Blu-ray Review: Gilda | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Friday, August 7th, 2020  


Studio: Criterion

Jan 22, 2016 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

Johnny Farrell (Glenn Ford) is a small-time crook (and ex-pat American) who takes a job managing a casino owned by a wealthy hotelier, Ballin Mundson (George Macready), in Buenos Aires. He seizes the opportunity to reform his ways, and works his way up the chain in hopes that he’ll one day be sitting at the much-older Ballin’s desk. To his surprise, his boss returns home from a trip abroad with Gilda (Rita Hayworth), a gold-digging young woman—and former girlfriend of Johnny’s. He takes it on himself to protect Ballin from the knowledge of Gilda’s extramarital affairs, but both soon find out they might have taken on more than they anticipated when the old man’s ex-Nazi colleagues (and a government agent) start sniffing around the casino to investigate Ballin’s off-the-books business.

There’s a way the film can be read which, admittedly, was entirely lost on this reviewer’s first viewing. Film historian Eddie Muller uses an included video essay to make the argument that Johnny was having a sexual relationship with Ballin, rather than a strictly professional one, and that Gilda knew what was going on—which explains not only his anger towards her throughout the film, but his jealousy surrounding her relationship with Ballin. The evidence Muller presents is very, very convincing, and opens up a fascinating layer to a film wherein otherwise the characters seem to lack real motivation for their actions. Whichever way you wish to read it, however, the film does feature a career-defining performance from the legendary Rita Hayworth, as well as great photography and astute direction from Charles Vidor.

Besides the mentioned video essay, extra features include a vintage episode of Hollywood and the Stars on Rita Hayworth, which provides a nice, truncated biography of the screen icon. (It’s surprising to think that this is Hayworth’s first film in the Criterion Collection, and thus their first opportunity to use this particular piece of archival material.) There’s also a full-length audio commentary and a tribute video which features filmmakers Martin Scorsese and Baz Luhrmann gushing over the movie. Gilda is certainly worthwhile to classic Hollywood fans, and the Muller essay sheds a necessary light on subtext that may be otherwise missed.

Author rating: 6.5/10

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