The Magic Box ★★★★★

(edit: full disclosure this is going to sound like I couldn't possibly have paid enough attention to this movie to love it as much as I say I do but sometimes really huge things slip me by because I'm an alien and I have to add that I got muddled with the two actresses playing the two wives here and I still think I might've named the wrong one below or both moments might actually come from separate actresses… I just totally missed the switchover between wives and I kind of need to see the movie again to see where that occurs or if it's one of those strange offscreen deaths like in Our Vines Have Tender Grapes…)

"It's very easy to be good businessmen. It's so difficult to grow up."

This came up on my radar via Janette Scott's IMDb but I would've probably wound up watching it this year for any number of other reasons because it has just about everybody else in it too (Janette's just a blink and miss cameo, though she does wear a lovely dress)*. Maria Schell's the one who shines most for me here (though Robert Donat's amazing too, playing all the way from youthful exuberance to broken old soul) as the wife of an inventor whose biggest successes come early in life and who only racks and ruins in his obsessive further attempts at innovation (mainly because he puts all his energy into the creation leaving none for the business of making a living - I feel that…). The way this movie combines (okay, questionable**) historical elements with really raw, deeply personal stuff kind of shocked me (two particular Schell moments - when the camera moves in on her simply saying "no… no… no" when the boys come home having signed up to the army, and when she fills in for her husband at the recital - absolutely destroyed me). It's so much more powerful and personal than the poster and synopsis suggest. It should come up every time the best British films are discussed, especially considering the subject. The scene with the policeman at the end is absolutely wonderful.

(* I'm fascinated to see what logging this one does to my Letterboxd stats with its crazy cast…)

(** some people seem to think the movie is particularly bad on the historical stuff but I didn't feel like it ever made out that Friese-Greene absolutely did or absolutely didn't "invent" cinema - he himself in the movie names two other people, one of whom invented something similar the year before… it doesn't mean he wasn't a "pioneer", which is what the movie actually says…)