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Thursday, May 14, 2009

ARCH OF TRIUMPH (1948)



The second collaboration between writer Erich Maria Remarque & helmer Lewis Milestone was no ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT/’30. Ingrid Bergman, Charles Boyer & Charles Laughton were all going thru dry spells and the film flopped on release. But it looks uncommonly interesting now. It's 1939, Paris is a city of intrigue & refugees: Boyer is a doctor, trapped without papers; Bergman a lost soul with nothing to live for; Laughton a sadistic Nazi, unaware that Boyer is hunting him down. Boyer comes off best (with Louis Calhern giving grand support as a White Russian exile), but Laughton is hopelessly OTT while Bergman looks ill at ease with her role and terribly unhappy about her . . . well, about her hair. The plot runs in circles for over two hours, but the moody atmosphere is terrific, swanked up by the great scenic designer William Cameron Menzies whose elaborate models, matte shots & optical printing tricks* are better served by Russell Metty’s chiaroscuro lensing than Ingrid’s hair stylings. (Having to worry about your hair; no wonder she was so eager to get out of Hollywood.)
*Watch for a great 'seamless' tracking shot that uses a quick dissolve to take us straight thru a closed door. Very cool.

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