For Reel

The Hurricane (1937)
May 31, 2015, 3:52 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: John Ford
4 Stars
The HurricaneA complex adventure film about colonialism in the South Pacific, John Ford’s The Hurricane is capped off by its titular natural disaster, as spectacular as any special effects sequence of its era. But what really makes the film special is its dialogue about the nature of the law and oppression. Ford has been lazily criticized by some contemporary critics as being distractingly socially conservative, but in fact his films often showed progressive themes. The Hurricane is a terrific example, with its deep consideration of the injustices faced by repressed people. Critic Andrew Sarris praised not the central couple of Terangi (Jon Hall) and Marama (Dorothy Lamour) (whom he largely described as passive victims) when he wrote about the film in You Ain’t Heard Nothin’ Yet: The American Talking Film, but rather the French Governor Eugene De Laage (Raymond Massey) and his wife Madame Germaine (Mary Astor). Their relationship is rendered as a dialogue between the laws of man and the matters of the heart. It is curious that the last moments of the picture do not concern the reunited young lovers, but instead whether or not Massey will give way in his stubborn observance of the law. It plays out like a standard romantic comedy trope–Massey and Astor are lovers who have hit an impasse, only a last minute compromise brings them back together and closes the film in romantic harmony. In the end, compassion and sensitivity trumps the rigid social order.

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