Friday, October 30, 2009

(Not the) Latest Oscar-winner seen: The Song of Bernadette (1943)

This was the toughest review to write so far. It's a beautiful story about a young French girl, Bernadette (a star-making turn by the great Jennifer Jones) who has visions of a beautiful lady, who just might be the Blessed Virgin.
This is a so-called 'religious' movie, but I think it's much better than the other movies of the genre such as Ben Hur or Come to the Stable.
It contains very strong performances. Let's just start with Ms. Jones: she's brilliant. She plays a naive and a bit silly girl, who is in some ways chosen, but to be a chosen one you have to suffer (just like Gladys Cooper says in the movie). And Jones go through a magnificent transformation and development. She deserved her Oscar very much. When she told her good friend and fellow nominee, Ingrid Bergman that she should have won, Bergman replied 'No. Your Bernadette was better than my Maria." And great indeed.
The members of the supporting cast give all excellent and memorable performances: Charles Bickford as the priest who has severe doubts about Bernadette, Anne Revere as the worried mother of Bernadette and Gladys Cooper as the disappointed nun are all nomination-worthy, but I think the awards should have gone to Akim Tamiroff and Katina Paxinu both in For Whom The Bell Tolls (Paxinu won). Vincent Price was robbed of a nomination in my opinion and Lee J. Cobb gives a brief but memorable performance (like he usually does).
The score is so catchy and beautiful, I think it also deserved the award. The cinematography, the costumes and the art directing are all excellent works, the directing is of high quality, the screenplay avoids every sentimentality, it's just simply nice and that's all. The whole thing is good just as it is.
The only negative point is that Jennifer Jones nearly disappears in the middle and for about 40 minutes she's not even on screen. It's sad because if you see her you want just more. :-)
My Grade: 9/10 Great, but not ground-breaking
Nominations: Best Picture, Best Directing (Henry King), Best Actress (Jennifer Jones, WON), Best Supporting Actor (Charles Bickford), Best Supporting Actress (Gladys Cooper, Anne Revere), Best Screenplay, Best Cinematography Black-and White (WON), Best Score (WON), Best Art Direction Black-and-White (WON), Best Editing, Best Sound Recording
My wins: Best Actress, certainly and later maybe Best Supporting Actress for Gladys Cooper; for now Katina Paxinu remains my win

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