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The Moon and Sixpence

The Moon and Sixpence(1942)

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  • moon/sixpence

    • kevin sellers
    • 6/28/15

    A not very satisfying adaptation of the famous Somerset Maugham novel about an artist who abandons wife and family for the paintbrush. There are several things I didn't particularly care about in this film. The biggest is the fact that the artist, Charles Strickland, (modeled on Gauguin) has no interest in other people. This causes the film to have zero conflict, because at no point is Strickland forced to choose between someone he loves and his art. Therefore, the film becomes just one instance after another of Strickland treating people like crap, so he can paint. Indeed, the guy is such a monster of egotism and thoughtlessness that you almost cheer when you find out, at the end, that he has contracted leprosy, a reaction that I'm sure director Albert Lewin was not going for. The other major problem is a streak of sexism and misogyny that runs throughout the entire film. Women are characterized as nags, enemies of artistic creation, and monsters of infidelity. The only woman viewed positively is Strickland's meek, submissive Tahitian wife slash housemaid. As for the performances, George Sanders certainly nails Strickland's selfishness, but he's much less convincing in the early stages of the film, when Strickland is described as an "ordinary stockbroker." George Sanders is many things on screen but "ordinary" is not one of them. Someone like Claude Raines or Alec Guiness would have been a better choice. Herbert Marshall, on the other hand, is perfect as a suave Somerset Maugham (which is, I'm sure, how the novelist wanted to be perceived.) Give it a C plus. P.S. The paintings substituted for Gauguin's works (family wouldn't allow the real ones to be shown) are eminently ordinary. Sure doesn't help to prove that Strickland is a "genius," as everyone in the film says he is.

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