Monday, January 18, 2016

The Magnificent Ambersons

In the cinematographic world, Orson Welles's follow up to Citizen Cane, The Magnificent Ambersons (1942) is almost unanimously considered as "one of the greatest tragedies in the history of the cinema" and viewing it in its present state is compared to "looking at the Venus Di Milo, or at a beautiful Greek vase that has been shattered.."

Although the film suffered butchery, it still remains a piece to admire: Orson Welles's mesmerizing voice as the narrator, the touching final credits which he reads, the story of the downfall of the upper-class family in America as it enters the industrial age, the funny opening sequence on changing fashion, the ball scene, the beautiful cinematography of Stanley Cortez, Agnes Moorehead as Fanny, Joseph Cotten's speech at the dinner table about the automobile..

I'm not sure George is wrong about automobiles. With all their speed forward they may be a step backward in civilization. May be that they won't add to the beauty of the world or the life of the men's souls, I'm not sure. But automobiles have come and almost all outwards things will be different because of what they bring. They're going to alter war and they're going to alter peace. And I think men's minds are going to be changed in subtle ways because of automobiles. And it may be that George is right. May be that in ten to twenty years from now that if we can see the inward change in men by that time, I shouldn't be able to defend the gasoline engine but agree with George - that automobiles had no business to be invented. 

I'll certainly add Booth Tarkington's novel the film is based on to my reading list this summer.

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