presenting ms. kenyon

So for a while I thought that Daisy Kenyon (Otto Preminger, USA, 1947) was just kinda dull, but upon reaching the halfway mark I began to become more and more impressed with what I started vaguely perceiving as a rather sophisticated dissection of romantic politics—this is the rare kind of film that genuinely seems to have an adult audience in mind in regards to the narrative elements it opts to focus on and explicate. There’s something that struck me as almost proto-Antonionian in the ways its central romantic triangle (Joan Crawford, Dana Andrews and Henry Fonda) thrash about emotionally under elegant and seemingly placid surfaces. The film is ostensibly concerned with that evergreen “woman’s picture” dilemma—hard-fought independence or domestic security?—which is complicated by a subtle but haunting realization that this narrative is less about the titular character deciding which man will give her true love than a depiction of three people desperately trying to pull themselves out of deadened emotional states—and fully willing to sacrifice each other to do so. It seems universally accepted that Crawford was to old for this role and fans have waged elaborate apologias to justify her casting, but I thought she was genuinely well suited for the role of Daisy—sure, a luscious ingénue-type would have helped explain what is now the inexplicable sexual attraction of the two male leads, but it would have completely altered the underlying dynamic of the film, which seems less to me about mere sex or even love than finding a way to avoid the ache of loneliness and stasis and ennui. Anyway, since its recent release on DVD—which I believe makes it widely available for the first time—internet critics have desperately fallen all over themselves hailing this as a forgotten masterpiece of classic Hollywood melodrama, but I can’t help but feel it might be undergoing the canonization process for the wrong reasons, though I’m admittedly unable to articulate what those reasons exactly are. Still, whatever the underlying motivations, this is certainly a weird and weirdly admirable film, well deserving of the reevaluation it has seemed to have recently sparked.

Memories of a Movie:

[Screen captures taken by Jesse Ataide.  Others are welcome to use the images, but please provide a link back!]

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