Thursday, May 2, 2013

Chelsea's Top Ten - #9 - Marty (Mann, 1955)

9. Marty – Delbert Mann, 1955

            For some odd reason, Marty is often overlooked when modern day film writers compile all-time best lists, even though it won both the Academy Award for Best Picture and the Palme d’Or the year it was released.  (It was one of two films in the history of the medium to accomplish this feat.)  Perhaps this is because Delbert Mann is not an auteur in the traditional sense of the word, but we must remember that Marty is a writer’s picture.  The screenplay is by Paddy Chayefsky, who also penned the brilliant Network, and it is wholly wonderful.  It delights in telling the story of a somewhat homely butcher in his mid-thirties who is plagued by a desperate desire to get married but is unable to get any dates.  It takes place over the course of about two days during which Marty meets his female counterpart and must decide if she’s worth pursuing, because his friends call her “a dog”.  Ernest Borgnine gives a celebrated performance here in a role that is completely off-type.  The main character is so well drawn, and the whole of the film is heartbreaking and earnest, especially in its little details.  There is a conversation at the midpoint of the film that gives the audience a beautiful glimpse of what the future could be for these two, should they have enough courage to attempt it.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen a better, more human love story.

David's Response:

One of the most poignant first dates in all of film.
            There are rare instances when a director’s best service to a script is to simply get out of the way – here is the prime example.  This is the least cinematic great film I have had the privilege to see, and because it zeroes in on a series of simple, yet achingly heartfelt conversations, any directorial flair would have distracted from the remarkable sincerity of its dialogue.   It simply wouldn’t make sense for a story about unassuming, humble folks falling in love to be anything but modest in its own telling of the tale.  Mann’s direction trusts the strength of Chayefsky’s words, and the sincerity of Borgnine’s truly enchanting performance, to indelibly capture the awkward thrills felt by novice romantics.  It is, indeed, a writer’s picture, but perhaps more accurately, it is an everyman’s picture, for like Mann, Chayefsky also gets out of the way of his characters.  In everything, he never draws attention to his own voice, but shows the reserve to provide an unadorned slice of life’s most universal and uncomplicated joy – the feeling of falling in love for the first time.  Simply beautiful.

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