Wednesday, July 03, 2013

The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry

1945, US, directed by Robert Siodmak

The tricksy ending does rather mar what is developing as a hard-nosed bit of bourgeois dissection, though with a little imagination the viewer can imagine what might have been had the movie ended a minute earlier. As much as one might be loathe to imagine an eternally disconsolate George Sanders, it would have made for a bitter little film indeed: the confrontation between Sanders and his sister (Geraldine Fitzgerald) near the conclusion is chilling stuff, with Fitzgerald fulling embracing her character's desire for the final word. Siodmak shows himself to be surprisingly assured as an analyst of small-town life, finding much provincial seaminess beneath the bucolic surface, while also puncturing the snobbery of the town's leading family; he gives full rein to his gliding camera in the family home, too.

Sanders can't suddenly discard his urbanity or his purr, yet he manages to tamp down his playboy image quite successfully to inhabit the skin of the titular Uncle Harry, hemmed in by the restrictions of his life and yet ruminating on an alternative once he sees another future unspool. As ever with Siodmak in this period, the pacing is brisk, with much plot squeezed into the 80 minutes, but he also takes the time to add texture to his portrait of the town -- the mill that dominates working life, the local drugstore, the women's softball game, the church congregation, the mens' club all give a sense of the rhythms of Corinth life.

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Boston, Massachusetts, United States