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Thursday, January 21, 2016

The Sun Also Rises (1957)

Set in 1920s Paris, a journalist (Tyrone Power) who was rendered impotent by an injury in WWI is part of the "lost generation": a group of disoriented and aimless survivors of WWII during the early post war years. His comrades includes the sexually avaricious woman (Ava Gardner) he loves but can never satisfy, his college chum (Mel Ferrer), an alcoholic (Errol Flynn) and a fellow writer (Eddie Albert). Based on the novel by Ernest Hemingway and directed by Henry King (CAROUSEL). Hemingway's novel, like Fitzgerald's THE GREAT GATSBY, appears to be one of those books that defy a proper film adaptation. Unlike GATSBY however (which seems to get a remake every couple of decades), outside of a 1984 telefilm, film makers have left the book alone and this is the only filmed adaptation. Surprisingly for the 1950s, an era when all period films looked like the 1950s, the movie does a fairly decent job of getting the look of the 1920s right, notably in the costumes and hair as well as art direction. To the film's credit, the screenplay by Peter Viertel appears to have been written by someone who actually understands Hemingway's book. So why doesn't it work? Hemingway's simple and direct prose style hasn't found a cinematic approximation. Indeed, the film seems almost bloated as if the film makers felt the movie had to be "important". Power and Gardner are problematic as the leads. Gardner gets by by her movie star presence but although way too old for the part, Power does bring an honest emotional core to the part. The film's best performance comes from Flynn though at this stage of his career he looked like Gardner's father rather than her fiance. With Gregory Ratoff, Marcel Dalio and Juliette Greco, the most talented of Daryl F. Zanuck's "discoveries".  

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