Tonight (well, nearly three weeks ago now) I saw an exquisite 35mm print of Elia Kazan’s Wild River. Shot in CinemaScope in 1960, dead in the middle of the glorious CinemaScope era, Wild River is an exemplary contribution to the original widescreen cinematic format.
Elia Kazan, that was utterly wonderful, exhausting, devastating. I am heartbroken and in awe. Perfect.
There is a scene, towards the film’s epic, enduring denouement, in which Carol (Lee Remick) opens her heart to Chuck (Montgomery Clift) with a desperate intensity that emerges only when you love someone who is, as she says, not easy to love. Chuck is not open, he does not speak openly about his feelings, nor does he respond to Carol’s declarations of love, to her attempts to form a relationship with him. He is sitting on the couch at her home, his eyes almost blank, looking towards her but staring at nothing, and his resistance to feel anything is palpable. He is scared of what he feels; so is she, but she embraces it. He runs away and all that ever breeds is regret.
An awful scene. Amazing, really, its honesty bleeding from both Remick’s and Clift’s eyes, the pain of their situation emerging with such rare heat and ferocity. So I say awful but that’s only in the way it aroused such emotions within me. I am literally weak thinking back to the scene now.
Chuck finally responds at Carol’s emotional level when he had witnessed her express herself, bravely reveal her feelings, and then bite a guy’s ear off in Chuck’s defense. It is then that he loves her – when she reveals herself to be a woman of strength, resolve, and certainty. When she shows her audacity and courage. It shouldn’t have taken all that, but it is wonderful that he responded to it. If a man starts off being without the capacity for emotion, then the true spirit of a woman should at least coax it out. And if it doesn’t…..what else is there?