Monday, April 20, 2015

A Walk in the Spring Rain (1970)

          Notwithstanding Anthony Quinn’s inexplicable casting as a Tennessee native and the unexplained presence of Ingrid Bergman’s Swedish accent, A Walk in the Spring Rain is a passable romantic melodrama. Both actors are strong enough to surmount their miscasting, and the combination of a relatively brisk storyline with resplendent location photography keeps the picture palatable. That said, deep problems permeate A Walk in the Spring Rain. For the first hour or so, the picture is almost completely bereft of dramatic conflict, meaning that the weight of the film falls on entirely on Bergman’s shoulders as she depicts the anguish of a woman torn between her fuddy-duddy husband and a charming stranger. Concurrently, Elmer Bernstein’s score is so chaotic that it ruins the efficacy of many scenes. During stable moments, Bernstein provides straightforward emotional string accents. Yet he also punctuates scenes with virile horn signatures better suited to an action movie, and he periodically employs strange juxtapositions of, say, organ chirps and unidentifiable honking noises. Had the film’s narrative been stronger, these musical excesses wouldn’t have been so noticeable, but sizable stretches of the picture comprise aimless montages and/or silly vignettes of (wait for it) Bergman drinking moonshine and/or imitating the bleating vocalizations of goats.
          The very thin basic story is as follows—when college professor Roger Meredith (Fritz Weaver) and his wife, Libby (Bergman), temporarily relocate from New York to Tennessee so Roger can write a textbook, Libby falls for rugged and upbeat handyman Will (Quinn), even though he’s married to the mousy Ann (Virginia Gregg). Predictable complications ensue, but not with enough frequency or impact. Among the underdeveloped tropes is the relationship between Libby and her daughter, Ellen (Katherine Crawford), who perceives Libby as nothing but a readily available babysitter for Ellen’s young son. Although there’s a smidgen of proto-feminist ideology buried inside A Walk in the Spring Rain, the movie is really about the novelty of middle-aged people experiencing romantic passion. Bergman finds abundant pathos and truth in the material, whereas Quinn toggles between cutesy shtick and overwrought melodrama. Writer-producer Stirling Silliphant, whose massive output for film and television includes as much hackery as it does serious endeavors, adapted the movie from a book by Rachel Maddux, and it’s hard to tell whether he envisioned a grown-up drama or a treacly soap. At various times, A Walk in the Spring Rain is both.

A Walk in the Spring Rain: FUNKY

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