Thursday, April 13, 2006

Our Daily Bread

Viking Productions
Director: King Vidor
Length: 75 min.
Country: USA
Format: VHS
Date Viewed: 10 April, 2006

Inspired by the hardships of the Great Depression and the new collective farms that were growing in the Heartland as a result, King Vidor revisited the characters John and Mary Sims from his brilliant film, The Crowd, and puts them to work on one of these farms in his independently produced pseudo-sequel, Our Daily Bread. This powerful film must have been quite inspirational upon its release, and would probably be an inspiration if we found ourselves in another Great Depression today.

It's power comes from a couple of factors. First, the film is very brief. It starts, makes its points very quickly and precisely, and ends; no point is hammed to death and there is no fat on the film. Second, the ideas and themes are incredibly clear, so clear that the movie could be watched with the sound off and we would still be able to understand them. This is helped by the fact that Vidor was an amazing visualist (see also: The Crowd). Vidor's style here is a little more subdued, but the sequence of the men digging the canal to save the farm is a masterpiece in its combination of story, picture, editing and sound.

[Minor Spoiler Alert] There is one flaw to the film, though, a storyline that should have been fleshed out. Sally, the very symbol of boorish Capitalism, makes a play for John and wins his affection; indeed he begins to run off with her at the end of the second act. This whole sequence is incredibly rushed and terribly undernourished, betraying it's importance to the story as a whole. It's importance comes in that it tests John's resolve towards staying with the Collective lifestyle as opposed to reentering the Capitalist system which impoverished him in the first place. And yet, in one scene, they take a walk together, and the next, he's running off with her. It's a hurried plot device that needed a little bit more to make his character's transition much clearer (why is he so eager to leave his wife for this obnoxious shrew?), but of course, not so much that the film would have been bogged down in the subplot. [Spoiler Alert Over]

The rest of the film overcomes this flaw, however, and on the whole, Our Daily Bread is a rather solid film, one that would make a good double-feature with its predecessor, The Crowd.


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