21 October 2002 | rob-284
Hard to take
Romantic quadrangle involving two brothers, one a burgeoning ballet composer; a willful heiress; and a waif. Is it a comedy? Director Paul Czinner is notorious for total uncertainty, and you can go for long stretches here not sure whether you're supposed to laugh or weep or what. The roguish brother encounters the heiress as she bends over to rub a plant: "I don't know when I've seen a nicer aspidistra." Is that meant to be funny? You tell me, but it couldn't be delivered or reacted to more stiffly. One's patience with the film will almost surely hinge on one's tolerance for the waif--it's the director's wife Bergner, she of the butchy blond bob and white culottes, the Peter Pan-like gamin quality and Zorbaesque life philosophy. Her Oscar nomination undoubtedly resulted from how she plays the humiliation when her composer husband rudely pushes her off the stage, too busy to hear about her baby's illness. Bergner is quite affecting there, and also thereafter. But overall, unless one has a taste for the curdled, elfin world-weariness she demonstrates for most of the running time, this picture will pretty much be "interest me never."