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Friday, June 10, 2016

GILDA (1946)

The famously off-kilter romantic noir looks better than ever in its new restoration, out on Criterion; a festival (make that Carnivale) of light, shadow & silhouette from cinematographer Rudolph Maté, Rita Hayworth’s designated lenser at the time. The plot, something or other to do with Nazis in South America & cornering the market in Tungsten Steel, has never made much sense (Joseph Calleia’s local detective wraps it all up in a single line of dialogue), but the suggestive atmosphere of double-dealing & love/hate characterizations make their own narrative logic. Hayworth’s Gilda spends the whole movie making fabulous entrances, or rather her hair does, duking it out with former playmate Glenn Ford, now junior partner & obedient lapdog to Gilda’s surprise husband, club-owner/man of the world George Macready, a man with a rapier wit and a rapier! (Phallically hidden in his walking stick.) The DVD comes with a couple of supplemental talks. In one, Martin Scorsese & Baz Luhrmann dig into this sugary dessert and pretend to find something serious & significant to say. As if we enjoyed ice cream only for the calcium. Critically speaking, very ‘70s, very dated. (Give Luhrmann this year’s Obvious Prize for telling us those staggering form-fitting gowns Jean Louis designed for Hayworth are meant to suggest nudity.) On the other hand, a second supplement from film critic Eddie Muller posits a dandy gay/bi/masochistic sub-textual explanation to the Macready/Ford relationship. Suddenly, the film’s opening nighttime wharf scene makes sense; it’s a pick-up! Alas, this leaves the plot as baffling as ever. And calling this film‘s Two Guys/One Gal dashed bromance a rarity is also a stretch, to put it mildly! The real story is that under Charles Vidor’s slashing forward momentum direction, sultry style carries all before it.

ATTENTION MUST BE PAID: An educated guess has the uncredited Ben Hecht (in Post-Production?) writing all that clarifying narration for Glenn Ford to deliver. Without it, we’d really be lost.

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