Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Gone with the Wind

Lowdown: A southern love triangle set around the American civil war.
Review:
One of the more amusing feuds I have had with my mother had to do with which of the two is the best film ever. To this young child, Star Wars looked the undeniable winner; my mother always went with 1939’s Gone with the Wind. Silly choice, if you ask me: how can a love story even begin to compare with death stars?
Oddly enough for a movie fan such as yours truly, who also happens to be the son of my mother, I never watched Gone with the Wind till last week (at least not in full). Having watched it I can rest assured now that my childhood preferences were, indeed, valid: Gone with the Wind is a classic for historical reasons, but Star Wars beats the hell out of it.
The story takes place at America’s south, specifically in Georgia, at around the time of the American Civil War. Our hero is Scarlett O’Hara (Vivian Lee), the spoiled daughter of a plantation owner from Ireland. Scarlett is admired by all the men around her, but she truly covets a guy who happens to be committed to another woman. Scarlett will stop at nothing to be with "her" man, including marrying other men altogether. In between that and the war, Scarlett gets exposed to the flamboyant Rhett Butler (Clark Gable), a sort of a playboy whose allegiances are vague but who, nevertheless, is the only one who recognizes Scarlett for the smart manipulator she really is. The rest of this overly long (close to four hours) film is the tale of the love triangle between Scarlett, the guy she really loves, and Rhett. The tale is made more interesting, of course, by the war setting and the character building exercise it proves to be.
So no, I didn’t like Gone with the Wind. Obviously, I found it too long, even if the story is conveniently divided into two halves (before and after the war) and even if we watched each half on a different seating. Scarlett’s annoying character is a major problem, too – she is far too annoying to sympathise or identify with, which left me un-associated with any of the characters for the whole movie. There is also the rather annoying way blacks are treated by the film as comic relief material; then again, at the time Gone with the Wind was made racism was more than politically correct, it was politically endorsed.
Most of all, though, I was annoyed with the over-acting rampant in Gone with the Wind. None of the characters act naturally; they all behave as if they’re playing at the theater all the time, or even worse. It made Gone with the Wind Go on my Nerves: people just don’t talk like that to one another. I guess one can therefore argue that through Gone with the Wind we are able to see just how far the art of movie making has advanced since. Or did it, really, given the artificial taste most contemporary Hollywood films leave in my mouth?
Best scenes: Being that Gone with the Wind is as classic as any movie can ever aspire to be, it is full of quotes one keeps on hearing everywhere. My favorite would have to be Rhett’s “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn”, because it encapsulates exactly what I felt about the movie after watching it for around four hours. Second place goes for the immediately following “After all... tomorrow is another day” by Scarlett, because it concludes the film (by which time I was perfectly able to forgive the rather detached manner in which this statement was made: it doesn't have much to do with the feel of the film that preceded it).
Overall: Worth watching to understand what the fuss is all about; however, I do advise preparing for a disappointment. 2 out of 5 stars.

5 comments:

Uri said...

you can read the book. it's much longer. you can get it for free at your local gutenberg project (although not formatted).

it was a favorite of my mom's as well (the book and the movie).

Moshe Reuveni said...

I don't think there's much danger of me reading the book. I have such a long queue of obviously excellent books on my Kindle already it's not funny, and besides - I should read All Clear first.

Uri said...

From new SFWA Grand Master Connie Willis.

I still think her shorter books are better.

Moshe Reuveni said...

And to me it reads like you're going through great lengths to convince me not to support this year's con. Not that I am trying to detract anything from Willis' achievements; it's just that it becomes clearer and clearer I am quite detached from the contemporary science fiction scene, even if I enjoy the genre.

Wicked Little Critta said...

I basically agree with your criticisms, but with all its faults I do like the film. Mostly because, as you said, it is a classic.

I don't expect you to run out and read the book, but I read it after having seen the movie, and wow...the book is excellent. As Uri said, it's about 1000 pages so it's an undertaking, but it's very well-written and much less superficial than the film (and doesn't have the overacting). Scarlett is not a likeable character in the book or the movie, but in the book you get a much deeper, comprehensive look into her psyche and it's fascinating.