film 5 of 7

Portrait of Jennie

Draft Review by Dean Duncan Jun 2, 2015

Best kind of schmaltzy H-wood production, with farfetched-ness so attractive and superlatively presented that it’s bought happily, missed the opening darn it but there’s sea symbolism, an intense Ethel Barrymore and a whole bunch of strong supporting bits, lots of Debussy used leit-motifically, strange given the clichés about the Romantics dominating H-wood music, but superficially appropriate on the other hand given the fact that our protagonist’s a painter, which to this day means impressionism to the gals at whom this movie was doubtless directed, that the artist’s work looks more American than late 19th century French probably doesn’t mean that they’re intentionally collapsing periods and bridging differences to create a great film gesamtkunswerk, rather it points to the fact that historical accuracy and appropriate matchings weren’t ever very much of H-wood high priority; doesn’t matter, of course, because it’s gesamtkunswerk anyway, Debussy serves the function in movies as well as Wagner, the painting’s less integral to the visual design as the high German, late B&W chiaroscuro cinematography, except when the finished portrait finally appears, and in colour, when it does show the effect is electrifying and a collapse does take place after all, giving again the key and nature to the integrated art that Wagner and Eisenstein aspired to and accomplished in snatches: valid criticism of ideological critics notwithstanding, when you pick and choose between the studios, cut and paste across the films, Golden Hollywood has it all; in otherwords, as set forth in that long-ago slop about cubist criticism, when you study and learn everything to sufficient degree, it all becomes constantly present, completely integratable and fully edifying