Carl Dreyer‘s great 1955 film is concerned with the moral and metaphysical shadings of love: Is it a thing of sex or of the spirit? A force of repression and control or a promise of infinite expansion? A farmwife dies; her brother-in-law, a failed preacher, promises to raise her from the dead. The conflict is crystallized in a famous exchange of dialogue (from Kaj Munk‘s play), when the father, trying to comfort his widowed son, says, “She is no longer here . . . she is in heaven.” The son replies, “Yes, but I loved her body too.” Dreyer’s direction has been described as too theatrical, perhaps because the action is largely confined to the farmhouse set, yet the spatial explorations of his camera and cutting are profoundly cinematic and expressive. The film is extremely sensual in its spareness, a paradox always at the center of Dreyer’s work.
Harold Bucquet, who handled the Dr. Kildare series at MGM, directed this maudlin 1939 fantasy in which a curmudgeonly grandfather (Lionel Barrymore, of course) stalls Death (in the guise of dapper Englishman Cedric Hardwicke) to prevent the forced adoption of his orphaned grandson (Bobs Watson). The film’s studio back-lot version of small-town America and its glorious, sunlit heaven are painfully hokey, and while Bucquet nicely captures the camaraderie between Barrymore and Watson, the two of them provide enough ham for an Easter dinner. Adapted from a play by Lawrence Edward Watkin; with Beulah Bondi and Una Merkel.
A musical remake (1932) of Ernst Lubitsch‘s silent The Marriage Circle, directed from a detailed Lubitsch plan by George Cukor. Maurice Chevalier is a doctor happily married to Jeanette MacDonald but temporarily distracted by Genevieve Tobin. Every so often, Chevalier interrupts the story to ask the audience for advice with the plaintive “What Would You Do?”—demonstrating that you could get away with things in a comedy that most people still won’t accept in a drama. Very funny and very highly recommended.