Intermezzo: A Love Story [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray A - America - Kino Lorber
Review written by and copyright: Eric Cotenas (1st February 2018).
The Film

The retirement of his longtime accompanist and family friend Thomas Stenborg (The Philadelphia Story's John Halliday) after their New York engagement provides composer/violinist Holger Brandt (Of Human Bondage's Leslie Howard) opportunity to return home to Sweden for an extended break. Reuniting with his wife Margit (The Ghost and Mrs. Muir's Edna Best), he finds his son Eric (Wuthering Heights' Douglas Scott) a teenager grown distant and preoccupied by new friends and interests while his daughter Anne Marie (Blood and Sand's Ann Todd) has started piano lessons and dreams of becoming his accompanist (listening to his composition "Intermezzo" enough times to wear out one record and to be able to point out the wrong notes when her father plays it for her in person). When Holger meets Anne Marie's piano teacher Anita Hoffman (Spellbound's Ingrid Bergman), a music student encouraged by Thomas to seek a scholarship to study in Paris, he is physically attracted to her but it is her musical ability and the possibility that she would make a good replacement accompanist that has both Thomas and Margit quietly concerned. Although they have not consummated their illegitimate union, both start to become aware of how they must appear from the outside. Anita tries to break away by making an excuse that she has been called away to sick relatives in Denmark, but she cannot resist when Holger begs her to become his accompanist in spite of more overt warnings from Thomas. After a whirlwind tour during which they become lovers, Holger and Anna take a rest in a coastal village where they are able to live as a couple. The existence is illusory as Anita realizes that Holger has found in local child Marianne (Maria Flynn) a substitute for Anne Marie. When Thomas tracks them down to deliver to Holger divorce papers on behalf of Margit and the news that Anita has won her scholarship to study in Paris, Holger is reluctant to sign the papers. With the possibility to building her own life and musical career and Holger's apparent longing for the family he has left behind I wonder if anyone has ever built happiness on the unhappiness of others, ponders Thomas Anita wonders if they are really meant to be or if their relationship has just been an intermezzo. A remake of a 1936 Swedish film that also starred Bergman, the David O. Selznick production of Intermezzo scripted by playwright George O'Neil (Magnificent Obsession) and directed by a jobbing Gregory Ratoff (The Corsican Brothers) is a code-era melodrama that made a star out of its romantic interloper by introducing Bergman to Hollywood. Although it garners as much sympathy for its faithless lovers as the stoically unhappy Margit and concerned moralizer Thomas, the story is actually quite ideal for the constraints of the production code since it would have satisfied requirements either way if the lovers saw the error of their ways after tragedy strikes and sought redemption or had they remained defiant and tragedy intervened otherwise. In spite of what we know of the production code, the emotional machinations of the third act, as well as the notorious creative stranglehold of Selznick on his productions, the romantic intensity remains thanks to the presences of Bergman and Howard (more sympathetic in a late scene with his son than with his wife or daughter) as well as the creative mechanics of the production, from the gorgeous monochrome cinematography of Gregg Toland (Citizen Kane) assisted by an uncredited Harry Stradling Sr. (My Fair Lady) to uncredited orchestrations of the great Max Steiner (Casablanca).

Video

Released theatrically by United Artits in 1939, Intermezzo would actually garner three more theatrically reissues, two through Selznick Releasing Corporation in 1947 and 1956 as well as one through Eagle-Lion in 1949 (the same year they would also reissue Rebecca and Since You Went Away). The film would be released on DVD in 2004 by i>MGM. Although Kino Lorber's Blu-ray artwork does not boast of a new HD master, the 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.33:1 pillarboxed fullscreen transfer is very impressive, revealing higher contrast lighting in the close-ups that reveal just how expertly sculpted the lighting is to flatter. While contrast is not as deep in the medium and longer shots, one now notices the beautiful falloff from light to shadow and the intricacy of the lighting design even in brighter shots.

Audio

The sole audio track is a very clean DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono track. Dialogue is always clear while the music actually has a nice presence for a recording of this era. What one also notices is that there is actually very little in terms of sound design. Optional English SDH subtitles are included.

Extras

The film is accompanied by an informative audio commentary by film historian Kat Ellinger of Diabolique Magazine and the podcasts Daughters of Darkness and Hell's Belles who puts the film in context as seeming a pretty insignificant work coming in between Selznick's hit-to-be Gone With the Wind and Rebecca had it not made a star out of Bergman. Drawing from research on Selznick, Ellinger discusses the remake and how the rights package included the use of stock footage from the film as well as the music which had to be re-recorded due to music union rules. Selznick also ordered that the soundtrack be filled out with other well-known musical pieces that would appeal to music lovers while also intending to discourage his perception that in the original film it seemed like the protagonists only played the piece "Intermezzo" throughout the film. She also analyzes the film from the framework of the production code and the ways in which Bergman resists such coding and became - against Selznick's intentions - an "accidental sex symbol." The disc also includes the film's theatrical trailer (2:23) and trailers for other films.

Although it would have been ideal to include the original Swedish Intermezzo as an extra - especially since Kino released it in 1999 when they were i>Fox Lorber and in 2011 as Kino International in the three-disc i>Ingrid Bergman in Sweden boxed set, it is at the moment destined to stay in standard-definition as part of Criterion's i>Eclipse Series 46: Ingrid Bergman's Swedish Years boxed set due out in April.

Overall

A remake of a Swedish melodrama, Intermezzo is a code-era melodrama that made a star out of its romantic interloper in introducing Ingrid Bergman to Hollywood

 


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