UNDERCURRENT (Vincente Minnelli, 1946)

Stylishly directed by Vincente Minnelli, this captivating thriller finds a chemistry professor’s daughter falling for and marrying a man of many secrets. Ann Hamilton (Katharine Hepburn, so wonderful here that her performance refreshes one’s whole opinion of her) slowly discovers that it is really her brother-in-law, whom she believes she has never met, with whom she is in love. Moreover, her inquiries into her husband’s past unhinge the jealous airplane manufacturer, who now is trying to kill her.
     This excellent film casts a backward eye. During the Second World War, Alan Garroway made a fortune as a war profiteer after stealing a bit of technology from a German refugee (a Jew, one surmises). What happened to the German? What happened to Alan’s brother?
     Ann is plain and gauche (Hepburn?!), but she faintly resembles the beauty who rejected Alan, and his tranformation of his bride unconsciously certifies control over women and over the past.
     While the narrative may seem casual, with a lot of red herrings to mask real events and motives, thematically this film is taut. Fraternal conflict and betrayal, as well as marital conflict and betrayal, reflect on marketplace machinations and national betrayal, puncturing notions of wartime commitment and the purity of science and technology. Spectacularly entertaining, this film is uncommonly thoughtful as well, somewhat anticipating Arthur Miller’s play All My Sons. It is also a grand love story—one of exquisite tact and patience, with the feelings involved slowly taking form in the psyches of Ann and a gentleman other than her spouse.
     Too, there are knockout moments of suspense, a few of them involving an uncontrollable horse.
     As brother Michael, Robert Mitchum gives the best performance.
     The Third Movement of Johannes Brahms’s Third Symphony lends delicious notes of love, mystery and pastoral passion.

B(U)Y THE BOOK

MY BOOK, A Short Chronology of World Cinema, IS CURRENTLY AVAILABLE FROM THE SANDS FILMS CINEMA CLUB IN LONDON. USING EITHER OF THE LINKS BELOW, ACCESS THE ADVERTISEMENT FOR THIS BOOK, FROM WHICH YOU CAN ORDER ONE OR MORE COPIES OF IT. THANKS.

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