Monday 27 July 2020

A request for a new Blu-ray edition - David Hare extols the greatness of Mitchell Leisen's MIDNIGHT (USA, 1939)

Claudette Colbert, Midnight
I rate Midnight above and beyond such masterpieces as Stagecoach, Only Angles Have Wings, La Règle du Jeu and Zangiku Monogatari for starters.

Midnight is simply a perfect film. The perfect screenplay from Wilder and Brackett, one that might easily have been directed by Wilder, Lubitsch or Leisen, but in Leisen’s hands it takes on an air of privileged rapture that only Lube might have even come near creating.

Perfect, flawless performances from everyone, encouraged by the most actor-friendly of American directors. Ameche relishes exploring a part that he only matches three years later for Lube in Heaven Can Wait in which he plays a cad.

"...astonishing", John Barrymore, Midnight
Here Leisen’s direction keeps withholding his chances to expose/humiliate Colbert until the climax of the full rondelay of coupling and uncoupling including Astor and Lounge Lizard Charles Lederer which brings her back to an astonishing John Barrymore.

This was Barrymore’s last great performance and Leisen doesn’t take a step wrong with his direction. The final “bows” the cast take to the audience as they leave the court at the end of the trial are a Renoirian gesture that out Renoir’s Renoir. 

Here’s hoping Kino Lorber will include Midnight in its hinted further release of more Leisen titles over the next year. 

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