Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Histrionic gingerbread

"James Dean is a mass of histrionic gingerbread. He scuffs his feet, he whirls, he pouts, he sputters, he leans against walls, he rolls his eyes, he swallows his words, he ambles slack-kneed—all like Marlon Brando used to do. Never have we seen a performer so clearly follow another's style. Mr. Kazan should be spanked for permitting him to do such a sophomoric thing. Whatever there might be of reasonable torment in this youngster is buried beneath the clumsy display."

Thus spake the New York Times when the movie East of Eden premiered in 1955.

Having loved James Dean (one of my earliest girlhood crushes -- along with Jack Kerouac, Sam Shepard, David Bowie and other long dead or old people) and his movies (all three of them) throughout my childhood, I was excited to see East of Eden for the first time on the big screen last night at the NFT, and for the first time in widescreen.

The larger-than-life view magnified so many of the flaws I loved: the moralising script, the melodramatic soundtrack, a mumbling, barely coherent and self-conscious Dean, the naive psychoanalysis (I'm bad, because Daddy doesn't love me).

As wonderfully cheesy as I remembered it.

The cinema was packed with a far more eclectic crowd than I had expected. A good mix of young and old, from smart elderly couples to shabby students. Alas, no Dean look-a-likes...

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