Thursday, August 20, 2009

This Property Is Condemned


This Property Is Condemned; Drama, USA, 1966; D: Sydney Pollack, S: Natalie Wood, Mary Badham, Robert Redford, Kate Reid, Charles Bronson

The mysterious Owen arrives in a small Mississippi town and decides to stay at a local Boarding house which is run by Hazel. He also meets her two daughters, the little girl Willie and 20-year old Alva who seems to be the most desired girl in town since all the men in the house are trying to get her attention. But she falls for Owen, even though he is rather cold towards everyone. It turns he works as an inspector for the railroad and has come to lay off workers. He leaves, while Hazel plans to persuade Alva to "spend some time" with the rich, but lonely Mr. Johnson who in return will give them an estate. But she spontaneously marries Hazel's friend J.J. and leaves for New Orleans. There she meets Owen again and they fall in love, but that is shattered when Hazel tells him she married J.J. Alva runs away and dies from Pneumonia.

One of Natalie Wood's last roles before she started making longer and longer pauses between her movies, "This Property is Condemned" is an interesting and proportionally ferocious drama that was made by the screenplay that prolonged the short one act play by Tennessee Williams, but remained faithful to all his typical trademarks: American South, suppressed sexuality and tragic, 'condemned' characters. The most enduring thing that remained in the story is the daring subject and relationships it tackles: definitely, due to censorship, not everything was spelled out, but it is implied that the 43-year old Hazel was once a prostitute and that she is trying to pass some of that behavior to her beautiful daughter Alva (Wood), especially in the scene where she is trying to persuade her to "sacrifice just a few weeks of her life" to be with the bald, unattractive but rich Mr. Johnson who in return would give them an estate. The dramatic structure could have been more articulated and not so "off", but many scenes reveal Sydney Pollack's sure hand, like the one where Alva invites everyone to skinny dipping or when she jokingly asks Owen about the "above-ground graves in New Orleans". But the movie truly starts only in the last 20 minutes where Alva and Owen start a relationship, since Wood and Redford have such great chemistry. Wood was nominated for a Golden Globe as best actress.

Grade:++

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