Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Anna Christie (1930)

Just so you know, if you watch this movie, prepare to have the volume up and the subtitles on, because the sound quality isn't that great and with the thick accents that every single character seems to possess, it can become difficult to understand what exactly is being said.

Anyway, this is my second Garbo film, and this is actually Garbo's first talkie, so with this movie, her deep husky voice was introduced to the world. Before that she was the queen of silent pictures.

In this film, Garbo plays Anna, a former prostitute who tries to give up that life by finding and living with a father that she has not seen since she was a little girl (though she keeps her past profession a secret). Anna has had a hard life, she had to work with her mother's side of the family once her mother died and they treated her like a slave, which culminated in a her being raped by one of her cousins. Her father, Old Chris, is a fairly simple sailor, played by George F. Marion, who attributes all of his misfortunes to "The Old Devil", the sea. He has forsaken the sailing lifestyle (despite living on a houseboat) and wants Anna to marry a nice, city man. Unfortunately for him, Anna meets Matt (Charles Bickford), a sailor who she saves once his boat wrecks. They fall madly in love, and Anna must decide whether or not to share her life story with a deeply Catholic Matt.

The acting is a bit hard to judge, since it was made in the days when silent films were transitioning to talking pictures, so the acting is almost like a silent film, and by that, I mean over the top. I don't want to bash Greta Garbo, but she's very overdramatic here, constantly clutching her hair and making every emotion play obviously on her face. She's still fascinating to watch, but she is still obviously using her bag of acting tricks from her silent movie days. And the character of Anna is written to be almost borderline bipolar. She'll be happy with her father in one scene and suddenly she's angry with him and yelling at him in another. It's very odd. Other than that, the acting is good, but the characters are not really given much depth. Matt is a boisterous Irishman, Old Chris is sad and doting. There's another character named Marthy who is Old Chris live-in girlfriend who moves out, but she isn't really given enough screentime to warrant much of a mention.

One issue I have is with the ending (which is fairly predictable) of the film, which (SPOILER ALERT) ends on way too of a happy note. Given everything we've learned up until now, the resolution of Matt suddenly forgiving Anna and he and Old Chris going to work on the same boat while Anna stays home seems a bit too much. I know that Anna is a strong character, but for her to settle for that sort of situation seems a bit weird. (END SPOILER ALERT)

Overall, the film is good enough to warrant a recommendation. Greta Garbo is an actress that I would really like to see more films from (I own Ninotchka, but I've yet to watch it), and this is probably a good introduction into more of her work. If you can forgive the acting issues, then you should be able to enjoy this film.

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