Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Wild River

The Fox Movie Channel is showing the relatively little-seen movie Wild River at 10:30 AM ET on April 22. It was apparently released on DVD in France at some point in the past, but doesn't seem to be available on DVD here in the US, so if you want to watch it, you'll have to catch an airing on FMC.

The story is a relatively simple one: in Tenessee during the New Deal, Chuck Glover, an agent of the Tennessee Valley Authority (played by Montgomery Clift), has the unenviable task of making sure one of the dam projects is finished on time. The reason that this task is unenviable is because the dams flood people off their propery, and although the government has used its power of eminent domain to purchase the land and is paying to help relocate people, there are some who don't want to move. Matriarch Ella Garth (Jo Van Fleet), who lives on an island in the river with her sons and their children, is one of those people, and it's Glover's job to convince the entire Garth family to leave.

It's quite understandable that Ella doesn't want to leave, as it's the only home she's known in her entire long life. Some of the relatives are willing to leave though; notably Ella's granddaughter Carol (Lee Remick), whose husband has died. Along the way, she falls in love with Chuck, which makes matters considerably more complicated. This being 1930s Tennessee, there's also the requisite racial tension, and the townsfolk's understandable mistrust of outsiders.

I've mentioned in the past that Montgomery Clift isn't my favorite actor. He's adequate here, but not the reason to watch this moie. There are two big draws in this movie. One is the cinematography, in lovely color and widescreen, nicely capturing the essence of rural Tennessee in the 1930s. Wild River is a movie that wouldn't work as well in black-and-white, or in the older more rectangular format that had been the norm until the introduction of Cinemascope. Just as good, though, is Jo Van Fleet. She was in her mid-40s when she made Wild River, but was made up to look like she was 80. Van Fleet is fabulous playing the tired old lady attached to her land, no longer having anything else to live for. She completely overshadows Clift, and the tired love story between him and Remick.

Wild River is a movie that deserves broader recognition, and this is your opportunity to see it.

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