“He is not a man; Andre is a shadow on the wall that flickers when the music plays.”
While a poet (Lionel Stander) shadows a mentally unstable ballet dancer (Ivan Kirov) suspected of killing his wife, a smitten ingenue (Viola Essen) falls in love with Kirov despite the warnings of her stern ballet instructor (Judith Anderson).
Although best known as a prolific screenwriter, Ben Hecht (co)directed a number of interesting titles, such as Crime Without Passion (1934), The Scoundrel (1935), and Angels Over Broadway (1940). Unfortunately, this later effort is much more of a mixed bag, coming across as an intentionally stylized dramatic extension of a dance (per the careers of the main characters) punctuated by overly literate dialogue (Standing’s gravelly-voiced character — what is he doing here, exactly? — is the worst culprit; “And my heart… performed a minuet… in an ashcan”) and odd strains of humor — viz. a flamboyantly fey producer (Michael Chekhov) with a Bob’s Big Boy-esque pompadour who swoons over Kirov’s bare chest and is constantly avoiding payments to his set designer and musicians. Meanwhile, Anderson plays it straight as a dour grand dame of dance, but one wonders what kind of movie she thinks she’s acting in. The strengths of this low-budget film lie in its visuals (Hecht worked with DP Lee Garmes as usual) and the unexpectedly humorous earnestness of its lead characters; during a particularly noteworthy scene, Kirov and Essen make love to each other with and through their eyes: “Hug me with your eyes… Harder.” George Antheil’s unique score is also worth a mention.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Numerous unusual sequences and lines (“You’ve got wonderful knees. Most girls’ knees look like plumbers’ fittings.”)
- Lee Garmes’ cinematography
- George Antheil’s score
No, though it’s worth a look.