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Missing but Not Forgotten: This Angry Age (1958)


The Turner Classic Movie website has a page where movie lovers can vote for the film they’d most like to see issued on DVD.

For a while, the Number One title has been THE AFRICAN QUEEN, to be sure an egregiously overlooked title.  Yet this week, I was totally flabbergasted to see that the one “lost” movie I’ve been aching with curiosity to see has made it to the top of TCM’s list, outdistancing THE AFRICAN QUEEN by almost a thousand votes:  THIS ANGRY AGE from 1958.

Made in Thailand, in color and widescreen, by an international cast and crew, THIS ANGRY AGE is an adaptation of Marguerite Duras’ semi-autobiographical novel of French Indochina in the 1930s, The Sea Wall (Barrage contre le Pacifique), which was later reworked into the book and film THE LOVER…a movie so hot that I thought I’d explode by the fourth reel.

Duras and her brother are played by Italian sex diva Silvana Mangano and Anthony Perkins — Perkins was brought in after the death of James Dean who was originally signed for the part.  I have read accounts by those lucky few who have seen this movie that Mangano and Perkins, via lighting and application of makeup, are presented in ways that heighten their physiological similarities.  Other top actors in the cast include Nehemiah Persoff, Richard Conte and Alida Valli.  Also, the masterly and brilliant actress Jo Van Fleet plays their mother.  While living in Europe during the Hollywood blacklist, American novelist Irwin Shaw (The Young Lions, Two Weeks in Another Town) adapted the novel to the screen.  Three-time Cannes winner and two-time Oscar-winning director Rene Clement helmed the project.  Fellini’s favorite composer, Nino Rota, scored the music; Otello Martelli, who shot Fellini films such as LA DOLCE VITA and NIGHTS OF CABIRIA, was the director of photography.

While 1992’s THE LOVER told Duras’ story of her coming of age in colonial Saigon via an illicit affair with a young Asian man, The Sea Wall told more of her family and of their life on a farm at the mouth of the Mekong Delta (a narrative only tangentially used in THE LOVER).  Marguerite Duras’ mother, a widow in France, is seduced by the French colonial rhetoric of going to the Indochinese colony and purchasing farmland for a reduced price.  If she has made the land profitable in three years, she may keep the land.  If not, she loses her money and the government reclaims the land.  They arrive and are given land east of Saigon only to find that they have spent their last centime on land that is located in a tidal basin, and that every year their crops are washed away by sea water.  [It was a scam of the corrupt colonial civil servants:  they would sell the useless land, then confiscate it after three years and resell to another unsuspecting family.]  The mother tries to construct a wall against the sea, hence the title of the novel and the film’s foreign distribution title.

The title THIS ANGRY AGE was a marketing hook by the U.S. releasing company, Columbia Pictures.  And, if you follow home video releases, you know that if a film was made over a decade ago by Columbia, that it hardly ever sees a video distribution.  The suits at Columbia (or more precisely, the parent company SONY) are totally clueless as to the treasures they are sitting on.  Of all the Golden Age and post-Classic Hollywood movie studios, Columbia’s works are least available to home video consumers and cable tv watchers.  Even when they do release a classic, it is usually in the wrong format (e.g., Preminger’s Anatomy of a Murder was released by Columbia DVD in a non-widescreen edition, with the sides of the movie chopped off).

Let’s hope the TCM poll makes a difference.

Doug / PoMo Joan

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2 Comments to “Missing but Not Forgotten: This Angry Age (1958)”

  1. Daryl Chin says:

    I’m one of the lucky few that got to see THIS ANGRY AGE when it was first released. It’s hard to remember exact details, but it seemed a very “exotic” movie because it was shot on location (as was Mankiewicz’s THE QUIET AMERICAN in the same year) and the widescreen cinematography was so striking (courtesy of Claude Renoir). I’m glad that more people seem interested in this movie: Rene Clement directed a number of terrific movies in the 1950s which have now become “obscure”, including his two “international” films, THIS ANGRY AGE and THE KNAVE OF HEARTS (a.k.a. MONSIEUR RIPOIS). And yes, i do remember that Silvana Mangano and Anthony Perkins were photographed so that they seemed to be twins, both with very sharp profiles,

  2. yuri_nahl says:

    What a great movie. I saw it when I was 10 in 1958or so. It seemed to make perfect sense and helped as a model for my attitude. Then, “The Lover” 1992 (! !) To find out it was “the same author” ! ! I’m trying to find one to buy.

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