Sunday, March 8, 2015

THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY (Albert Lewin, 1945, USA)


If people’s selfish and degrading acts were reflected upon their visage, what monstrosities would haunt the streets? Dorian Gray makes a pact with a strange god, its catlike grace frozen forever yet its ubiquitous presence stalks his nightmares: "be careful what you wish for", it softly purrs...

Dorian is a young man who wishes to never grow old, to let his beautiful portrait age and bare his afflictions whilst he remains physically unchanged. A Faustian bargain that can end in no other way than tragedy: Dorian’s good intentions become corrupt and he poisons his intimate friends, as time becomes his second worst enemy...the first being himself. A very young and pretty Angela Lansbury is his first victim; he truly falls in love and becomes her Knight In Shining Armor, but begins his brutish downward spiral which ends in her suicide. As the story progresses, Dorian becomes indifferent to pleasure and pain, tasting debauchery and excess and filling up his empty vessel with ignoble desires at the expense of others.

The black and white deep focus cinematography is grand, displaying myriad mise-en-scene cpmpositions that convey suspense with an imaginary devilish quality: watch the scene where he confronts his portrait, the stoic cat totem is peripherally framed in nearly every shot. The watchful eyes of this god are always upon him. The Technicolor inserts of the portrait as it changes and becomes a grotesque human mockery are shocking; we see what Dorian has become, his leprous morality seeping pustules upon the image. Dorian eventually commits the final despicable act of murder and the masterful lighting submerges his face in darkness and light as the gas lamp swings back and forth: the corpse’s shadow printed indelibly upon the wall behind him. The child who loved him but is now a grown woman (which is a bit disturbing) searches for her father, but he is dead in Dorian’s locked room.

With one violent thrust, Dorian finally commits one good dead in his lecherous existence: he stabs his portrait through the heart. When discovered, his body is an abomination with tumorous growths defiling his face: but his portrait is forever young and innocent.

Final Grade: (B+)

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