I’m pleased to report that Adrian Martin replied to my request for a blurb on Peter Ibbetson (I wrote him requesting some reflections, as he was the only critic or director who voted for it in the most recent Sight and Sound Top Ten Greatest Films Poll). Herewith:
I have indeed lived with this remarkable and very singular movie for around 30 years. It was beloved of the Surrealists – and was one of the two favourite movies of Jean Rouch (I think it was his recommendation, published in the late ’70s, that first got me onto it).
For an obvious reason: it celebrates the triumph of the imagination over ‘mere’ reality, which is viewed as a social prison. But the more you explore the film, especially via the astonishing Georges du Maurier book it is derived from (he’s from the Daphne du Maurier family, thus a ‘father of melodrama’), you get into its incredible psychoanalytic and poetic depths. It is a great, very strange film (Henry Hathaway never did anything else quite like it!): what other movie of the period, or even since, has gone so deeply into male melancholia, into ‘childhood love’, into supernatural fantasy … Every element in it clicks so perfectly, from a brilliantly concise and elaborately patterned script, to Cooper’s acting (sublime) to the music and design, A true comet of a film.
Visit Rouge, the online film journal edited by Adrian.