JOY OF LIVING
Olivier Comte | Neuilly FRANCE | 01/19/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Once upon a time there was a movie (or "film", since it takes itself very seriously), with a gay director and gay actors.
Gays were repressed and seen as unamerican aliens (especially by the House Committee...). They could understand and show the plight of women and minorities. James Whale had done just that in WATERLOO ROAD and ONE MORE RIVER. The master George Cukor had directed one of his masterpieces with THE MODEL AND THE MARRIAGE BROKER.It was an opportunity to show teenagers as strangers in their own country, treated as enemies, as gays were. Alas, it was all about whining, led by a cry baby, pretty long in his teenager tooth.
The adulterer cries that his wife doesn't understand him. The whining adolescents of the film whined that their parents didn't understand them.
I would call that family adultery by whining.
There was no real sens of alienation, except in a forced theatrical way.
35 years later, John Waters gives us a true masterpiece, which doesn't take itself seriously.
The situation is simple: no guilty parents. The society separates easily the upper and middle classes from the poor people.
The poor teenagers are juvenile delinquents by nature. They are very innocent here.
The action takes place in 1954, the same year that the notorious "film" was shot (released in 1955.
THE BLACKBOARD JUNGLE was published in 1954, the tame but very good film was released in 1955.THE JUNGLE KIDS, also by Evan Hunter was published as a Pocket books original in July 1956. It is a heart wrenching American masterpiece. A MATTER OF CONVICTION followed in 1959 (another very good film). they deal with teenagers becoming unwilling J.D.
The unexpensive DVD is a thing of joy: very good transfer for a very good cinematography and visual style. Waters wanting to recreate the saturated colors of the mid fifties (you can watch them in Paramount films,the Jerry Lewis movies if you are not prejudiced.
It's all about what makes youth so important: joy of living, dynamism, in a latter Mickey Rooney sort of way, invention.
The songs are exciting, the choreography is stirring. Everything is perfect.
An inspired casting idea is POLLY BERGEN, still looking great, as the rich, straitlaced at first, grandmother.
She didn't act in many movies but will be remembered for KISSES FOR MY PRESIDENT 1964 (unreleased in France) where she is elected as President of the US but soon sees her kids adrift, her husband without his firm. "Fortunately",she becomes pregnant and resigns.
Sexism is not an invention by the East coast lberals.