Thursday 30 December 2021

Streaming - David Hare welcomes a new edition of THE FOUNTAINHEAD (King Vidor, USA, 1949)

Patricia Neal

Random screens from The Fountainhead (1949.)
These are from a very beautiful HD transfer from a WebDL which I hope prefigures an even more gorgeous Blu-ray from Warner Archive next year.
Watching it again in preparation for total mood alterations today before I put on Criterion's new 4K/HDR The Red Shoes, which finally arrived this morning. 

The Vidor remains a powerful, often absurdist work in tone in which stylization fights with "realism" as much as the torn impulses of the protagonists fighting between their personal genius and the rule of the mob. If ever a screenplay could turn around such a proto-fascist, libertarian ultra-right wing source novel and turn it into a profound poem as visual hymn to the triumph of genius and creative passion this is it.  
Gary Cooper...diagonals

Vidor's visual guardian angel throughout the movie is the diagonal composition which time and again defeats the tyranny of both the built environment and the personal agendas. The movie's heart breathes with the conflict between destruction and creation as it does the close shot and the wide shot, with the mediating diagonal. Vidor essays creativity visually in shot after shot (Robert Burks DP) transcending the often drivel-as-dialogue towards visual spectacles of space and encroachment, destruction and triumph. Even Roark's completely meaningless show trial in which "individuality" is being tried as a crime against "the people".  

Patricia Neal, Raymond Massey

Vidor shoots the whole thing as an extended essay in high contrast deep focus wide shots of enclosing spaces to the fully lit open spaces of Cooper's face as he reads some of the craziest lines ever written for the American cinema. But all you want to watch is the enclosure and the freedom, each time he addresses the court. Again, the cocktail party at the two storied penthouse with walls of glass ruminating over the nighttime city lights below, a kind of fake, tizzed up Old Auntie version of Manhattan in doilies, while the guests play out their destinies and their egos through yet more centrally conflicted dialogue filmed in alternating wides and diagonals.
For more on King Vidor click on the names for thoughts by JOHN BAXTER and TOM RYAN

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