The Furies (1950)

25 06 2008

More proof here that Anthony Mann really is a fantastic filmmaker. I absolutely loved The Tin Star but still felt more than a little skeptical going in to this one. While there are obviously some inherently bad signs of classic Hollywood filmmaking, this is still a very personal and accomplished work. Its very likely that Mann would have preferred to do something completely removed from the boundaries of a genre, but would never get such financing. Is this film melodramatic? Certainly, but it never bothers taking itself down a serious, dreary, and bleak path that so many modern “serious dramas” tend to do.

To explain the plot of The Furies would be somewhat of an insult to the movie. There’s an unintentionally hilarious “review” from TVGuide which quickly pieces together the main thrust of the narrative. By doing so, however, is to give a very false impression of the film. It is to Mann’s credit that these events all happen rather slowly, and the “plot points” are all patched by “pointless” scenes. Of course, these “pointless” scenes are one of Mann’s strongest points. He is certainly not on the same level of the character portraits by Yasujiro Ozu, or Mikio Naruse but he is fairly close. Plus, it should go without saying that there is the irresistible influence of classic Hollywoodisms.

Even more credit should go to the very strong visual sense, which is more often than not, overlooked in films of this type. Interestingly enough, this was actually shot by Victor Milner and not Mann’s frequent collaborator, John Alton. As this is one of Mann’s very first westerns, it marks the turning point in his career when he went from a steady string of film noirs (most of which were shot by Alton) to his now famous “psychological” westerns. The visual style is reflective of this transition, as, if anything, it still feels grounded in the shadowy cinematography of his earlier films but with a new location. In other words, totally brilliant. Some will be turned off by the melodramatic trapping from the era, but those that sit through it will be greatly rewarded.

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