Sunday, October 4, 2009

"The Snows of Kilamanjaro"- a rusty movie

I partially watched “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” on TBS the other night. The movie stars Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner, and Susan Hayward. Seeing Peck and Gardner together reminds me of the eye candy in “Match Point” (Scarlett Johannson and Jonathan Rhys Meyers). But I digress- this movie is loosely based on a work by Hemmingway. I thought the movie was a crashing bore even though it was highly regarded when released. Sometimes I find the acting in movies from the early 1950’s to be so wooden and unrealistic. There is one scene where Susan Hayward walks around a tent where Peck’s character is laid up because of a leg infection. Hayward, who I admire, poses rather than acts. She moves from one position to another as if she was a sculpture come to life. At one point she outstretched her hands in a way that no ordinary person would do, and it looked silly. She is clad in the tightest safari outfit I can remember seeing. She does it justice, but in the hot African weather it would be unbearably hot. The movie garnered kudos for its photography. I admit that I have become spoiled by the CGI effects in modern movies so what once passed as excellent, now seems poorly done. There are scenes where Peck is hunting African game (for sport, I might add!) and it is very apparent he is not actually in the same scene as the animals. The visual focus on him is different than the focus on the animals, so it is obviously a special effect. In another scene he and his party are on a river following a herd of hippos. We never see where the boat meets the water because again he is in a studio, and the hippos are on film. These points don’t deal with the plot, but they were so distracting that I lost the plot. Sometimes I notice that special effects are more apparent on the small screen than in the movies, but the problems in focus must have been apparent in the ‘50s. There is another scene where Peck first meets Gardner is a Parisian jazz café. The music is good, but the scene itself is hilarious. There is a shot of a woman standing against a modern painting (I guess to show that these are denizens of the avant garde). She is absorbed in the music, but she has a look on her face like she should be stoned. Maybe that was the intent, but she looked comical. There is another male extra who is smoking a cigarette. He has a Ceasar haircut and round black glasses. He too looked silly in his effete way. Throughout the parts of the movie that I attended too, Peck was a wastrel who wasted his talent and fortune, and the women in his life (Hayward and Gardner) fretted over everything. Not exactly pictures of strong women. Finally, a word about Gardner. I have said this before in my review of “The Barefoot Contessa”. She was extraordinarily beautiful. Her raven-colored hair, her red lipstick, and pale skin were amazing to look at. She also had the small cleft in her chin that added a bit of the unusual to her face. She had a tiny waist the accentuated the firmness of the rest of her body. She was an average actor, but she steals every scene she is in. I also admire Gregory Peck. He was tall with thick wavy hair. He had yet to reach the pinnacle of his career (in "To Kill a Mockingbird") but his apparent sophistication and elegance were a bit at odds with the dissolute character he played in Kilimanjaro. I guess the point the screenwriter was making is that even the most genetically endowed among us can be losers. For me, this movie is best viewed as a study of the early’ 50’s and its cultural context. The movie as movie was not great.

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