Thursday, April 28, 2016

Retro Review: SULLIVAN'S TRAVELS (1941)

O brother… was Sullivan's Travel just absolutely delightful!

I've mentioned this in other reviews but I have a worry when it comes to classic films. It usually applies to huge pop culture icons, hyped beyond any sensible measure when perhaps they shouldn't, but regardless, I'm always hesitant as to what I'm exactly getting into. Chances are we’ve seen the tricks of old. We've seen their themes and messages 1001 times. We've seen the guy get the girl by the end of the story. Endured inept stereotypes and blatant isms of the time. After a while it can become a bit exhausting.

The thing is, we take for granted that right now, today, we are the *most sophisticated* audience in cinema history. Living in a time where indies and blockbusters have invisible editing, seamless acting pace, thoughtful representations, highly complex themes and structures, technical advancements in camera, audio and visuals. You can have your own opinion, but for me, today is a great time to be a film fan and I love it. Gearing up for Sullivan's Travels some of those worries still applied, but ten minutes almost all of them simply washed away. Does it feel like a stage play? With oddly fast lines and funny driving backgrounds? Of course! But a lovely, witty, genuine stage play at that! One that is easy to forgive for the (very few) faults it has, with the exact same intention as our lead by the end of his arc: to make the audience smile, laugh and escape into the movies.

John L. Sullivan (Joel McCrea) is a popular Hollywood director. Known for making lowbrow, simple comedies, dissatisfied with the acclaim his work gets him. Deciding he wants his next project to be taken seriously. To be a socially-conscious film about the exploration of society, its flaws and show the honest journey of the downtrodden. Something along the lines of “O Brother, Where Art Thou”. His producers simply wanting more yuck-yuck fests, Sully taking it upon himself to experience true despair in the real world as a hobo to give it complete authenticity. It's a premise all too good, and a great set-up for Sullivan's arc. The central message by the end of the movie endorses positive, escapist cinema and its audience, which resonated with me a lot as a content creator and just a simple fan of film. As a comedy it's not exactly hysterical, but it has its moments. The romantic side isn't exactly realistic, but a great deal of fun from my end. I adored Veronica Lake in her role as The Girl (I do wish they gave her an actual name), embodying that classic cinema beauty as well as a smooth coolness that kept my eyesight glued on her.

It's charming. It's sweet. It's underappreciated and left a lasting positive impression. I do want some Ham and Eggs right now. Curse you 4am cravings!


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