Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Best Years of Our Lives

The Best Years of Our Lives, 1946
Dir: William Wyler

I totally get why this won the Best Picture Oscar in 1946 (it sort of had to), and I totally get why it's a favorite of cinephiles, but that doesn't necessarily make it a great film. The story of three WWII vets (one navy, one army, one air force...what a coincidence) returning home to deal with their lives and trying to rehabilitate themselves while coming to grips with the fact that the civilians around them who weren't there can never really understand what happened has serious potential. The shifting, multiple-character drama also makes it interesting and right up my alley. But only to a certain point. Some of the dramatic gestures are so obvious that they are eye-rolling, e.g. a war vet can't get a plane ticket home, but the rich business man just has to throw a couple of bones down and he gets a ride (TREAT YR VETS RIGHT AMERICA), and almost patronizing. If you're interested in deep-focus cinematography, this was one of the last films Gregg Toland shot before he died. Not that Wyler does a lot of interesting stuff (in fact, he's kind of a by-the-books, "safe" Hollywood choice director if you ask me). Some interesting stuff, but mostly soup.

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