Wednesday, November 11, 2009

"The Sun Also Rises"- even if it shouldn't

When I get home from traveling, I find it very difficult to stay awake much before 9:00 pm, and I usually awaken around 3:00 am. When I awake, I turn on the TV to see what’s on, other than infomercials. Today I caught about two-thirds of “The Sun Also Rises”, the1950s movie adaptation of Hemingway’s classic novel. The movie stars Tyrone Power, Eddie Albert, Errol Flynn, Mel Ferrer, and Ava Gardner. All were popular powerhouse actors at the time. The story is about the “lost generation,” that group of expatriates who remained in Europe after World War I. I have never read the book so I cannot tell how closely the movie mirrors it.

There are several themes: unfulfilled love as a result of a war injury; obsessive sexuality; ennui; existential angst and alcoholism. Uplifting-no? I found the movie to be a crashing bore. Power, Albert, and Flynn seemed to be too old to play their characters. Only Ferrer and Gardner seemed to be of the right age. The movie was over 2.5 hours long and it could have been edited down to about the usual 1.5 minutes. Many scenes last too long. There is one in which Brett Ashley (Gardner) is flirting with a matador across the table from her longtime love, played by Power. Thejilted war-injured hero  glares at Gardner. I could here in my head the director saying, “Now do a double take and express dismay with your face.” This scene seemed to last forever. The bull fight scenes are interminable and are obviously not real. The matador, Brett’s current inamorato, looks surprisingly feminine in his matador hat. All of the male characters wear some kind of hair grease, and then cover their manes with berets. To me, those omnipresent berets look silly as do the orange scarves that everyone has tied around their necks. My guess is that they made a Spanish political statement at the time in which the movie is set (the 1920s). Maybe the berets just remind me of Monica Lewinsky.

 I could not become invested in the trials and tribulations of these people. Maybe the actors couldn’t get in touch with their characters’ sturm und drang. Maybe it was that passionless style of acting that was so prevalent in the 1950’s. Often movies from the period seem like a series of tableaux inhabited by moving statues. There is another odd scene where Lady Brett takes her leave of her companion to duck into a church for a quick prayer. Gardner stares up at something and moves her lips. The scene does not appear to be shot in a real church, but rather in front of a rear projection screen. It all seemed silly. The shot of Garnder looked like it was taken by one of those mall-based glamour shot photographers.  Flynn’s character rarely stops drinking. I am sure that was Hemingway’s intent, given his own problems with alcohol. But Flynn doesn’t play it well and never really seems to get as intoxicated as would be the case with all of the alcohol his character consumes.

The photography is quite good and captures that sunlit tan color seen in the old Spanish buildings.

I once had a supervisor who said “I won’t stir in your sh*t if you don’t stir in mine.” Maybe I had to stir in too much of Hemingway’s to enjoy this movie.

I recommend this film only to people who cannot sleep at 3:00 in the morning.

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