Saturday, September 20, 2008

How Green Was My Valley

How Green Was My Valley; drama, USA, 1941; D: John Ford, S: Roddy McDowall, Walter Pidgeon, Maureen O'Hara, Donald Crisp, Sara Allgood, Anna Lee 
Wales. The 50-year old Huw Morgan is preparing to leave his hometown Cwm Rhondda and thus remembers his childhood: as a little boy, he grew up with his mother Beth, sister Angharad and his four brothers and father Gwylm who all worked in the local coal mine. Many events happened: when the wages plummeted the workers went to strike; Huw froze in winter and couldn't walk for months; brother Ivor got married to Bronwyn; Huw went to elementary school and was beaten by bullies. When Angharad got married to Mr. Evans she still loved preacher Gruffyd who decided to leave the town due to all the bad rumors. Just then an accident happened and Huw's father died in the mine.

"How Green Was My Valley" was never "officially" selected as a classic, but it's a very fine film full of nostalgia and love for the author's passion for his homeland in Wales, refusing to turn into a spectacle in favor of an intimate, small and personal little drama and coming-of-age story told from the perspective of the little Huw, played by the 12-year old Roddy McDowall. John Ford once again shows that he can direct, and really well, whether it's the work with actors or the framing of the shots or the capture of the beauty of the landscapes, which is one of the reasons why he won his third Oscar as best director in his career and why "Valley" also won a statue for best picture, even though, truth be said, there were better films released that year. Slightly overlong and "rough" in handling with a few backward features of the mentality of the people, "Valley" still feels fresh and vivid thanks to small, but great moments and details (Gwilym doesn't want to speak about strike at the table, but one of his sons say: "I speak against injustice even without permission!"; teacher Jonas punishes little Huw by beating him, so his two, elder brothers enter the full classroom one day and teach the teacher not beat little kids by "humorously" slapping him in front of the kids; preacher Gruffyd rebels against the people in town who accused him of having an affair with Angharad, so he gives them all a verbal lesson in church by asking them: "Why do you go to church anyway? Just to disguise your hypocrisy?") which means that it can be easily watched without a problem even today.


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