The Clock (Vincente Minnelli / U.S., 1945):

"Manhattan crowds, with their turbulent musical chorus!" (Whitman) The virginal vision of the city is a loving studio evocation, Vincente Minnelli promptly makes himself at home with the rhythmic bustle of Penn Station. The soldier (Robert Walker) is an Indiana kid in New York, the office secretary (Judy Garland) plays guide, confidante, and, finally, soulmate over the course of the two-day furlough. Their tour of parks and museums pauses long enough to take in the nocturnal hum of the setting -- train whistles and sirens in the distance, chorales rising as the two lovers move toward their first embrace and kiss, filmed like planets stirred into monumental orbit. "Letís allow our emotions free rein, shall we?" The skyscrapers are daunting, but the metropolis is peopled by marshmallows like James Gleasonís avuncular milkman, whose sleepy-hour route gives the couple a chaste chance to bond and a glimpse of homely matrimony. (Keenan Wynnís single-take, choleric barroom rant is a welcome drop of vinegar.) The pasteurized MGM treacle is transformed by Minnelliís Italianate sense of vulnerability, which even weaves a thread of Murnau into the tapestry: Garland and Walker riding the subway and being separated by the surging crowd as they switch cars, one unbroken camera movement. The scramble for the wedding license gently adumbrates Kafka, the comically rushed ceremony is redeemed by spiritual vows improvised in an empty cathedral (more Murnau) and the pantomimed satisfaction of morning-after consummation. The long line of consequences (at its purest in Linklaterís Before Sunrise-Before Sunset double-bill) hasnít dimmed the poignancy of evanescent romance braving urban landscapes and wartime ruptures, captured by a gliding-craning-caressing camera. Cinematography by George J. Folsey. With Ruth Brady, Marshall Thompson, Lucille Gleason, and Moyna MacGill. In black and white.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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