Thursday, May 3, 2007
Our Daily Bread (1934)
It's fascinating to me that in many of these "of the land" pictures, the biggest problem facing the modern farmerman isn't suffering crops, drought or starvation...it's always just some slut. They were always so hopeful that it'll rain someday, or the crops will cash out, but the slut always ruins everyone's lives.
Anyway, this film is a fascinating exercise as much for how it was made and received as the film itself. This film was directed by King Vidor, who had to finance the film out of his own pocket after MGM dismissed it as communist propaganda, and Charlie Chaplin took money out of HIS own pocket to help out (a situation that would later lend to screwing him over with a certain House Un-American Committee).
Anyway, the film is a standard-but-well-told tale of rookie farmers trying to make due living off the land, with one big, communal difference: He calls up a lot of people to do various jobs and live as their own little happy commune, that, other than a few scoundrels (a guy trying to take another guy's land here, a guy attempting to sell some goods there...BUT HE GOT A STERN WARNING!), everyone seems to have bought in to the commune idea (a wanted felon turns himself in and gives the reward for his capture to the commune, AWW! AIN'T THAT SWEET!). But then, that old stalwart slut Sally (Barbara Pepper) tries (and temporarily succeeds) in getting dumbass John (played with atrocious gusto by Tom Keene) to leave his not-only-smarter-and-better-equipped but far-more-attractive wife Mary (played with glorious subtlety by Karen Morley).
But, thankfully, he comes to his senses (purely by chance...a generator happens to be working, which convinces him to not give up on his entire life and run off with an idiot slut), and they have a wonderously edited sequence that takes up the entire last fifth of the film, digging an irrigation ditch to save their farm (almost...Eisensteinian...as if the film wasn't Russian enough, now it's emulating Soviet directors, ha)
All in all, a pretty enjoyable and worthwhile flick, despite the naive optimism of the idea and the terrible lead performance...8/10