Humoresque [1946]

The greatness of John Garfield was that he was a tough guy who wasn't afraid to wear his sensitivity on his sleeve. What makes this such a great film is that director Jean Negulesco and his two writers (including Clifford Oddets) construct a complex web of ambiguity around Garfield's own torment. He's a violin virtuoso from the slums of New York who rises to the top with the assistance of socialite Joan Crawford (who was never better). There's a sexual intensity to his art that she wants to possess, and there's a vulnerability behind her lacerating fa├žade that he wants to expose. They play each other like a couple of virtuosos, stripping each other's spirit away. What helps transcend this depression-era class struggle is its cool sophistication. It's a sublime noir about loneliness. Everyone knows his dream has hit a dead end, except Garfield. He refuses to give up, even after his soul is long gone. --Bill Desowitz

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