Blog Directory CineVerse: The Eve of destruction

The Eve of destruction

Thursday, March 23, 2017

"All About Eve" is essentially all about bad girls pretending to be good and good girls behaving badly and the boys who adore them. But it's also about power dynamics in relationships, the challenges men and women experience in trying to understand one another, and the damage inflicted by deceit and devious manipulations. Those are among the conclusions reached by our CineVerse group after viewing the movie last evening. Here are some others:

WHY IS THIS FILM STILL MEMORABLE AND ENTERTAINING, EVEN 67 YEARS AFTER ITS THEATRICAL RELEASE?
This has been called a “writer’s picture,” and the sparkling dialogue has often been noted as among the very best in Hollywood history; this screenplay, in fact, ranks number five on the Writers Guild of America’s list of 101 greatest screenplays.
It’s more than just the spoken words that shine, however: All About Eve is also masterfully structured as a story. Blogger Jason Fraley wrote: “All About Eve revolutionized the sort of non-linear, fractured narrative structure to which we’ve become so accustomed. It was one of three phenomenal examples of fractured narratives in 1950, joining Sunset Boulevard and Rashomon… Eve begins with its ending, then loops back around to that same scene at the end. How clever that the scene featured both at the beginning and the end is an award ceremony, where the person giving the acceptance speech may actually be hated by all those she’s then thanking. We dive into this idea in one long extended flashback, where voiceovers from various characters unravel the story in a way that we think we know who we’re rooting for. But by the time the film’s third act arrives, we have totally different sentiments for the film’s characters, and that is the true brilliance of the script. We watch Margot go from snobby heel to sympathetic victim, and Eve from na├»ve innocent to conniving bitch.”
The screenplay’s structure is also conjoined with the exploration of two character arcs that intersect and diverge: one character is Margot, grappling with feelings of insecurity, aging into obsolescence, and self-doubt as she presumably heads into a downward trajectory; the other is a wolf in sheep’s clothing who is headed in the opposite direction after sleeping and scheming her way to the top.
Interestingly, for a film about actors and theatrical talent, we don’t ever see anybody performing on stage or in front of the camera. Reviewer Glenn Erickson said: “All About Eve cautiously avoids showing anybody performing, and instead uses testimony to describe Margot’s star qualities and Eve’s sensational breakthrough performance.” In other words, what fascinates us is the backstage banter, off-camera jockeying for power, and behind-the-scenes drama.
Cattiness, cynicism, and the conniving, usurping nature of human beings never go out of style. The way that Eve worms her way slyly into the accepting circle of Margot, and the subtle nuances that help her accomplish her scheme, make for intriguing entertainment.
The fact that the film received a record 14 Academy award nominations – winning six, such as Best Picture – has become an oft-quoted footnote in Hollywood history and film fan trivia. Such accolades attract old and new generations to the movie, with many viewers wanting to see what all the fuss was about.
The cast is among the greatest ever assembled for a major motion picture, with many giving arguably career-defining performances, including Bette Davis, Celeste Holm, George Sanders, Thelma Ritter, and Anne Baxter.
While this isn’t an overtly feminist film, there is evidence that suggests female dominance here at a time when women characters were often subjugated in a patriarchal society. Consider that the female characters are given more screen time and significance than their male counterparts. Additionally, “what makes Mankiewicz’s approach gently revolutionary is the female leads’ reluctance to sit back and passively transform from objects of desire into (bluntly) mothers and/or wives,” wrote Slant Magazine reviewer Joseph Jon Lanthier. “Even Eve… sees her attractiveness as means to an end: It’s power, not sex, that she wants. (In) the movie’s climax… Mankiewicz grants them their dreams with surprisingly little patriarchal compromise: Margot escapes the stage’s unforgiving clutches, and Eve wins success at what is, really, a nominal social fee. The refreshing implication is not that women need men to succeed, but that both sexes may need one another to keep their respective evils in check.”

WHAT THEMES SURFACE AFTER VIEWING THIS FILM?
There’s a hidden predator in all of us that sometimes surfaces if we are to survive and thrive.
Comeuppance can be karmic and cruel but deliciously ironic, too.
Human beings often wear masks to disguise their real intentions and personalities.
The injustice and unfairness of growing old and being replaced by someone younger.

OTHER FILMS THAT COME TO MIND AFTER WATCHING ALL ABOUT EVE
Sunset Boulevard
Limelight, which also details the fall from popularity of an old-time star
Fedora
Whatever Happened to Baby Jane

OTHER MOVIES DIRECTED BY JOSEPH L MANKIEWICZ
Cleopatra
The Ghost and Mrs. Muir
A Letter to Three Wives
Sleuth
Suddenly, Last Summer
Guys and Dolls

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