Thursday, April 3, 2008

#6: "Bridge on the River Kwai"

"Kill him!"

This scream from William Holden's slacker character near the end of "Bridge" emphasizes war's contradiction; contradiction after contradiction after contradiction; the building of "a proper bridge" by British p.o.w.'s only the most obvious.

This may be the best example of movie-as-experience. The moviegoer is WITH Holden as he escapes through the jungle, WITH the commandos amid the gurgling water as they plant charges the evening before demolition, while prisoner Alec Guinness and Japanese commandant Sessue Hayakawa stroll on the just-completed bridge. Destruction and accomplishment are counterpoints.

The clash of mentalities and wills is everyplace: Guinness's stubborn Colonel Nicholson and Hayakawa's authoritarian officer at the outset; later, the Jack Hawkins and William Holden characters on the commando team. Holden has few lines but imbues them with eternal meaning, as the team cuts inexorably through the jungle, returning, madly, to the "madness" he'd already left.

With this flick, unlike even David Lean's equally great "Lawrence," there are no editing flourishes; no tricks. The adventure is seamless-- you lose yourself entirely within the story and setting.

The madness of war is the theme-- wonderfully highlighted by scenes of peace; the commandos bathing in a stream with pretty Burmese girls a few moments before that stream is stained by blood. Everything: tragedy.

Literate, intelligent, suspenseful, terrifically acted and beautifully photographed, this superb work of art has to rank near the top of any "Best Movie" list.


Toast said...

So far, you really don't seem to like movies with women in prominent roles. Women frighten you, maybe?

Anonymous said...

That's right. You wonder what Mrs. Wenclas makes of all this -- there is a Mrs. Wenclas, isn't there?

K.I.N.G. Wenclas said...

You're reaching here.
Oh, I love women. They're a major reason I've been broke for much of my adult life!

K.I.N.G. Wenclas said...

Regarding movies, I'm judging them according to the nature of the art form itself, which favors the visual, landscapes, adventure.
"North by Northwest," with Eva Marie Saint in a prominent role, fits this.
What are your p.c. alternatives?
"Citizen Kane"? Uh, no equal women characters.
Domesticated drawing room movies?
Uh, no thanks.
Perhaps the movie with the most dominant female character is "Gone with the Wind," which just missed the cut. "Wizard of Oz" is another-- which I'll be discussing anyway upcoming.
Three of my five remaining have women in very prominent roles.
Is that acceptable to the p.c. crowd?
(I think your real beef is with moviemakers.)

K.I.N.G. Wenclas said...

No response?
What if I'd included "The Third Man" in my list. Think how I'd be tarred and feathered for that! (Given it's "misogynist" ending.)
It remains a great film.
Incidentally, a story I wrote late last year, "Bluebird," has women as its two main characters, men merely in supporting roles. I have it attachjed to my "Detroit" blog, if you're interested. Consider it a p.c. corrective to the political "crimes" of my movie list.)