Glorious new restoration of a neglected 1960 masterpiece by Elia Kazan (On the Waterfront) with legendary performances from Jo Van Fleet and Lee Remick and Hollywood icon Montgomery Clift.
Screened as part of NZIFF 2011
Elia Kazan may forever be identified with the fury and anguish of Brando and Dean in On the Waterfront and East of Eden. The emotions that animate Kazan’s too little known Wild River are more subtle, but the performances are equally transfixing. Montgomery Clift is an official dispatched to Depression-era Tennessee to persuade an elderly matriarch to take the government pay-out and leave her island plantation before it is flooded by Roosevelt’s mammoth TVA scheme. Startled by the imaginative power of the old woman’s intransigence (Jo Van Fleet is a grizzled force of nature) and stunned by her widowed granddaughter’s (Lee Remick) desire for him, the good-natured progressive finds himself less sure of his ground. The political arguments that course through Wild River have certainly not been settled in the 50 years since it was made. The autumnal lyricism of its cinematography glows anew in this gorgeous Film Foundation restoration. — BG
“A project Kazan nursed for 25 years, after his first visits to the region in the 30s, and the most atmospheric of his works... Clift [was] never so sharp and subtle, a tentative smile, a flick of the eye, a nod conveying the shy city intellectual with an awakening heart and a hidden vein of iron; Van Fleet, only 37 at the time – her makeup took four hours – even stronger and more dominating than in her East of Eden Oscar-winner; and Remick, moving through loneliness, yearning, passion, and rage to create the most complete and developed among all of Kazan’s characters... Long unavailable, this now can be seen as one of the greatest works of one of America’s greatest directors.” — Film Forum, New York