Meewella | Critic

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Tag: Dimitri Tiomkin

QuickView: It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

“Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?”

Clarence

Frank Capra’s now-beloved classic, his first post-war film, only reached its current status decades after release when it left copyright and became a staple on TV networks. It’s a Wonderful Life falls into the cadre of films set at Christmas but not really about the holiday, despite the film’s structure serving as an inversion of A Christmas Carol ⁠— George Bailey is a generous man who, in a fit of suicidal despair, needs to be shown by an angel how much worse off the town would be without him. This could easily have been saccharine but James Stewart deftly portrays George as a charming dreamer who struggles against his familial duty and is frustrated by his inability to escape his hometown. His idealism in supporting regular folk, pitted against the avaricious mogul Henry Potter, sets a moral tone without browbeating the audience. Although remembered for its final act, much of the film’s strength lies in seeing George’s earlier years, including his slowly blossoming romance with Mary — it is evident though unspoken that George’s reluctance lies in the fear that she will be another anchor tying him down to the town he wants to leave. It’s a Wonderful Life is deservedly a classic, and one that remains every bit as enchanting today.

9/10

QuickView: Rio Bravo (1959)

“If I ever saw a man holdin’ a bull by the tail, you’re it.”

Pat Wheeler

A slow-burning Western with John Wayne as a small town sheriff who needs to hold out for a week until Federal Marshals collect the prisoner in his jail, exploring resiliance, morality and the ability to accept aid. Another of Quentin Tarantino’s three desert island films (along with Blow Out and Taxi Driver), one can see the style of Western he prefers, prioritising dialogue over action and earning its tension through quiet build-up and understated threats within a confined space — Howard Hawks’ direction conjures suspense in the lawmen simply walking down a street at night where every shadow is a threat. The typically male-dominated roster is at least punctuated by Angie Dickinson’s substantial riff on the femme fatale rather than being a simple floozy. Its strong cast aside, the writing elevates Rio Bravo, with the real story being the relationships between the townsfolk, their backstories emerging naturally over time.

9/10

"A film is a petrified fountain of thought."

(CC) BY-NC 2003-2023 Priyan Meewella

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