The Man I Love (1947)

13 08 2013

I find it worth mentioning that my motivation for seeing this particular film was not because of Raoul Walsh. He might be the best director the dream factory ever produced, but my personal flame for him has died down as of late. Instead, I was hooked by the idea of Ida Lupino walking over creepy men. The film satisfies that craving, and it actually unfolds in a fairly confident manner. However, when certain noir elements narrative elements begin to force their way into the narrative, the movie loses its footing. Perhaps, it’s fitting that Lupino’s presence motivated my viewing, as she’s the real highlight here. She almost carries the film all on her own into being something great, but the film crumbles under the weight of its own complicated story.

1

Petey Brown, exhausted by her hectic life as a nightclub singer in New York City, visits her family in Long Beach for Christmas. This isn’t exactly a relaxing getaway, as she’s greeted by two sisters, Sally and Virginia. The former is trying to fight off the advances of her obnoxious club-owner boss, Nicky. Her husband, a veteran of the Second World War, is hospitalized for an especially nasty case of PTSD. Petey seemingly brings the family together, but in the process becomes mixed up with Nicky’s business. Around the same time, she falls really hard for San, a quiet piano player.

2

In every bit of writing I’ve come across regarding the film, there is some insinuation that it is structured around the idea that no personal feelings are shared. Sally has a thing for her married neighbor, John but he’s far too attached to his promiscuous wife, Gloria. Petey only has strong feelings for San, but because of his past, he’s unable to love her. Nicky is interested in any woman he sees, and fittingly, all women are uninterested in him. It’s the sort of tragic setup that plays out nice when it is all suggested and hinted at as it is for the film’s first two acts.

3

Walsh’s talents aren’t especially noticeable here. The film’s visuals are functionally noir-esque, but this isn’t his most exciting film from a technical perspective. In a way, the straightforward aesthetic works in the film’s favor. For most of the running time, it rolls along quite confidentially and the exposition that is given is done so quite gracefully. There’s shades of Naruse’s When a Woman Ascends the Stairs in the story here, but Walsh treats the script in a very Narusian fashion, at least for a good forty minutes or so. It’s hard to describe what it is exactly, but I would say that with the exception of the flashback scene in the hospital, Walsh isn’t concerned with making sure the audience is on the same page as him.

4

Let’s be honest here, though, this wouldn’t be a movie without Ida Lupino. She’s brilliantly cold here, especially when she fights off the aggressive advances of Robert Alda. To risk sounding hyperbolic, I probably could have watched 90 minutes of her just rejecting him because the way she does it is so gracefully mean. Her anger is justified, of course, but the script channels her disgust into something empowering – both to the characters and anyone who can put themselves in her place. Unfortunately, the film drifts away from these interactions and into something a bit less interesting but the film is such a curiosity, that a viewing is totally necessary.

5

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28 08 2013

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