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Monday, May 26, 2008

THE NUN’S STORY (1959)


From the standpoint of his reputation, Fred Zinnemann had the ill-luck to land in the critical no-man’s land of mid-cult, and even worse, to be confused with the well-intentioned Stanley Kramer, who produced Zinnemann’s most famous, though hardly best, film, HIGH NOON. Zinnemann’s craft is often held against him, as if he merely did better the things Kramer did poorly. But just look at his films! His success ratio is astoundingly high, and a fistful are masterpieces, including this emotionally charged Audrey Hepburn starrer (along with ROMAN HOLIDAY/'53, it’s her best perf) that follows a journey of religious obeisance as far as she can go. Indeed, many will read her ultimate failure as a victory. The scale of the international production never keeps the story from its proper intimacy while legendary art designer Alexander Trauner outdoes himself (which is saying something), especially as rendered in Franz Planer’s lush, yet hushed lensing. (Planer also shot ROMAN HOLIDAY & BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S to win the Hepburn trifecta.) Zinnemann apparently worked to tone down Franz Waxman’s score, but what’s left is superb. (The fight was over a cue coveering the very last shot.) And we’ve not even mentioned the extraordinary cast and supporting perfs from the likes of Edith Evans, Peggy Ashcroft, Peter Finch, Colleen Dewhurst & Patricia Collinge; standouts among so many.

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