dimarts, 28 de juny de 2011

Child of war

Then [Anthony] Quinn was needed for another stroke of director Verneuil's cinematic brush. While he was gone the press agent handed out a fact sheet about "The 25th Hour." The script is from a novel by Romanian writer C. Virgil Gheorghiu, who fled to Paris after its 1950 publication in the wake of the regime's displeasure. Ponti is producing it and Virna Lisi is a costar with Marius Goring in support.

Director Verneuil called, "All right, Tony," and Quinn got up. Miss Lisi took her place on the platform with three children and Quinn walked across the tracks to the far platform, his paper-wrapped bundle in hand. He strode up to the knot of extras on the platform, turned around to face the camera. His face was deeply tanned — no makeup was needed, and he nervously plucked at the string on the bundle.

There was a deep silence in the forlorn station as Quinn began the sequence — silence and rapt attention. Rarely in movie making does an individual scene have any impact at the moment of filming. It is too fragmented, too confusing with the lights burning and the camera crew staring at the actors.

But this was the exception. The crew's jokes were stilled; Verneuil was frozen, his hands a frame to wrap about the moment.

QUINN stands on the platform, searching for his family as around him refugees clasp loved ones. His face is hard but despair is just below the surface. Then he looks across the tracks and sees a woman and children — his?

He begins walking across the tracks toward them, his eyes fixed on the group. He recognizes them. His stride breaks, he starts to run, but then, stiff-legged, he slows, his eyes never leaving those of his wife.

HIS face is almost — but not quite — a mask. As he nears them his pace slows and his eyes reflect painfully the emotions of a man facing an unbearable moment he has dreamed of for so long. A last slow step and he is with them. Does he accept the third child?

In a moment of consummate skill, or simple art, Quinn shows it all without a word — the joy of being together again, the shedding of the terrors of the past, the hope for a better future tomorrow for all of them — most importantly, for the child of war.

For a long moment Quinn and Lisi are frozen, with the children staring in near awe, in an aching but poignant tableau. Then, almost reluctantly, Verneuil quietly said "Cut."

There was no need for a retake.

Sam Bauman, Stars & Stripes. "It's like playing baseball in the dark".


p.s.: Like one other reviewer here, I saw this film while in uniform -- in base camp when I was serving in Vietnam in 1968 (evidently Army Special Services which handled the distribution of entertainment media showed this film everywhere in its purview). I remember this movie was powerful, especially in its message of the impact of war on its participants and victims; and Quinn's performance was one of the best of his career, which is saying a lot!

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