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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)

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