Friday, July 12, 2013

The Southerner (1945)

3 Nominations, 0 Wins

Nomination: Best Director - Jean Renoir
Nomination: Best Sound, Recording - Jack Whitney (Sound Services Inc.)
Nomination: Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture - Werner Janssen

The recent release of Renoir (2012) got me thinking about filmmaker Jean Renoir, son of the famed painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and I realized that I had seen few of the master's films, and not in many years.  I took a look at his filmography, and keeping the Every Oscar Ever project in mind, added to my Netflix queue the movie for which he received his single competitive Academy Award nomination, The Southerner.

The tale of a poor farming family struggling to survive, The Southerner is an absolutely beautiful visual film, and it's stunning that it didn't receive an Oscar nomination for Lucien Andriot's cinematography.  The Southerner is in the public domain, and like many public domain films, the commercially available prints are atrocious and guilty of cinematic misconduct.  The disc I rented from Netflix was almost unwatchable, yet even with the terrible picture quality the beauty of Andriot's camerawork and Renoir's direction were evident.

The visual accomplishments aren't the only successes of The Southerner, which also features a great screenplay (William Faulkner was a co-writer) and a strong leading performance from Zachary Scott, an actor who has been unfortunately largely forgotten due to his early demise.  Films about poor rural people are often condescending statements of pity from city-dwelling artists, but The Southerner demonstrates great empathy and understanding toward its characters.  It is both unflinching and sensitive, and is unusually frank for its time.

Try your best to find a good print of The Southerner if you plan to watch it, because the print I saw was not worthy of this beautiful film.

Remaining: 3135 films, 866 Oscars, 5379 nominations

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