Sunday, October 16, 2011
I can't decide if I like today's movie or not - The River, directed by Jean Renoir in 1951. It's good - there were parts of it I really liked. But it's also really meh as well. There were a lot of things that didn't work so well for me either. I can't make up my mind. I sort of hated it the whole time I was watching it but after it was over and I thought about it a little, I liked it slightly more. Only slightly, though.
The plot: Three girls grow up in India - "Harriet is the oldest child of a big family of English settlers. Valerie is the unique daughter of an American industrialist. Melanie has an American father and an Indian mother" (IMDB). When Captain Smith moves in, one of his legs lost during the war, all three girls fall in love with him. He relates most to Melanie, who is also an outsider because of her mixed race, but is clearly attracted to Valerie. Hearts are broken, things of that nature.
The plot is good because it's so simplistic and everyday. It's not a big melodrama or anything too exciting, but it tells a very real story of girls growing up. That's good. There's a really cool part where Melanie talks about Krishna and Radha, and I loved it, but I was bummed out when that part was over and wasn't really that important. That was good, too. The simple plot reminded me of Ozu, but the cinematography I liked wasn't really there. The color in this film was really great, but the copy I watched wasn't anything to write home about. It was really dirty and messy looking, but I streamed it over Hulu so that could have been the issue.
I guess I didn't really like the story, no matter how simple. I mean, I appreciated that it was simple, but I didn't like the whole "Murrrr I love this man but he has no interest in me and has no idea who I am!" sort of thing. It was boring to me, and it's sort of frustrating to see female characters reduced to just obsessing about men. Like that's the only thing that girls go through growing up - man-based feelings. Whatever. The movie was also a little awkward about race and things like that, which it can't really be faulted for because of it's time period, but made it less pleasant to watch nevertheless. I think my irritation with the main characters made me more irritated with it's lack of tact about other races than I might have been otherwise. I really didn't enjoy the narration, either. It seemed to make everything too obvious and make it really boring and too "easy" to watch the movie. Sometimes it worked well (the Krishna scene) and other times (the rest of the time) I wished it would stop.
The movie just didn't really work for me, and while I appreciate a lot of things about it, it just wasn't really for me. I didn't like the girls, and I didn't like that they just seemed to be so focused on men or babies or something in between. If there was even one character that didn't, for even a few minutes, want one of those two things, I would have felt better. But I just couldn't really enjoy watching the main characters. I liked how simple everything was, and how nicely it was made, but it was just...missing something for me, and I didn't really love it too much.
Have any thoughts on The River? Share them in the comments!
Ebert's Great Movie Essay on The River
Buy it on Amazon