Minggu, 05 Desember 2010
James Whale - Waterloo Bridge (1931)
Review and description from Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle:
The Roxie Cinema's revival of the 1931 ``Waterloo Bridge'' -- taking place today and tomorrow at noon -- is big news for a couple of reasons. It's an outstanding film from an important director, James Whale (``Frankenstein''). And it's a movie that's almost impossible to find.
The picture kicks off the Roxie's seven-day festival, ``Hollywood Before the Code,'' featuring 14 films made before the Production Code's clampdown in 1934.
``Waterloo Bridge'' is prime pre- Code material. It stars Mae Clarke as Myra, an American chorus girl who's stranded in London when her show closes at the start of World War I. She slides into prostitution, standing on Waterloo Bridge as the soldiers spill out from Waterloo Station.
If Clarke is remembered today, it's for getting hit in the face with a grapefruit by James Cagney in ``The Public Enemy.'' But ``Waterloo Bridge'' reveals her to have been an exceptional actress.
Her Myra is all bitterness -- but with just enough hope to drive herself crazy. She's completely different from the angelic ballerina Vivien Leigh played in the 1940 remake.
Whale opens ``Waterloo Bridge'' with a shot of a stage show, a happy vision of white dresses. Then he cuts to shots of individual chorines, who look coarse and worldly. Myra is in the midst of this display -- and then a couple of scenes later, she's on the street.
The odd, sad romance at the heart of ``Waterloo Bridge'' is between Myra and a naive American soldier (Kent Douglas) she meets during an air raid. Clarke shows both the unguarded young woman Myra could easily be as well as her self-protective determination to stay hard-boiled.
At one point, Myra throws him out of her room, saying she needs some sleep. And then, in a long close-up, we see her reflection in the mirror as she puts on her hat and lipstick, preparing to go back out. The transformation is pure cinema. Clarke reconciles Myra's conflicted and contradictory impulses in a brave portrait of a woman in torment. Myra believes herself to be trash and she's wrong -- just as the soldier's mother believes herself to be kindly, when she's merely cruel in a gentle way.
Though based on a stage play (by Robert E. Sherwood), the picture has Whale's visual flair. Even the rear-projection shots of searchlights panning the sky seem more intentionally artful than artificial.
The Roxie's showing will be the first public screening of ``Waterloo Bridge'' on the West Coast, outside a film archive, in about 60 years. Audiences who were touched by the courage and vulnerability of Elisabeth Shue in ``Leaving Las Vegas'' are likely to take to Clarke, Shue's spiritual godmother.