For Reel


The Woman on the Beach (1947)
May 4, 2015, 10:11 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Jean Renoir
5 Stars
The Woman on the BeachJean Renoir’s Hollywood swan song (and, along with The Southerner, his most impressive American film) was so butchered by reshoots following a poor test screening that the French director largely denounced the work. And yet, for all of its inconsistencies, it has the unique feel of a fever dream; a logic all of its own. After all, this is a film driven very much by madness–it is in the very first scene that the lieutenant played by Robert Ryan suffers from a nightmare and then confesses that his near death experience rendered him mentally unstable. The intensity of Ryan’s distrust with the blind painter (wonderfully played by Charles Bickford) is hardly driven by any logical sense. Bickford is cruel, but his cruelest moments occur beyond closed doors. It is Ryan’s questionable motivations in “exposing” his sexual adversary that makes the picture such a potent examination of perversion and desire. Furthermore, Renoir’s visual stylizations are as memorable as any noir–more desolate and dreamlike than macabre, with striking images such as a man on horseback strolling down a beach seeming to exist outside of time.

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