Her to Heaven (1946). I've always really loved this movie, most notably the visuals, Gene Tierney's character Ellen (spawn of Satan?!) and Tierney's performance. For one weekend only, the Brattle was showing a newly restored print of the film, so I had to take advantage of seeing this on the big screen, and what better way to do this than to share the experience with the people closest to you?
It's an interesting dynamic watching a favorite classic film with friends (and with strangers) in a theater. You never quite know what to expect. I always find myself getting really self-conscious when I bring friends to see a personal favorite of mine. I get very worried that they will not like the film, will question why I dragged them to the theatre to see it or even worse, will think less of me after the experience (what's wrong with her?!). This never really happens, but I'm always scared that it will. This fear changes the way I watch the film in the theatre.
In the case of Leave Her to Heaven, I became very conscious of how over-the-top, or to use a modern colloquialism "cheesy", the film can be. It's as though we are supposed to be in a trance with Gene Tierney's red pouty lips and the gorgeous scenery, that we wouldn't be overwhelmed by the melodrama. Also, I noticed how weak the dialogue seemed to be at different points in the movie. There is one particular scene in which Ellen (Gene Tierney) and Richard (Cornel Wilde) are having a conversation after Ellen's swim. The conversation is filled with short questions and directly answered short replies. From what I understand about screenwriting (from taking a screenwriting class in Grad school) answering a question with a direct response results in boring dialogue. Here is an example: Q: Are you going to the movie? A: Yes or Q: Are you going to the movie? A: If I don't get hit by a bus first... . In this particular scene, I can see how the direct question and answer sequence can work. Ellen's character is intense and her constant questioning can demonstrate her inquisitiveness. She has to know everything about Richard in order to posses him. Yet I feltthat it could have also been done differently with the same effect.
However, none of this lessened my opinion of the film. It just changed the way I saw it. This is still a superb film and I even have the inkling to watch it again at home by myself (too bad I don't own the DVD!). Very few can walk away from this film without some appreciation of it. All of my friends and Carlos seemed to enjoy the film and I'm so grateful for that. While we were outside of the theatre, we partook in some post-show bonding and I brought up the fact that Kate Gabrielle (of Silents and Talkies fame) did a superb painting of the famous boat/drowning scene that makes this film so iconic. Kate did a wonderful job capturing Gene's cold facial expression and the vibrancy of the scene.