Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Well, once again dat ol' debbil TV has conspired to keep me from sitting down and writing stuff I need to write about. This time, you can blame it on TCM for airing the 1943 film The Song of Bernadette. Bernadette stars Jennifer Jones as the title character, a French peasant girl who sees a vision of the Virgin Mary in a grotto near the town of Lourdes, and has to endure the unbelieving town officals as well as the fanatical devotion of the downtrodden who are desperate to experience something bigger than they are- and things get even more complicated when Bernadette, under direction of the "Beautiful Lady", uncovers a spring with miraculous healing powers. Also on hand is a young Vincent Price, as oily and suave as ever, as a skeptical prosecuting attorney. The film manages the neat trick of being reverent in regards to its very religious subject matter, but thankfully doesn't take sides vis-a-vis the skeptical vs. the believers. While the town officials are certainly shown in an unflattering light, the filmmakers don't spare those on the side of the angels either: Gladys Cooper gives a downright creepy performance as a Sister who lets her jealousy and hatred of Bernadette drive her to behave very badly. As someone who isn't the most religious person you'll ever want to meet, I appreciated this balance, which is something you wouldn't see very often these days. The cinematography is excellent, with a lot of beautiful scenery and some nicely contrasting dark/light scenes.

Regarded as something of a classic, Song of Bernadette is an engrossing, even moving film, and was a pleasant surprise to this hard-hearted old sinner.

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