The Little Foxes ★★★★

Sometimes the case for filmmakers of the Hollywood era, the trashier their material can reveal the details of their directing when there's less to pay attention to in terms of narrative. It can be difficult to appreciate the directing qualities of Best Years Of Our Lives given the beauty of the script, but this southern fried melodrama has a lack of complexity in the characters that suddenly becomes complex through its direction. Wyler doesn't move the camera that much, but when he does he always pushes the dynamics toward various reveals and economics that exploit the deep focus frame, and a lot of the ways Wyler shoots the house's vertical spaces reminded me of what Welles would do on Ambersons a year later (look at Theresa Wright spying from the corner of the frame!). Wyler actually reminds me a bit of Mizoguchi's complex staging, using focal points of depth to reveal narrative information, though perhaps lacking in the Japanese director's poetic stillness. Instead, there's the psychological details, which Andre Bazin picked up on (and perhaps went to far in favor of the film's "realism"), which are clear that this gothic family's dynamics are not so clearly drawn by a classical notion of the patriarchal family. Bazin describes the death scene at length, noting that Wyler and Toland actually leave Marshall in a haze as he approaches the stairs, which emphasizes the tension in Davis. Ozu (quoted in Bordwell's book) really loved the scene as well: “No facial expression or anything – just making tea without any emotion. The only thing you can hear is the click of the cup and the saucer”.

Although it seems like a completely different genre, I wouldn't mind putting this on a program of "young ingenues in peril by gigantic mansions" films, which would include Rebecca, My Name Is Julia Ross, The Uninvited, and Dark Waters for starters.