The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
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All Critics (7)
| Top Critics (3)
| Fresh (5)
| Rotten (2)
Jean Renoir's 1943 film has its passionate defenders; the unfortunate thing, though, is that it needs them.
One of his quietest and least startling.
It should have been stronger drama than it is. But for the points it does make and its concept of man as a continuing vessel for freedom's fire, it is certainly well worth seeing. It comes close, even if doesn't quite hit the mark.
Fails to be as inspirational when viewed today as it probably was during its day.
It moves along like a well-oiled machine until the devestating final act ties all of the smaller stories together, making it's point without being overbearing or obvious.
There is no black and white, no good or evil. There is only grey, and, in that grey area, an understanding of the frailty of human nature.
The best film of Renoir's wartime American exile is a moving tirade against Nazism that packs quite an emotional punch.
In "This Land Is Mine," lonely schoolteacher Albert(Charles Laughton, who is superb) finds there is something more frightening than his domineering mother(Una O'Connor) when the Nazis occupy his village. As usual, his students do not respect him, even though his fellow schoolteacher Louise(Maureen O'Hara), who he has a crush on, is kind to him but then she is engaged to George(George Sanders), the manager of the railyards where her brother Paul(Kent Smith) works. Regardless, Albert and Louise follow orders and tear out pages in the history books that do not correspond with the Nazis' narrow view of history. Major von Keller(Walter Slezak) just wants everything to be business as usual but then there is a suspicious accident at the railyards...
On the surface, there are certain similarities between "This Land Is Mine" and Jean Renoir's previous "Grand Illusion" about camaraderie between supposed enemies. In the six years between the films, the world had changed radically(not to mention the films are about different wars) and while the Nazis in "This Land Is Mine" might at first seem polite and urbane(von Keller certainly knows his Latin), the villagers should never view them as friends, as food shortages and censorship are only the beginning, much worse being hinted at. What Renoir has on his mind is not a recruitment film, but more a call to arms of sorts against tyranny of all shapes and sizes that displays more than one form of courage.(Ostensibly, the movie is set in France but it could be anywhere.) All of which is handled in a nuanced style and is well-filmed, especially its opening shot and two action sequences. While the movie might follow a familiar trajectory with a climactic speech, it is a perfectly eloquent speech.
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