For Reel

The Moon and Sixpence (1942)
June 29, 2015, 6:04 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Albert Lewin
4.5 Stars
The Moon and SixpenceThe narrator of The Moon and Sixpence is introduced when the camera pushes in on Geoffrey Wolfe (Herbert Marshall), an author who directly address the audience as he states, “When I first met Charles Strickland, it never occurred to me that he was a genius.” Wolfe continues introducing the story as the sequence cuts to him engaging in tedious rituals–taking a bath, straightening his tie and jacket, sitting at a desk to write, all the while accompanied by a butler. The sequence brilliantly sets up the circumstances of Strickland’s (George Sanders) life not only by discussing him directly, but by showing these bourgeois practices, the kind of behavior that Strickland would eventually flee from. When Strickland is introduced at a party attended by the social elite, Sanders plays the boredom and discomfort that the character feels when having to contend with such social niceties. Loosely based after painter Paul Gauguin, Strickland leaves his family and makes everyone in his life miserable as he pursues his art. The film doesn’t argue that his response is valid, but in these opening moments director Albert Lewin beautifully displays how the desire to flee from social norms could take root. Sanders is perfectly cast as perhaps the most brutal of his cads–a misogynist asshole who is only briefly granted some redemption by a relationship he develops late in the picture. While other actors might have been more eager to portray Strickland as a charmless brute or even allowed a little sensitivity to sneak into the performance, Sanders delivers the ugly lines with a callous smile on his face.

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