Thursday, 29 October 2009

Leave Her to Heaven (1945)

I need to start this by saying that I like this film very much. I like it because of its amazing Technicolor cinematography, because of its colour palette, because of how dark it gets (especially in a few key scenes) and of course, because of Gene Tierney's beauty. I like it despite Cornel Wilde and Jeanne Crain, despite Gene Tierney's limited acting ability, despite Vincent Price irritating me somewhat in his early Fox years and despite Alfred Newman's quite loud score. I can't define any better why I like it, but I do. Maybe because there are a few close-ups of Gene Tierney in this film which, should you get a chance to see it in the cinema, are worth the price of admission.

The story is intriguing and catches you - a woman so obsessed with her father marries a man who resembles him. Each time that someone gets between them, she doesn't react very well. Plus the ending is a bit rushed. It sounds bad. It isn't. It grabs you. It is also not a horror film. And you never lose your sympathy for this woman who isn't quite all there. On the contrary, you see things from her angle. In fairness, she does have a point. Her husband clearly pays no attention to her, and seems to be quite oblivious to the thought of spending time alone together.

So again, does this explain why I like this film so much? I really don't know, I simply do. There's some magic somewhere, which is interesting as I usually find Stahl uninspired.

Perhaps it's the crossing between melodrama and film noir. At moments you can't tell if it's one, the other, both or neither. I like that mix of genres, it appeals to me. The genre rules are simultaneously obeyed, bent and broken. And then there is the cinematography. While watching the film last night at the BFI I was impressed with how large it looked, especially the close-ups (and I have seen my fair share of classics at that particular screen, more or less in that row). And above all else, the colours. Browns, blues and greens are everywhere. Her white against the green and the blue in the scene at the lake (you'll know which one...) - and her close-up in that scene. The blue slipper in the stairs scene - you'd never thought a shoe other than Cinderella's could be so cinematic. Some colours are natural (the film has plenty of location shots), some not, together in a very engaging and disturbing colour study. And you know that when realise that the only real red in sight is in Gene Tierney's lips. As quoted on the blurb, they are "as red as a witch's apple" - and you better believe it.

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