For Reel

Living on Velvet (1935)
March 17, 2014, 2:34 am
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Frank Borzage
4.5 Stars
Living on VelvetNo filmmaker has ever been better than Frank Borzage at showing people fall in love. Oft-cited as one of the great romanticists of classical Hollywood cinema, Borzage created lovers that were unconquerable–their unions were holy things, beacons of hope that pervaded throughout even the most dire of circumstances. Living on Velvet, a neglected masterwork, features one of the very best romantic meetings of its era. At a high society party, two people engaging in their own middling smalltalk happen to meet eyes from across the room. Borzage shoots their glances in medium close-up, editing back and forth to create the tension. To punctuate the glances, as well as to illustrate the distance between the two (a distance which the audience begs to be broken), he then has his camera pan back-and-forth between the lovers not once, but twice–a rather aggressive move for the genre in this period. The lust-filled encounter is immediately followed by a nightly excursion, the kind that he would later perfect with History Is Made at Night. Every supporting player disappears, and all the audience is left with is the lovers and the few strangers (such as a carriage driver) who bear witness to their chemistry. It is surprising that the picture isn’t held in higher regard among Borzage scholars (although few have poor things to say about it)–it is profoundly illustrative of his talents, among the most Borzage of Borzage pictures. Casting George Brent as the male lead was certainly a hinderance (a bland actor with a bad habit of appearing in otherwise great movies), but he does have a sizzling chemistry with co-star Kay Francis that is unmistakable.