Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Gone with the Wind ★★★★

Image result for Gone with the wind opening stills

    As the seventy-fifth-anniversary screening of  "Gone with the Wind" came to a close and whilst the audience divulged in a rousing exhibition of appreciation, a lingering sense of unrelenting elation gripped my heart and soul. Of course, this warmth does not stem from the film itself, as the resolution would warrant a profusion of emotions, most of which identify with sorrow and despair. This contentment emanates from the reality that after all these years, this picture still remains a favored piece of cinema for many, and continues to symbolize the epitome of what can be accomplished with the art itself.

    While shown in its original aspect ratio (the standard screen), "Gone with the Wind" never looked more pristine. The soft and often muted colors of the sunsets, which serve as numerous backgrounds, instills a hint of sensuality to the film--an aspect that is direly absent from the art in the modern era. The effectiveness of the utilization of rough grain (along with smooth grain) film stock is superb. It is no surprise as to why the standard screen accentuates this picture so effortlessly. For, there is no other form more powerful, than if the desire is to focus on close and personal conversation.

    The heart of this story, set in a turbulent period of history in the United States, is none other than Scarlett O'Hara. The first time we see Scarlett, being the result of a zooming close up, is a scene in which she is being engaged in conversation by two red-headed suitors. Her hair is flawless and her dress is as exemplary as she is alluring.

    We become accustomed to the character of Scarlett, through not only her appearance and dialogue, but through other character's reactions. All of the other women either loathe her or want to be her. The men cannot detract themselves from her presence, even if they tried, all while already having a beautiful woman by their side.

    Of course, without the personas of Rhett Butler and Mrs. Wilkes, the latter acting as the dramatic foil to Scarlett, our heroine would most certainly not carry the same force. Nevertheless, I will always designate Scarlett O'Hara as one of the most lethal dynamic characters in cinema history. Vivien Leigh is the only actress that could remotely emphasize the irony within Scarlett and externally provide an air of seductiveness.

Image result for Gone with the wind Scarlett stills

    Scarlett is materialistic, yet she only truly cares for love, albeit misguided, and her home of Tara. She is seemingly ignorant and unaware, although she executes her intelligence in immoral fashion to obtain what she fancies. (This latter characteristic lends the opportunity for numerous displays of dramatic irony, which evokes a sufficient amount of laughter.) There is another character eerily similar to Scarlett in form and stature that can be found in the film "A Streetcar Named Desire." Leigh can also be found portraying that figure, in what seems to be a New Orleans visit from Scarlett herself.

    "Gone with the Wind" proceeds in two distinctive acts, the first of which, essentially becoming a coming of age tale as Scarlett is thrown into the midst of the film's conflicts. The backdrop of war and the internal conflict of identity, along with her failed attempts for love, drive this picture. By the end of the first act, Scarlett has overcome many obstacles and has succeeded in retaining responsibility for the first time in her life. However, this development is only a glimpse of what our protagonist must endure before she finally comes to the profound realization at the end of the second act.

    Rhett Butler, who ultimately becomes Scarlett's husband, is a selfish and crude individual when first viewed. He claims to "only care for himself" and reiterates the fact that he "always gets paid."  Butler is immediately captivated by the presence of Scarlett, like every other man, yet it is not for the same reasons. Butler sees Scarlett for what she is and he never pretends to be what he is not. He knows that he is a scoundrel, who profits from war, and that Scarlett is a conniving individual, who flaunts her physical attributes and gives off a feeble minded position to obtain what she wishes from others. In this sense, one could come to the conclusion that their love is pure, and that he is the first man to see through this forged facade.

    This is a film littered with symbolism and irony, which in turn, creates a marvelous foundation for success. The execution of symbolism spans from the subtle context of a war-torn confederate flag among the masses of dying and injured soldiers, to the importance of an object with regard to the structure of the film, as in the land of Tara. Rhett Butler even has symbolic acquaintances with other characters, in the form of a call girl, which becomes Butler's path to self-ventilation, and Bonnie, the daughter of Butler and Scarlett. Although Bonnie is important to Scarlett, she is more so regarded by Butler, as she becomes the only pure and innocent action he has ever yielded.

    The irony is utilized to its fullest potential throughout the picture and holds true in every facet of the word. The most notable being the dramatic irony, as Scarlett deviously attempts to fool individuals with her seemingly naive intellect. However, there is a brilliant depiction of the irony of setting, as Rhett and Scarlett embrace for their second kiss among the fiery background of tarnished Atlanta. The idea of cosmic irony also comes into context, as seemingly every attempt to obtain the love of Ashley, the man whom Scarlett desires more than life itself, brings her closer to eradication. As if some omniscient being found her shortcomings pleasurable, time and again.

    To classify a theme for this picture would be a highly subjective process. One could argue that the theme would be that of structure, as every aspect of a masterpiece has been sewn into a rich tapestry of  brilliance. However, Scarlett's self-realization suggests other themes that linger in the depths of my consciousness. Personally, I believe the theme is one of blinded fulfillment, as Scarlett has been so fixated with a man, whom she never really loved, only because he was the one object of desire that she could not so easily obtain. If I were to write this critique another day, then another theme may present itself; that is what makes this film so potent.

    There are undoubtedly only two films that come to mind when the term "classic love story" is posed. That being "Casablanca" and "Gone with the Wind." Both pictures share a dialogue heavy structure and the backdrop of war; both are historically significant and ahead of their time. To choose between the two would be futile and a waste of time and effort. Yet, any lasting image of "Gone with the Wind" is dominated by one thought. One object of fascination. There is only Scarlett O'Hara.

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