Gone With The Wind (1939) Directed by Victor Fleming
I've lost my mojo. I mean this in the respect that here we are, watching some of our favorite films, and I have not been able to put much personal perspective in the reviews on this blog. So, Astrid's latest pick is the never ending Gone With The Wind. I don't have much personal connection with this picture. It used to be a Christmas staple on British TV. I actually remember the British TV premier, some time in the 1970's I think. That's it. No more connection to my soul for Gone With The Wind.
But wait a minute. What do I experience when I watch this picture? What hits me always is how well shot this movie is. From the opening scene with Scarlett on the veranda of family home Tara with the twin beaus who dote on her every word (it's almost 3D!), to the last act, splendid in its dark Gothic intensity. It's the main thing I take away with me here. Is there such a well composed old movie as this one? I also find it fascinating that such a celebrated piece of popular culture has such an unlikeable central character as Scarlett O'Hara. Gone With The Wind can be thanked for giving us such an empowered female lead, but every opportunity to feel empathy towards Vivien Leigh's character is taken away from us. Was this the film maker's attempt to give extra depth and meaning to Clark Gable's final utterance "Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn"?
So amongst all that happens in the gossipy lives and war torn extravaganza that is Gone With The Wind, it doesn't move my soul. So why do I enjoy this four hours of over-the-top soap opera so much? Is it really the fact that despite my punk attitude, despite my allusion that cinema should be artful and have meaning, Gone With The Wind satisfies me as top class entertainment and nothing more? Yes, and sometimes that's enough.
When I first watched Gone With The Wind I was under ten years old and I kept falling asleep. I did not understand much of the story but still the film had a magical influence. I was fascinated by the rudeness and the passionate feelings of Scarlett and Rhett. Also, the clothing and the look of the film spoke to my romantic heart. This was what I thought adult life is like – something to look forward to.
As a teenager I loved the film but found Scarlett O'Hara somewhat unsympathetic. I judged her capitalist greed, anger, cunning plotting and her love for Ashley as faults, which she could exorcise if she wanted to. I also found Rhett completely repulsive!
Life seems more complex the longer I live it. Now I have had to realize that Scarlett is the most realistic portrayal of a person here, while the perfect saintly Mel seems rather boring and uninteresting as a character. Scarlett enjoys a bit of sex after her arguments, she openly longs for a man while marrying others for financial benefit, she appears driven and self-protecting in public, she speaks her mind, shows her anger, drinks too much alcohol and gives the occasional slap on the face. She appears to go trough post-natal depression too, she kills a man to protect her land, she plays mind games with her husband and makes a lot of mistakes. But aren't these the factors that make her such a fascinating leading lady? Even in December 2010 these traits in a woman bring up the emotional question of femininity or the lack of it.
Gone With The Wind was filmed and finished in 1939, the same year as The Wizard of Oz. Cinema was a very new art form then (especially the use of color), yet, there haven't been many films since as full of movie magic as this one. Happy Holidays everyone!