Leio que a Criterion acaba de lançar Make Way for Tomorrow em DVD no mercado americano. É um dos meus filmes favoritos (tenho quase certeza que nunca fiz uma lista de dessas que não inclua ele) e considerando que ele é ainda muito obscuro e pouco visto mesmo entre quem costuma se interessa seja por filmes da época e/ou autores hollywood clássicos e díficil de encontrar mesmo neste tempo onde quase tudo esta disponivel para download, é uma grande noticia que a Criterion o torne mais disponivel. O filme costumava circular no Telecine Classic quando aquele canal ainda valia a pena, eu mesmo só tinha um VHS gravado de lá até por para baixar no KG o rip novo. Lembro-me que uns dez anos atrás fiz uma cópia do meu VHS para um amigo que havia se interessado, meu VHS era um tanto esquisito e as vezes alguns filmes gravados nele não rodavam direito em outros aparelhos, pois bem algumas semanas depois este amigo me avisa que a copia viera sem som, mas que ele adorara o filme de qualquer jeito. É um dos poucos filmes que eu consigo imaginar alguém efetivamente assistir deste jeito. Espero mesmo que o filme receba uma atenção maior agora que recebeu o selo de aprovação da Criterion. Aproveito para reproduzir a bela critica do Dave Kehr publicou esta semana:
THERE are few American films as subtle, moving and bursting with human truth as Leo McCarey’s “Make Way for Tomorrow” (1937), and few that have been as unjustly forgotten. Never given a home video release in America, the film this week becomes the 505th DVD in the Criterion Collection, which is to say, it has finally gained its place in the canon.
“Make Way for Tomorrow” has never been an easy sell. Although it is a romance as intense as McCarey’s film “An Affair to Remember” (1957) and has moments as brilliantly funny as “The Awful Truth” (1937), it does not have the seductive presence of Cary Grant. Its leading man is Victor Moore, then 61, a Broadway star from the turn of the century who never quite conquered the movies; his co-star is Beulah Bondi, a 49-year-old character actress who specialized in forbidding society matrons. They play characters in their late 60s or early 70s: Barkley Cooper and his wife, Lucy, the parents of five adult children, all of whom have long left home.
Now Bark and Lucy are about to leave their little suburban cottage as well. It is 1937, and the so-called Roosevelt Recession has settled in, setting off a second wave of bankruptcies and foreclosures. Retired for several years, Bark is no longer able to meet his payments, and the bank is taking their house.
Their children don’t have the room or the resources to take them both in, so the family agrees on a purely temporary measure: Lucy will live in New York City with her oldest son, George (Thomas Mitchell); his wife, Anita (Fay Bainter); and their teenage daughter, Rhoda (Barbara Read). Bark will live in a small town 300 miles from the city, with his daughter Cora (Elisabeth Risdon) and her unemployed husband, Bill (Ralph Remley). The solution seems solid enough, except, as Bark points out, it has never worked for anyone before.
From his first silent shorts McCarey showed himself an acute observer of the inner workings of couples — of the bonds of complicity and collaboration that develop between two people (as in McCarey’s splendid series of Laurel and Hardy films) as well as the network of resentments and insecurities that bind them just as closely on a less conscious level (as in the domestic comedies McCarey made with Charley Chase). With “Make Way for Tomorrow” McCarey seriously contemplates for the first time the undoing of a couple, and the prospect brings out something new in him and rare in American movies: an acknowledgment that disappointment and failure are not only possible, but also make up the better part of human experience.
The French critic Jacques Lourcelles has described “Make Way for Tomorrow” as “a masterpiece of the cinema of cruelty, surpassing in its almost unbearable intensity the best works of the greatest specialists in the genre (for example, Buñuel).” But this is a clear-eyed cruelty, without sadism, developed as a controlled stylistic alternative to the unbridled pathos with which the cinema habitually treats the subject of old age.
The very model of classical Hollywood’s “invisible” filmmakers, McCarey doesn’t work through grand gestures and bold compositions, but rather through carefully judged ellipses and unobtrusive metaphors. Structurally, the film is a marvel of efficiency and expressiveness. After the opening scene that lays out the situation, McCarey jumps ahead by several weeks, to find Lucy living tensely with George’s family on Riverside Drive and Bark sleeping on his daughter’s couch in the country. They will not be reunited in the same frame until the film’s final 30 minutes, a crescendo of rising emotion that ends with the couple’s definitive separation.
In New York, Lucy discovers that she “just won’t fit in at all” with her son’s striving, middle-class family, no more than the heavy old rocking chair (with just the right amount of squeak in its springs) that she has brought with her from home. Bark spends his time at a country store, conversing with the proprietor, Mr. Rubens (Maurice Moscovitch), who has had the wisdom to set something aside for old age. McCarey carefully divides his sympathies in these scenes between the parents and their children. Lucy may be loving and responsible, but she is also judgmental and manipulative; the more easygoing Bark carries the comedy here (memorably torturing a young doctor), but without Lucy to manage him, he becomes infantile and helpless. There are no victims or villains, only people touched by circumstance.
Finally the children come up with the excuses needed to get rid of their cumbersome parents. Bark will be sent to California to live with another, never-seen daughter, ostensibly for reasons of health; Lucy will go to an old folks’ home, where she’ll have “friends of her own age.” Bark will have to come to New York to catch the train west, giving them one last day together.
And here, McCarey does something amazing. As the two old people move through Midtown, retracing the course of their honeymoon trip 50 years before, the city seems to blossom for them. In a film so far dominated by petty acts of selfishness, they encounter a series of characters, all strangers (the first is even a car salesman), who treat them with kindness and generosity.
A film defined by close, cramped quarters and, for McCarey, an uncharacteristically restrained use of music, suddenly becomes spatially expansive and filled with melody. When the couple enter the lobby of the grand old hotel where they spent their wedding night, the manager treats them to a cocktail; when they take a spin on the dance floor, the orchestra leader obligingly shifts from a Latin tune to “Let Me Call You Sweetheart.”
When the time comes for their farewell at the station, the moment of grace is over. It has become devastatingly clear that no Hollywood miracle is going to occur, and Bark and Lucy say goodbye, holding back their feelings in hope of sparing each other. McCarey moves in for a medium close-up of Lucy as she watches Bark’s train pull away, and the range of emotion that crosses her face, during this extended, wordless take, defies written description. Lucy looks down, up, and down again; the train, which we’ve seen moving in the soft-focus background behind her, is gone, leaving only an empty stillness. She turns, and starts to walk out of the frame.
And that is why I love the movies.