The Legend of Rembrandt’s life

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This character study joins the painter at the height of his fame in 1642, when his adored wife suddenly dies and his work takes a dark, sardonic turn that offends his patrons. By 1656, he is bankrupt but consoles himself with the company of pretty maid Hendrickje, whom he’s unable to marry. Their relationship brings ostracism but also some measure of happiness. The final scenes find him in his last year, 1669, physically enfeebled but his spirit undimmed. Stars: Charles Laughton, Gertrude Lawrence and Elsa Lanchester. Director: Alexander Korda Production Company: London Film Productions Audio/Visual: Mono, Black & White Released in 1936, and directed by Alexander Korda, Rembrandt was originally intended as the first of a series of biographies of great painters (no further such films appeared). It was the first film to be shot entirely at London Films’ huge new studios at Denham in Buckinghamshire. Rembrandt was arguably Korda’s best film as director, and he was personally upset when it flopped at the box-office, perhaps because it was too ‘highbrow’ for audiences’ tastes. With more depth than his other efforts, it stands up well in the small genre of artist biopics like Vincente Minnelli’s Van Gogh study Lust for Life (US, 1956). More biographically detailed (thanks in part to the thorough research of Charles Laughton, who played the painter) But the cliché is at least true of Rembrandt’s life, and it is delivered with wit and sensitivity. The film also takes care to recreate seventeenth-century Amsterdam, with Vincent Korda’s design and Georges Périnal’s cinematography convincingly replicating the look of the Flemish painting of the period. ;

© 2008

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