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Tag Archives: Jane Wyman

Flick Clique: June 24-30

Céline: Through the Eyes of the World (2010). Watched out of morbid curiosity, this three-hour documentary/concert film chronicles Céline Dion’s 2008-09 Taking Chances tour through six continents, numerous costume changes, and one lost stuffed lamb belonging to her son. The film is overlong and probably would have been better served being split in two, with the behind-the-scenes stuff in one program and the music (much of which I skipped through) in another. Like most big-budget major stadium tours, it’s a tightly controlled affair with every bit of business from Céline’s onstage patter to the backup dancers’ steps pre-planned to a T (contrary to the title, she even states at one point that she doesn’t want to risk anything!). There’s also a lot of footage of Céline visiting dignitaries and celebs, shopping for high-end goods, and acting goofy with her elderly husband and young son (whose long, long hair must constitute as some sort of child abuse). The mega-production of the tour is pretty impressive, oddly, and Céline has the pipes to sell it. Her singing voice is getting more nasally as she gets older, however – during the tour’s stop in Ireland, the film briefly shows the clip of Céline from when she won the Eurovision Song Contest in the same city several years earlier. It surprised me how much purer her voice sounded in 1988. The film’s candid footage takes great pains to make Céline look like a normal person, which she isn’t. Despite all that, in the end she does come across as quite a down-to-earth, fun lady who doesn’t take herself too seriously.
Lawrence Of Arabia (1962). Spotted the two-disc DVD edition at Big Lots for a fiver, so I decided to check it out again. I first saw this on TV about 20 years ago, in a pan-and-scan edition which was probably edited to ribbons. I remember liking the photography and Peter O’Toole, but the film in general dragged and was difficult to understand. The current re-watching finds it still full of beautiful photography, and O’Toole’s star-making performance still holds up — and it’s still somewhat hard to understand, plot-wise, but Christopher (who read the autobiography of the real Lawrence) filled me in on what I couldn’t decipher. Knowing that T. E. Lawrence was gay also adds more shading to O’Toole’s interpretation, giving it more depth than the typical historic epic gets. Although the casting of non-Arabs like Anthony Quinn and Alec Guiness grates, the film is skillfully directed by David Lean with some still-impressive shots that use the abstract beauty of the Arabian desert well. I liked the selflessness and rebellious spirit of O’Toole’s character. The only part I didn’t agree with was starting the film off with Lawrence’s death in a motorcycle accident (the entire prologue could have been cut off, making a more concise/enjoyable film).
Lucy Gallant (1955). A soapy guilty pleasure which I have been wanting to watch for years (ever since it was regularly played on the AMC channel all those eons ago). I finally got to see it during some down time this week, courtesy of Netflix Instant. A mousy-looking Jane Wyman stars as the title character, an heiress on the run whose life gets handed a change in fate when the train she’s boarded conks out in a dusty Texas oil town. Meeting Charlton Heston’s randy oilman and seeing that the womenfolk in town need a style infusion, she decides to set up a local dress shop. Becoming a huge success alienates Heston, however, who goes off to Europe, fights in WWII, and marries/divorces a French model. When he returns to Texas, the now-tycoon Jane wants him back, but he won’t take her until she agrees to give up the business and pop out a few brats for him. Enjoyable but awfully sexist, and with a disappointing ending that attempts to have it both ways and fails miserably. Wyman, normally appealing in stuff like Magnificent Obsession, is so mousy and wan here, stretching credibility for the forward, fashionable gal she’s supposed to be. And Heston’s character is, simply put, a total douche. Things are enlivened considerably by Thelma Ritter as Wyman’s salty pal and a kitschy climactic fashion show hosted by Edith Head. It’s actually a well-made ’50s melodrama, as long as you take the regrettably sexist message with a grain of salt (or perhaps fine wool in a tasteful shade of grey). By the way, the Netflix version of this shot-in-Panavision film has it in 4:3 aspect ratio with a less than thrilling print.