Tuesday, December 04, 2007

The Exile

Max Ophuls | 1947 | 95 min | US

I can't believe I waited so long to track down a fun swashbuckler parable about escaping Nazi Germany! The Exile stars Douglas Fairbanks Jr. (who also wrote the script) as the dashing King Charles II of England. He is in hiding in 1660's Holland, trying to stay one step ahead of the Puritan "Roundheads" and awaiting the day when he might return to reclaim his crown. I think. Look, I don't know history, but I do know sword fights, and this film has some ace sword fights. Plus a whole lot of escape-skipping and what I like to think of as Post War Parkour.

Loaded with long takes, long shots, and painted backgrounds, The Exile is very reminiscent of the live threatre. It amazing how much conventions have changed in popular film. It is not just the visuals of the film that are strikingly odd, either. The delivery of every line by every bizarre faux-foreign accent creates a picture which is impossible to be totally absorbed by. For the better, I think, particularly when there are so many nods toward the heavy underpinnings of the story. Still, it is strange to think that the widely used aesthetics of only sixty years ago are now wildly alienating.

And yes, it is very clearly a parable about escaping Nazi Germany, despite what that woman whom I argued with outside the cinematheque thinks. No? Let's look at the evidence: It was Ophuls first American film after World War II; Ophuls was himself exiled from Germany to Holland; Holland was a stronghold for resistance forces where many fled to after being persecuted in Germany; The Roundheads of the film are portrayed as severe, black leather uniformed soldiers. What else? Should I include that it is an airy celebration of freedom and romance that is unparalleled in modern cinema? Cause it is.

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