Albert Lewin made two of the artier pics ever to make it out of M-G-M (THE MOON AND SIX-PENCE/’42 and THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY/’45), but he really went overboard (marvelously, embarrassingly & literally so) in this gorgeously TechniColored, recently restored fantabulous fable. Ava Gardner is the drop-dead beauty (again, literally) and James Mason is the traveling Dutchman who’s spent the past few centuries seeking absolution. She’s engaged to another when they meet at a coastal town, but neither racing car drivers, bullfighters nor antiquarians can keep these fatalistic romantic fools from their destiny. Lewin wasn’t much of a story constructionist and kept George Sander on hand as explicator/alter ego & narrator. But with Sanders making ALL ABOUT EVE/’50 in the States, he made do with sound-alike Harold Warrender. Shot by Jack Cardiff, in his best Powell/Pressburger style (the film draws heavily on their æsthetic), it’s all swanky as hell and pretty irresistible. (And probably best viewed at home without risking a burst from those mood destroying audience gigglers.) If only Richard Wagner had still been around to write the score instead of the over-parted Alan Rawsthorne. And though Lewin really didn’t have the chops to pull off his grand illusions, the film goes turgid now & then in all departments, you still can’t take your eyes off of it.
SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: Turn off the sound and play random cuts from Wagner’s FLYING DUTCHMAN and TRISTAN. It makes a helluva silent movie pastiche.