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Between Black and White, Cukor’s Style of Colours

Between Black and White, Cukor’s Style of Colours

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French critic Pierre Rissient will introduce Bhowani Junction, the 1956 Ava Gardner starrer, in Locarno's Retrospettiva George Cukor

"Cukor's unique talent was his sense of nurturing the acting, of creating characters which audiences could identify with, especially in comedy, but also in drama," said French veteran critic Pierre Rissient. "Anyway, there was comedy, in the larger meaning of the word, in most of his films."

A Locarno regular, Rissient – described as "the least known, most massively influential person in international cinema" by US critic-director Todd McCarthy in his documentary, Man of Cinema (2007) – has previously introduced films in the Ernst Lubitsch and Otto Preminger retrospectives at the Festival del film Locarno.

When he was asked to pick en entry from the Retrospettiva George Cukor, he chose Bhowani Junction, the 1956 romantic drama starring Ava Gardner. "I could also have opted for The Marrying Kind, the drama-comedy from 1952 with Judy Holliday in the lead – they both represent, in different ways, the essential Cukor," he explained.

Set in 1947, amid the chaos of the British withdrawal from India, Bhowani Junction follows the Anglo-Indian heroine (Gardner), who is torn between her mixed identities and the loves of three suitors – "Cukor's work with the image, the style of colours, affect the whole mood of the film. He does the same in A Star Is Born (1954), but here it is more accomplished."

"Of course I have other favourites. It Should Happen to You, the romantic comedy from 1954, is probably the perfect Judy Holliday film; I am also very fond of Holiday (1938), with Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant – could be because it was co-written by one of my very good friends, Sidney Buchman, who was also head of production at Columbia."

Cukor was often emphasised as 'a women's director' – "well, you can say that about a lot of directors, what about Joseph L Mankiewicz and Raoul Walsh - and true, he had this affinity with female characters, which made them consciously or subconsciously express feelings many others cannot. Actresses liked to work with him: he made ten films with Hepburn."

"But what was also important was that he collaborated extensively with two politically conscious screenwriters, Donald Ogden Stewart and – when he was blacklisted – with Garson Kanin. And though his films are not political per se, there is at least something liberal in them," concluded Rissient, himself the director of two films (and once assistant to Jean-Luc Godard).

Jørn Rossing Jensen

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