Tuesday, December 1, 2009

422) So Long at the Fair (1950)

422) So Long at the Fair (1950) Dir: Terence Fisher and Antony Darnborough Date Released: March 1951 Date Seen: December 1, 2009 Rating: 3.25/5

I must confess that I'm at a loss when it comes to So Long at the Fair. I've seen bits and pieces of it on TV once or twice before, which is remarkable considering that it's a rather obscure Brit noir, but have never sat down and watched it all the way through until today. It was a frustrating experience because the foreignness of the film's mystery, the most alluring aspect of the viewing experience in any noir, wasn't as striking as the first time around. Having already seen Vicky Barton (Jean Simmons), a hapless Briton abroad in Paris, run from the concierge to the British consulate after her brother Johnny (David Tomlinson) seemingly vanishes without a trace of ever having accompanied her, the film just didn't grab me by the throat like it used to.

At the same time, the film itself is also to blame for my discombobulation. So Long at the Fair's beguiling anticlimax leaves much to be desired and too much unresolved for the sake of a perplexing ending that has something to do with a budding crisis in French nationalism and an inexplicable resurgence of the plague. Yeah...no amount of context in the film can prepare you ready for this ending.

As if that wasn't bad enough, the film's depiction of the British-French connection is consistently muddled at best. Brits in the film high-handedly dismiss the French as foreigners and hence inherently suspicious, which is especially strange considering that they in fact are tourists visiting Paris for the World's Fair. Conversely, the elaborate lengths that the French hotel workers go to to keep Vicky from her brother suggests that behind their clucking is a nation of proud victims unwilling to admit their powerlessness (also: what does it say about the film that you can only understand what the frogs are scheming behind Vicky's back if you speak French? There's an awful lot of unsubtitled French whizzing about in the film, making one wonder how tainted the film's Francophilia is).

In conclusion, he had the Black Death. Show's over, the end. Huh?


  1. Well, I'm only 74, so I guess there's time for me to learn to hste it as much as you do/ Every one, thwey say, sees a different movie when they see the same movie.

    If YOU wre a hotel owner at the Paris Exhibition in 1889, and one of YOUR guests developed the plague--wouldn't you be tempt5ed to cover the fact up? I don't think I ever heard anyone refer to bubonic plague as an anticlimax before. Of course the hotel owner (wonderfly played by Cathleen nesbitt) could have put up a sign---"Come see the Eifel Tower=---and don't miss our case of the Plague!"

    The acting--eopecially by Jean Simmonws and Dirk Boparde, is excellent, and Paris beautifully represented. The film is available on amazon.com--and it's too bad this reviewer gave the ending away...

  2. It's an anticlimax because it comes out of nowhere. There are no indications that this man is ill and there's no reason why in 1950, a discussion of the Parisian World Fair would end with a death in the black plague. It resolves very little about the story, as there's no development of Simmons' concerns for her brother, no discussion of where he might have gone, no discussion of his character, past, etc. He gets the plague, he dies and disappears. My complaints has nothing to do with the explanation provided about the hotel management; it has everything to do with the way that it's delivered in such an offhand way.

    And I don't hate it. I'm just perplexed. 3.25/5=a B- in my book.