Wednesday, 17 August 2011

A Screening Suggestion

The critical acclaim of John Ford's 1935 masterwork, The Informer, has been the subject to radical changes in past decades, and now many viewers, including some of Ford's die-hard fans and historians, see it as a "pretentious film," and "an unsuccessful attempt to copy the visual world of Murnau," or a "politically passive" approach to the theme of betrayal. "Perhaps Ford in 1935 wanted to do something flamingly extreme. Many of his pictures had been fast moving, rambling, variegated in mood and tempo, and quite popular,"  Tag Gallagher says, "but it was only when he took on pretentious situation dramas, virtual theater pieces in their literary imagery, that he attracted critical attention for artistry: Men without Women, Arrowsmith, The Lost Patrol. It seems incredible today that anyone could have enjoyed The Informer more than Ford’s other 1935 movies, The Whole Town’s Talking and Steamboat round the Bend."

Now the question is, have John Ford had seen the 1929 version of the same book, made in Britain, and directed by German filmmaker Arthur Robison? The answer hardly could be a no.

The 1929 film was made during the transitional period silent to sound film in Britain. Like Hitchcock's Blackmail, The Informer was released in both sound and silent versions, but as Nathalie Morris reports "with significant differences between the two."

I think this early adaptation of Liam O'Flaherty novel really deserve a revival and new screenings (both versions I hope). Judging from this snapshots one can see how Ford is in debt, visually, to this 1929 version. We're looking forward to a BFI double bill of The Informer!

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