Splendor In The Grass

Natalie Wood's Deanie Loomis in Splendor In The Grass is performance that's way up there. You can feel her transformations, from an innocent girl, to the part when she feels her love for Bud is robbed by one of her classmates, to her declining mental state, her abyss, then back up, to where she has moved on, as though she, indeed, has found "strength in what remains behind" - to quote William Wordsworth (1770–1850) from "Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood". A classroom scene talks about a part of that poem, from which the film borrows a phrase:

What though the radiance which was once so bright
Be now for ever taken from my sight,
Though nothing can bring back the hour
Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower;
We will grieve not, rather find
Strength in what remains behind;

On the other hand, I'm not quite sure about Warren Beatty's Bud, although he got his share of accolade for his work in this film. And thumbs up, indeed, to Zohra Lampert's Angelina - who only appeared in a few scenes - but played her part well as the woman Bud would eventually marry. There's nice touch in the last part when Angelina is aware about her own clothing, after she meets Deanie who is dressed quite elegantly for Bud but doesn't know that he already has a baby, and another one in the oven. Deanie, too, is aware of her own clothing after meeting Bud's wife. Somehow Deanie realizes she has dressed up for some occasion that doesn't quite belong to what Bud has become, now husband and farmer, what he always wanted to be, ever since, even when his father told him he has to go to Yale. It's as though Deanie realizes that "nothing can bring back the hour [o]f splendour in the grass" with Bud, their years together. It's one of the most painful moments in the film.

Sometimes I wonder if James Dean would've been better for the part of Bud, even though he passed away six years before, in 1955. Marlon Brando would've been good, too, or Monty Clift, but perhaps not Paul Newman. If Beatty and his fans read this, I'm sure they'll get mad. Now this film was Beatty's first as leading man, and already won him a Golden Globe Award, for Most Promising Newcomer, that is; and so, I guess this suggests my assessment of him in this film is incorrect. However, while watching this Eliza Kazan film, I must've been thinking of The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone, in which Beatty's matinee idol appeal fits perfectly well as a Tennessee Williams protagonist.

No comments: