Thursday, March 31, 2011

Elizabeth Taylor's Place in the Sun

You can mourn in a number of ways.

Douglas produced a DVD of A Place in the Sun which we had in the stockpile.

There was nothing on television so we started to watch it.

It's aged rather well. I'd forgotten about Montgomery Clift and how he mastered the art of making a
face be a river of emotions. It was called method acting and I think he kind of introduced it on film.

He was 29ish when he made the film and he plays a lean hungry young man who is tangentially related to
a rich classy American family.

The film was made in the early 1950s when America was never more confident (and paranoid.)

And Liz was seventeen...

She plays an enticing society girl who has everything and wants what she can't have...

But it's the dance and kissing sequence I want to talk about.

Liz is almost staggeringly beautiful. She's so beautiful it makes you
weep. (Black and white helps too as it makes her skin so beautifully white and the lashes and hair coaldust black.)
Her waist is incredibly small, she is dressed spectacularly.

I also think she spontaneously responded to the high artifice of Clift's method acting so she suddenly became real on screen.

In the shot Monty and Liz dance together and move into a clinch. The shot is extremely tight. On a massive
screen it must have been mesmeric. It is hypnotic. At times you can't see much because of Clift's shoulder which rises in the shot with the beautiful slow motion of a fan unfolding. Elizabeth's face becomes cut off, so all you see are eyes, eyelashes.

But what's wonderful is when Elizabeth says suddenly, looking directly into the camera - 'They're looking at us!', (meaning everyone at the dance they're attending) and they break out of the clinch and go out onto an outside balcony to continue kissing.

'You can be my pick up. Come to mama.'

That moment when she looks directly into the lens is pure cinematic magic. (As are the series of shots arranged round it, some of the most sumptuous and erotic shots in the history of cinema.)

She revealed later that it was only the second time in her life she had had a long erotic kiss and she said the on-screen kiss, of the two, was the better.

This is Hollywood gossip, I know.

But I so wished there was a cinema somewhere that could throw George Steven's A Place in the Sun back on the silver screen so we could all lose ourselves in that mismatch between faces the size of a two-storey house and ourselves just fading in the dark to a heartbeat.... 


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