Saturday, May 07, 2005

Three Comrades

Remember the scene in Wonder Boys when Tobey Maguire recites for Michael Douglas a laundry list of Hollywood suicides? On that list is the beautiful actress Margaret Sullavan, whose most famous role was opposite Jimmy Stewart in The Shop Around The Corner.

Some of Sullavan's best films were made by the sadly obscure director Frank Borzage. One of these films was Three Comrades (1938).

The movie is set in the moral and economic limbo of post-WWI Germany. Margaret Sullavan and Robert Taylor play doomed lovers caught up in the social chaos that would soon invite the rise of Nazism. But Borzage is interested in Germany's political context also because it is a brutal environment, unsuitable for his child-like lovers. He seems to be saying: the fate of the world ultimately rests on the success or failure of romantic love. (He even made a movie with one of the most romantic titles in the history of cinema -- History Is Made At Night).

Borzage loved the human face. When he films the couple in Three Comrades, their every glance and gesture becomes monumental, and every movement trembles with intimacy. Love, without ever ceasing to be sensual, simultaneously becomes mystic.