Online edition of India's National Newspaper
Saturday, Jun 25, 2011
Google



Metro Plus Mangalore
Published on Saturdays

Features: Magazine | Literary Review | Life | Metro Plus | Open Page | Education Plus | Book Review | Business | SciTech | NXg | Friday Review | Cinema Plus | Young World | Property Plus | Quest |

Metro Plus    Bangalore    Chennai    Coimbatore    Delhi    Hyderabad    Kochi    Madurai    Mangalore    Pondicherry    Thiruvananthapuram    Vijayawada    Visakhapatnam   

Printer Friendly Page Send this Article to a Friend

LIGHTS, CAMERA, CONVERSATION...

The Greatness of Miniature art

BARADWAJ RANGAN

How much movie can be packed into a running time of 65 minutes? John Sturges gives a master class in “Jeopardy”



A WOMAN IN JEOPARDY Subtext in the middle of story “Jeopardy”

The MGM lion roars and fades into music as brisk as the movement of vehicles on a sea-hugging road. Then the title, “Jeopardy”, which jumps out as titles do on the covers of pulp fiction, with serrated edges and the scent of thrill. After the opening credits, the camera zooms in on a single car with a trailer, and the heroine (Helen, played by the irrepressible Barbara Stanwyck) talks about America as a civilisation that moves on wheels. This voiceover tells us that this is her story, that she is the narrator-protagonist.

The car stops at the Mexican border, and we see, inside, Helen's young son Bobby and husband Doug, who reveals that they are going fishing. They are let through, but soon they're stopped and warned by cops. We're about ten minutes into the movie, and we already have the barebones of a plot — happy American family heading into unfamiliar territory and danger.

They reach a spot that slopes down to the sea. Again, Helen's voiceover hints at danger. “I hated that jetty the moment I saw it.” They are in the middle of nowhere and the camera captures this perfectly with a starkly elemental composition with the car at the centre — there's just sky above and sea below. They head down to the beach, where Bobby, who's headed too far out on the jetty, has gotten his foot stuck between planks.

Doug sets out to rescue his son. Just twenty minutes have elapsed. Doug extricates Bobby like a gentle passer-by freeing a fawn from a hunter's trap, but the relief is short-lived. Doug slips through the rotted wood and falls into the sea, his foot buried under a stout shaft of timber.


The tide is rising. About twenty-five minutes in, Doug realises that it's hopeless, that they need help. Helen drives away. Around the thirty-fifth minute, she reaches a garage where a man, Lawson, offers to help. She jumps into the car as Lawson takes the wheel, and we cut away to a dead Mexican. This is the man the cops warned Doug about. He grabs Doug's gun and asks her to drive.

Around the fifty-five-minute mark. Helen tells Lawson that if he helps her she'll do anything. They kiss. Is this a kiss to beguile him, or is Helen, trapped in that conformist landscape of 1950s America, genuinely turned on by this loose cannon, who's conveniently the “same size” as her husband?

At the beach, one hour in, Lawson saves Doug and walks away with his clothes. An unexpected note of ambivalence in a drama made in 1953, when it would have been far more acceptable to have Lawson — the single man, the non-family man, the man who made overtures on the wife of another man — swallowed up by an angry sea.

The names of the characters and actors come up around the sixty-fifth minute, by which time we've followed a story, veered off into subtext, and returned to an ending that's not really an ending because the villain is allowed to go unpunished.

“Jeopardy” is not a prestige picture aimed at the Oscar voter, just a little genre piece aimed at the ticket buyer. And yet, there is so much sly craft on display. It's like miniature art — the size of the canvas belies the scope of the achievement.

Printer friendly page  
Send this article to Friends by E-Mail



Metro Plus    Bangalore    Chennai    Coimbatore    Delhi    Hyderabad    Kochi    Madurai    Mangalore    Pondicherry    Thiruvananthapuram    Vijayawada    Visakhapatnam   

Features: Magazine | Literary Review | Life | Metro Plus | Open Page | Education Plus | Book Review | Business | SciTech | NXg | Friday Review | Cinema Plus | Young World | Property Plus | Quest |


The Hindu Group: Home | About Us | Copyright | Archives | Contacts | Subscription
Group Sites: The Hindu | Business Line | Sportstar | Frontline | Publications | eBooks | Images | Home |

Comments to : thehindu@vsnl.com   Copyright 2011, The Hindu
Republication or redissemination of the contents of this screen are expressly prohibited without the written consent of The Hindu