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NEVER FEAR (AKA YOUNG LOVERS)

USA, 1950 (MIFF 1996, Ida Lupino - Director)

Director: Ida Lupino

Carol Williams is a dancer; Guy Richards, her partner/choreographer. The opening se­quences spotlight a series of professional and private celebrations by the about-to-be-married couple as they successfully perform their big dance number—a sexy love/fencing duel. Suddenly, a surprise cut to the stage reveals Carol, struck, as we soon learn, with polio. Few scenes in any film rival in intensity these brief moments of Carol's slowly dawning awareness of her illness. She literally hangs on the ropes, exploring silent disaster, the inwardness of her experience greatly magnified by director Lupino with the hallucinatory sound distortions, spacily unfocussed point-of-view shots, and deliberately disjunctive editing.

Never Fear highlights one of the most fascinating aspects of Lupino's films: the intersection of 'woman's picture' emotionalism with full-frame documentary realism. Much of it was shot on location at the Kabat-Kaiser Institute, an actual rehabilitation centre. The subjectively charged early scenes give way to montages of hospital therapy sessions, Lupino managing to capture (as few other filmmakers have) a nonsexual but very physical sense of a woman's body. These therapy scenes, in their extreme fragmentation and matter-of-fact doggedness, both validate and place Carol's efforts and triumphs.

Yet the objective/subjective tensions persist, stressed throughout by the emergence of 'personal' symbols, cropping up even within the film's more sterile, impersonal environments: the swords and hearts of the choreographed dance, the moulded then mutilated clay couple, a somehow sinister statue of Pan (God of a sexuality that has fled?), and the reappearance of boyfriend Guy. like some dream-doubled spectre of Carol's past, standing against a giant gardenia-papered wall holding a gardenia. (RS)

See also...

CALLING THE SHOTS

Canada, 1988
... ... Of the various men's clubs reluctantly desegregated by feminism, the movie industry has been one of the more resilient to change. Still largely a boy's game, big-league moviemaking has proved… More »

NOT WANTED

USA, 1949
... ... Even though she chose not to take director's credit (she stepped in after Elmer Clifton had a heart attack three days into production). Not Wanted bears the unmistakable stamp of a Lupino fil… More »

OUTRAGE

USA, 1950
... ... For a film on the then taboo of rape, Lupino's| Outrage opens breezily enough. It's book­keeper heroine Ann (Mala Powers) has a fiance, whose raise assures her happy integration into the … More »

HARD, FAST AND BEAUTIFUL

USA, 1951
... ... No exemplary sports biopic peppered with personal problems and topped with sweet victory, Hard Fast & Beautiful signally refuses to equate life with 'the game'-in this case, tennis. Phenom Fl… More »

THE HITCH-HIKER

USA, 1953
... ... The Hitch-Hiker, considered by many, including Lupino herself, to be her best film, is a classic, tension-packed tour de force thriller about two men (Edmond O'Brien and Frank Lovejoy) in Mex… More »

© Melbourne International Film Festival 2013.

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