Thursday, May 27, 2010

Gone With the Wind (1939)

Drink every time Scarlett is a bitch.

The word "classic" means a lot of different things to a lot of different people, but I think that the film Gone with the Wind might be the best definition. There's no need to say what makes a movie classic, just watch the film and you will, from that day forward, know exactly what a true classic film looks like. Gone with the Wind, the nearly four hours long story of love, war and drama, is worthy of all the praise it receives. It's, without a doubt, one the most important films ever made and the pinnacle of the golden age of Hollywood film-making.

Gone with the Wind, based off the best-selling book by the same name, is the story of Scarlett O'Hara. Scarlett, the world's biggest bitch, humps her way through a fistful of men she doesn't love before one with a backcbone finally tells her to shove it in one of the most famous movie moments of all time. A pinch of racism here and some war there and you've got yourself the most successful movie of all time. The film stars Vivian Leigh and Clark Gable along with several other famous faces from the era. Gone with the Wind swept critics and audiences off their feet bringing in huge box office earning, the highest in history when adjusted for inflation, and winning 8 of the massive 13 Academy Awards it was nominated for, including Best Picture. There are very few films with the resume of success that Gone with the Wind carries with it and, this time, the film is totally deserving.

It's hard to describe how Gone with the Wind succeeds. It's pretty rare that towering, nearly four hour war and romance epics can be described as enjoyable, but the film, somehow, defies the odds. Maybe it's the performances. Vivian Leigh and Clark Gable both knock the ball out of the park, both on their own and together, but even the supporting characters are magnificent. Olivia de Havilland is, somehow, the nicest person to ever live and her character is so amazing that it really makes you hate Scarlett even more. It's hard to say anything new about Vivian Leigh, who won an Oscar for her performance, but I must mention her performance. I hate Scarlett, I absolutely loath her as a human being, but she is played so earnestly by Leigh that you have to be impressed. Everyone in the production was committed to the project and what results is a wonderful group of performances with no weak links. Maybe it succeeds because of the film-making. The work here is beautifully detailed and all elements of the production, from the direction to the costumes and sets, show how much time and effort went into making the movie. Maybe you can't say why Gone with the Wind doesn't fall flat on it's face. Sometimes movie just have a certain magic, a certain spark that make them great. Gone with the Wind has this indefinable greatness in droves.

It might be hard to figured out from the love story I just wrote, why Gone with the Wind is receiving a 9 and not a 10. This is simply attributed to two things. First is the length. Gone with the Wind is near perfectly paced, but the film is still almost four hours long. It may be the shortest four hours of film-watching ever, but it can't help but feel long in certain places. The second reason is simply the second half of the film is not as good as the first half. This is not to say that the second half of the movie is bad, just that it's hard to live up to the first half's near perfection. There are, literally since intermission is almost two hours in, two movies here and it's hard to keep myself from comparing what comes before and what comes after the intermission. I find myself much more drawn to the war portion of the story. The crane shot of Scarlett walking through the crowd of dying soldiers is, without a doubt, one of my favorite shots in movie history and Scarlett's journey in the first half of the movie, from spoiled wealth to poverty, is just so much more interesting than her constant bitching and scheming that seems to permeate the last half of the movie. These complaints are really only minor specks on a film that deserves to be called one of the best ever.

Gone with the Wind is a movie without compare. It's so rare that a movie with such a huge scope can still feel so intensely personal and can astound with it's attention to the tiniest details. All of this from a movie that was made over 70 years ago. Gone with the Wind is a film that would probably be one of the first movies added to a must see list. It's just that important to the cinema world. It's importance isn't the only reason to see the film though. Gone with the Wind is, simply put, a phenomenal movie and one every movie buff must see.


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