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GONE WITH THE WIND: COMES WITH THE TIMES

Here's a date movie that hasn't dated; but why, asks ANDREW L. URBAN.

The technicalities behind this new print of Gone With The Wind are awesome; from the digital rejuvenation of over 12 minutes of footage to the remastered digital sound and the "astonishing" revival of Technicolor's famed dye transfer printing process. It's a sign of the digital times…..

"writers can get carried away (or blown away) by the Wind"

The latter makes colours significantly more vivid - an entirely appropriate result for a film that portrays this Southern story so vividly. Scarlett (a vivid enough name) could hardly be seen in wishy washy costumes, and that's another thing . . .But as you can see, writers can get carried away (or blown away) by the Wind.

Then there is the aspect ratio (don't look it up, I'll explain). It was made in 1.33 x 1, but most reissues of the film have been printed in 1.85 x 1, a wide screen display that effectively chops a third off the top of the image on screen. Now back in the 1.33 aspect ratio, the film gains height, as it were, and grandeur.

"a great date movie"

Of course, if you don't like the film, now there's even more of it to dislike. (I know one film lover who hates it.) But for many, Gone With The Wind represents the classic romantic epic; it hasn't really dated. But it's a great date movie, all four hours of it. It's hardly demanding, even though its literary source was a source of great pride to Selznick, who felt his literary faithfulness would translate into cinematic 'gravitas' - which the movie clearly does not have. Yet it's a relentlessly popular film whenever re-released.

But why? How come this Southern bitch-belle Scarlett (aptly named) and her wrong- footed life captures our imaginations and our hearts, even? Why do we care about the American Civil War, at a time and place that no longer exist? Why do we care about Rhett's love for Scarlett? What turns us on about the subjects that appear so . . . politically incorrect? And what on earth does Scarlett see in Ashley? Decency?! Yeah, well, opposites attract, I suppose.

Maybe it's the fact that the film is NOT like a book: even at four hours, the story is told faster than you could read it in Mitchell's novel, compacting the drama and the settings. Also, it's in full Technicolor and floating on Max Steiner's soaring score, with a wardrobe from play-dress-ups heaven. And in the final reel, it may be the loss of love that endears generations of audiences to it, giving the film a fittingly melancholy finale.

"Women, I gather, are not predictable"

I can't let this opportunity go without dropping the celebrated Roger Ebert's name; this paragraph of his on the film makes me grin: "The ending still plays like a psychological test for the audience. What do you think we should really conclude? The next-to-last speech in the movie, Rhett Butler's "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn," is one many audience members have been waiting for; Scarlett gets her comeuppance at last. Then comes her speech about Tara, about how, after all, tomorrow is another day. Some members of the audience will read this as an affirmation of strength, others as a renewal of self-delusion. (The most cynical will observe that Scarlett, like many another divorcee disappointed in love, has turned to real estate as a career.)"

If you were hoping the remastered print might have a different ending, sorry, but things haven't got that digital just yet. It ends the same. He walks. And there's the irony - which, indeed, may be another reason to love/hate this film: we see Clark Gable's trying to seduce Vivien Leigh's Scarlett, and recognise these two belong in each other's arms. But, incomprehensibly, inconceivably and incredibly - she doesn't. Yet, hard to believe as it is, it is a contradiction which helps make her real. Women, I gather, are not predictable.

Published September 16, 1999

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CHECKLIST:

Gone With The Wind (1939)
TRAILER


Stars Clark Gable, Vivien Leigh, Leslie Howard, Olivia de Haviland

From the novel by Margaret Mitchell, Sidney Howard

Directed by Victor Fleming

Music by Max Steiner

Produced by David O. Selznick

Won 10 Academy Awards, including Best Picture

Biggest grossing film of all time (inflation adjusted)

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60th Anniversary seasons, presented with a restored and revived print, digital sound and with Max Steiner's original music composed for the audience on entrance, intermission and exit -

Melbourne: The Astor
September 26 - October 9, 1999

Sydney: The Capitol
October 26 - November 7
and November 24 - 30, 1999

This is the first film screening at the restored Capitol in 25 years, but fear not, the equipment is new - specially installed for the season, in fact.

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