Portrait of Jennie

January 28, 2012 6 Min Read

Review by: Fusion3600

Plot: What’s it about?

Eben Adams (Joseph Cotten) tries to make his artwork with passion and creativity, but his efforts always seem to be in vain. If he thinks he might have a painting he can sell or at least showcase within a gallery, he usually finds himself dismissed and back at square one. He knows he has the talents to paint and he also has the drive to succeed, but it seems an element is missing somewhere within his artwork. Soon however, he meets the woman who seems to be his muse, in the form of Jennie (Jennifer Jones). Jennie just sparkles to Eben, who has a strange feeling that this beautiful woman is from a different time and place. Her words and beauty inspire Eben and by trade, his artwork is more passionate as well and that means he is able to gain some access. But then, Jennie disappears and Eben is alone again. But Eben is determined to discover Jennie again and this time, perhaps he can learn where she really comes from.

This film has a lot to offer, but it just doesn’t end up as immersive as the true classics of this time. I mean the storyline is interesting and well written, the actors are well casted and perform well, and the direction is more than solid, but it just seems as though the film has a few screws missing. The parts work very well here to be sure, but to me, it seems like they never come together in complete form, which is what holds this one back. So when Portrait of Jennie could have been an all time classic, it ends up as above average, which still isn’t too bad. And to be honest, a lot of folks think this movie deserves classic status, so perhaps you’ll fall into that line of thinking, who knows. In any event, this is a movie that classic film fans will want to peruse, as well as anyone who loves cinema on the whole. This disc lacks supplement, but it still worth a rental, perhaps even a purchase.

William Dieterle, the film’s director, has a vast resume of work and here, he tries to weave all the pieces together, but can’t seem to keep them tied up. Some moments surface when all the ducks are in a row, but not enough to warrant knocking the film’s status up a notch or two. Dieterle’s direction is still very good though and he handles the sometimes complex visuals well, which is a testament to his skills behind the camera. Other films by Dieterle include Six Hours To Live, The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939), I’ll Be Seeing You, Peking Express, and September Affair. The leads here are played by Jennifer Jones (Duel In The Sun, A Farewell To Arms) and Joseph Cotten (Soylent Green, The Third Man), both of whom are fine form and bring their characters to life well. The cast also includes Lillian Gish (The Birth Of A Nation, The Night Of The Hunter), Cecil Kellaway (The Luck Of The Irish, I Married A Witch), and Ethel Barrymore (The Spiral Staircase, The Paradine Case).

Video: How does it look?

Portrait of Jennie is presented in a full frame transfer, which preserves the film’s intended aspect ratio. This film uses black & white for most of the running time, but also uses some green tint in places and a shot of color, so I hoped the transfer could keep up. I saw no problems in terms of color in the least, which pleased me and on the whole, this is a sparkling visual treatment from Anchor Bay Entertainment. The black & white sequences look terrific, no black levels slips or detail loss, while the tinted and color scenes look just as good. This film is over fifty years old, but this print looks very clean and defies the real age of Portrait of Jennie.

Audio: How does it sound?

Mono, but since this film has little use for audio power, no real complaints. The age is not a factor here either, as minimal hiss and distortion is to be heard, which is good for a track this old. The music comes across in fine form also, as do the small amount of sound effects present in this mix. No issues with dialogue either, it sounds crisp and clean at all times. Not much else to discuss, this is a more than solid audio presentation.

Supplements: What are the extras?

This disc includes the film’s theatrical trailer.

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