Friday, January 30, 2009

THE CLOCK (1945)

Sometimes a movie comes along that immediately becomes a favorite. A little gem that you've never heard of, that slipped past the radar of critically acclaimed classics and goes down in history as one of the most underrated movies you've seen. The Clock is one of these wonderful little surprises.

Judy Garland and Robert Walker star as the principal characters in this sweet little romance that takes place during two days in Manhattan, close to the end of WWII. Walker is 'Joe', a serviceman on leave for 48 hrs only-a popular premise for films of this time and genre. He is , in his own words, very 'green'-a small town boy completely at a loss in this giant city. Alice, herself relatively new to Manhattan, is a cheery secretary who comes to his rescue by offering to show him around a little while after a chance meeting at Grand Central Station. Her spritely tour of the city, however, evolves into something much more as the hours pass and it becomes evident to both of them that they are falling deeply inlove. Over the course of Joe's leave, they begin to face the reality that they must either commit to the relationship in spite of adversity or never see one another again.

The movie starts out lightly enough, as the innocence of the newfound friends moves the story along in a humorous way. However, as the hours progress-even the viewer gets drawn into the sense of urgency that the pair feel when they realize their time together is coming to a rapid end. There is also a solemn anti-war message that lurks beneath the sweetness of the story as the lovers face all sorts of obstacles in their simple desire to be together as long as Joe's sense of duty will allow. Moments of the film are exquisitely crafted,such as one scene in particular in which the main characters realize beyond a shadow of a doubt that they are meant to be together. The scene takes place amid the sound of sirens, in a park after midnight. It is lovingly constructed, zooming in closely on Judy's tearful face and Robert's bobbing adam's apple with tender effort. And it will wring the heart. Another brilliant scene, in which the couple are being married in an offhand way by a harried justice of the peace who shows absolutely no regard for the solemnity of the occasion, is extremely memorable. A passing train drowns out his words so that the youthful pair are left struggling to maintain their composure in the face of such an disrespect. I have to admit, a tissue certainly comes in handy more than once during this movie.

Minelli's direction is phenomenal and it's unfortunate that his more lavish movie musicals overshadow this one so entirely. The film is beautifully shot in black and white and maintains it's moving sentimentality throughout. Judy Garland has never looked lovelier-you can almost feel Minelli's attraction to her in the way he frames her face. The one flaw, I feel, is the overly melodramatic music that is on occasion much too loud, a common problem w/ romantic movies of this time. But it's easy to overlook.

As far as romantic films go, this far outshines more popular ones such as Sleepless and Seattle or An Affair To Rembmer. It's just a classic, pure and simple.

My rating: 9/10


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