|Robert Mitchum VS Lillian Gish: place your bets.|
I adore The Night of the Hunter. The story's caught somewhere between fairy tale and nightmare does a great job of capturing the scary helplessness of childhood -- the way how, when you're a kid, your fate always seems to be in someone else's hands, frequently someone who doesn't seem any smarter or stronger than you. The lighting is gorgeous, the framing is gorgeous. The performances are stellar. You can't take your eyes off of Mitchum as Harry Powell, who has LOVE and HATE tattooed on his knuckles and not-very-subtly communicates his repressed sexual desires through the artful manipulation of a switchblade knife. And if only someone had thought of giving Lillian Gish a shotgun sooner.
I've seen people complain about the obviousness and artificiality of The Night of the Hunter (IMDB message boards, you will never cease to amaze me), but if you're looking for realism, you're missing the point. The Night of the Hunter isn't subtle or realistic, it's not trying to be, and (this seems to be where a lot of modern audiences get lost) that doesn't make it bad. And though aspects of the film might seem a little affected or baldfaced to today's moviegoer, The Night of the Hunter deals with themes like sexual agency and religious hypocrisy in a nuanced, evenhanded way that a lot of modern movies still can't match. 4/5 to the movie as a whole and an honorary 5/5 to every scene containing both Lillian Gish and a shotgun.
|"I'm just a girl who can't say no...."|