Friday, May 1, 2015

Mini-Review - "The Magnificent Ambersons" (1942)


Without even looking at the crew of this 1942 adaptation of the novel by Booth Tarkington, you can tell that this is made by the same people as "Citizen Kane." From the dramatic camera angles, to the lighting of indoor scenery, to the way the characters talk about life as if everything they say must be grandiose and dramatic. Orson Welles' fingerprints, much like "Citizen Kane" are all over this film. This gives "The Magnificent Ambersons" a charm that is hard to match - the look that is stunning for 1942, and a longing feeling for times that will never come again.

I would best describe "The Magnificent Ambersons" as Orson Welles recapturing his childhood, and showing the nostalgia for America before the turn of the 20th century. A time when horse-drawn carriages were the best way to get around, and people made time for everyone because there was nothing else to do. The film brilliantly captures how the world was forever changed when automobiles were created, and how it was leaving those who refused to change and others who prospered behind in a big cloud of exhaust and fumes.

These were simpler times for people who didn't need much in life, and Welles was one of those people.

However, outside of that and the cinematography, there isn't much else to "The Magnificent Ambersons." The story is like any other rich-spoiled brat who gets what he deserves plotline, and very few performances stood out, other than a few scenes with Agnes Moorehead as Fanny Amberson as she breaks down when her life begins to fall apart. The pacing also certainly does not help, as near the beginning it is slow as molasses and then near the end it feels the need to wrap up everything quickly.

Overall, "The Magnificent Ambersons" had many good qualities to it, especially the love letter to the olden days of Welles' childhood. It is worth checking out just to see how Orson Welles and his crew follow-up on "Citizen Kane."

Final Grade: C+

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