hcanter

IMDb member since January 2008
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Reviews

The Fallen Sparrow
(1943)

Fallen Sparrow Rises Above!
While this is not the greatest Garfield movie, it contains one of his most gritty and complex performances. While his tough, streetwise characters usually have a tender, caring heart that is in the right place, in this film he portrays a vulnerable, nearly-broken man who really has to work hard to summon the strength to fight and survive. The depiction of what would have been known then as "battle fatigue" or "war neuroses" is superb, and very true to what we now recognize under the rubric of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). It is worthy of study both as a film and as a kind of clinical document or case study of this condition. The use of expressionistic camera, lighting, and sound techniques to intensify the viewer's grasp of his interior mental/emotional status is quite effective, and I think this is what prompts some to classify it as a proto-Film Noir; this, along with some voice-over narration and duplicitous femme fatale characters might also lend such elements of noir identity. However, I am not too sold on that, any more than I would be to call Citizen Kane a film noir because it uses strong lighting & camera effects or a complex flashback narrative pattern. I think it is a good solid war drama full of some ambitious ideas and novel effects for that time period. As most reviewers note, the plot is convoluted and difficult to piece together, and the loyalty of many characters is dubious, kind of like The Big Sleep or The Maltese Falcon (now THERE'S a couple of films noir!), and probably contributes to the lesser-known status of this film. I think the focus on the "battle standard" is maybe not something that evokes a visceral reaction in most people either, so it is hard to wonder why everyone is struggling so hard to obtain it. We can all get why the characters want to possess a jewel-encrusted statuette of the black bird--or even some secret microfilm--but the Borgia flag is a little more abstract. All in all, I think the film is strongest in the acting department, and none stronger than John Garfield. I think it should be re-released as soon as possible on DVD in a nice print and with some extra features--it is more deserving than a lot of other things that roll off the assembly line!!

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