The Unfinished Dance ★★★★★

“This is a story… of those who love and of those who hate, and of one who loved too much…

“I think I know you, Meg."
“Well I’m sure I don’t.”

“You were the best…”
“Thanks, Phyl.”
“‘…’cept me…”

“For her there will be nothing but hallucinations…”
“A broken life is no hallucination…”

"Unfortunately for everybody, altruism is not contagious…"

"Maybe she's been reading the funny pages - the serious ones…"

"🎶 …a minor melody describes my life… 🎶"

“Today is today.”

I think I wrote when I last watched it that I don't particularly like the fact that Mommie Dearest has the reputation it does as a camp or cult movie because I always get something deeper out of it - but given how under-known and under-seen The Unfinished Dance is (and how I love it on a similar level to Mommie Dearest) I found myself thinking this time around how maybe I wouldn't mind if it got recognised for those qualities, which it absolutely does possess… if only it got more people watching it (in purely selfish terms so that it might get an HD remaster… my ancient copy comes off an eBay CD-R of a recording from TCM and it's depressingly washed out… but not so much so that one can't imagine how the colours would have popped - particularly if you've seen the blu-ray of Meet Me in St Louis).

I was actually worried I might've built this movie up too much over the years in my head, the way memories can rewrite themselves each time they're recalled… I mention it in the same breath as Black Swan and even Showgirls, when it was entirely possible I'd just merged all these movies (The Red Shoes is in there too, of course) in some dream state. But it really is as weird, if not weirder, than I remember. Margaret O'Brien always had darkness bubbling under in her performances, that's what made her so compelling, and occasionally a movie would give her a scene where it fully came out, but here it's just there, constantly, she was never creepier. It’s a movie constantly bordering on actual madness - overwhelmingly emotionally complicated for its time, about obsession, passion, jealousy, forgiveness - at once about how silly little things can seem like the absolute end of the world when you're a child but also, like, the thing that that child does here kind of is the end of the world for someone… guh it's hard for me to express myself on this one I guess so I'm gonna leave it there…