Film Scouts Diaries

2010 Torino Film Festival Diaries
John Huston

by Henri Béhar

Torino, Italy, December 3 – The highlight, for me, of this Festival was possibly the substantial, if not complete, retrospective of John Huston's work, juxtaposing fiction films that he directed, from Treasure of Sierra Madre to The Dead, some he only wrote (Raoul Walsh's High Sierra), some he only appeared in (Myra Breckinridge, anyone?) as well as documentaries he shot during WW2, chief among them The Battle of San Pietro and Let There Be Light. For the occasion, two of the director's children – Allegra and Danny – as well as producer Michael Fitzgerald made the trip to Torino.

If The Man Who Would Be King and The Dead are as perfect today as they were when they first came out, my guiltiest pleasure was the rarely seen We Were Strangers, starring John Garfield, Jennifer Jones and Pedro Armendariz.

The story line is pretty strong: A shy and demure bank clerk, China Valdes (Jones), joins the Cuban underground after her brother is killed by the chief of the secret police (Armendariz), She meets and falls in love with an American expatriate, Tony Fenner (Garfield), who comes up with the craziest plan: Let us dig a tunnel that will start at China's house, snake under the city's cemetery all the way to a plot owned by a high official. Then let us assassinate said official, then blow up the whole Cuban hierarchy when they gather for the state funeral. With a handful of dedicated revolutionaries, China and Tony begin digging.

The action takes place in 1933, so I assume the Cuban dictator alluded to here is Gerardo Machado, soon to be replaced by Fulgencio Battista. The film, however, was shot in 1949, so I assume that for Huston, Machado also stood for then-Cuban dictator, Battista. (Not to mention the fact that John Garfield was black-listed at the time). Pretty serious stuff.

So why is it a guilty pleasure? In one word (two, actually): Jennifer Jones. Complete with frizzy hair and a Sarita Montiel accent, she displays the kind of spunk that will remind you of her performances in Duel in the Sun and Ruby Gentry. She must also be the only bank clerk in History to be dressed by Hollywood's legendary designer Jean Louis.

Quick visit to the Museo del Cinema. Too quick. The place is huge, the collections are priceless, the displays awesome. Leaves you nearly inebriated with delight. I am told it is the biggest and best film museum in the world and I am ready to believe it. In and by itself, definitely worth a three-day trip back to Torino.

Previous Installment | Next Installment

Back to Torino Film Festival Diaries

Look for Search Tips

Copyright 1994-2008 Film Scouts LLC
Created, produced, and published by Film Scouts LLC
Film Scouts® is a registered trademark of Film Scouts LLC
All rights reserved.

Suggestions? Comments? Fill out our Feedback Form.