I'll Be Seeing You [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray A - America - Kino Lorber
Review written by and copyright: Eric Cotenas (22nd November 2017).
The Film

Convalescing soldier Zachary Morgan (Citizen Kane's Joseph Cotten) meets traveling saleslady Mary Marshall (Top Hat's Ginger Rogers) meet on a crowded train. Mary is on her way to spend the holidays with her uncle Henry Marshall (The Caine Mutiny's Tom Tully) in Pine Hill. As it just so happens, Zach is headed for the same town to visit his sister. Mary happily lets Zach know where he can reach her, but she feels a sense of unease at her uncle's home despite the warm welcome from aunt Sarah (You Can't Take It With You's Spring Byington). Mary is actually on an eight-day furlough in the middle of a six year prison sentence for manslaughter, and there are plenty of reminders for her that others are living the hopes and dreams that she feels are now impossible for her. Mary finds plenty of reminders of her prison life from the segregated closet space and bathroom towels on the part of her young cousin Barbara's (Fort Apache's Shirley Temple) who regards her with suspicion until she reveals that the nature of her offense as self-defense. When Zach phones her and reveals that he discovered his sister had gone to California, Mary invites him to have dinner with the family at Sarah's urging. Mary is flattered when Zach confides to her that he made up the story about having a sister in order to get off at the same stop as her. Mary discovers that Zach is just as uncomfortable discussing how he won his Purple Heart as she is to provide specifics about her made-up career, but she soon discovers that there is more to his unease when he blows up at a café owner during their after-dinner stroll. In spite of Zach's erratic behavior, Mary finds herself falling for him. When she tells Sarah that she is thinking of telling Zach the truth, her aunt suggests that she should instead try to enjoy what time the two of them have before she has to return to prison and he to the hospital. As the two spend time together over the days leading up to the New Year, Zach confesses that she is the only person with which he feels comfortable discussing his shell shock, leaving Mary conflicted over whether she wants to risk losing the man she loves but can never have.

Producer David O. Selznick's follow-up to his previous moving but ungainly epic-length propaganda film Since You Went Away, I'll Be Seeing You – scripted by Marion Parsonnet (Gilda) from a radio play by Charles Martin (If He Hollers, Let Him Go!) – is romantic wartime escapism that nevertheless show some growth in terms of narrative complexity with the darker aspects of the story organic to the characterizations rather than sprung upon the audience for tears, and the visual stylistics are more considered and less affected. Mary's sense of being an outcast could symbolize the emotional stasis some felt by some who could not lose themselves in the aiding the war effort at home. When pressed by a senator to voice "what the soldier thinks," at the New Year's Eve party in front of Mary and an audience of several other soldiers in attendance, he manages to avoid voicing his own embittered feelings by way of generalities conveying the diversity of opinions on various issues while more subtly communicating his estrangement. While viewers familiar with Hollywood cinema in general will never be in suspense as to anything of the climactic developments and the ending, Cotten and Rogers have chemistry (although they are more affecting suffering separately from one another) and Temple is trotted out for tears and delivers. The most interesting aspect of the film are the depictions of the inner lives of the two protagonists, with the visuals of Mary's flashback and the aural assault of Zach's bouts of PTSD anticipating sequences and stylistics of later Selznick productions like Spellbound and The Spiral Staircase. While Selznick undoubtedly had a firm grip on the production, one is tempted to attribute these sequences to uncredited co-director George Cukor; although credited director William Dieterle (The Devil and Daniel Webster) was more of a stylist than some of the other jobbing directors Selnick would puppeteer on other Oscar fodder. The Sammy Fain/Irving Kahal title song did not originate with this film but was first recorded in 1938 and has been covered by Bing Crosby and, more familiarly, by Billie Holiday.

Video

Released theatrically through United Artists and on barebones DVD by MGM back in 2004, Kino's 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.33:1 pillarboxed widescreen Blu-ray encode is derived from a more recent HD master (although likely not one commissioned by Kino as the usually make note of new transfers on the back cover synopses) which boasts deep blacks and various shades of grey, fine grain, and a wealth of detail from faces to the textures of clothing.

Audio

The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono track is clean and relatively free of hiss, with intelligible dialogue, omnipresent Christmas music making itself known sometimes low in the mix, and the flashbacks and PTSD sequences making more creative use of the soundtrack than one would expect from a film of this era. Optional English SDH subtitles are also provided.

Extras

The sole extra is an audio commentary by film historians Kat Ellinger and Samm Deighan, and it is an interesting listen for those who are more familiar with the Diabolique Magazine duo's podcasts and commentaries on gothic literature, gothic horror, exploitation cinema, and arthouse films (among them, their commentary on Arrow Academy's release of Walerian Borowczyk's The Story of Sin, and their respective duties of video appreciation and essay booklet on Second Run's release of Otakar Vávra's Witchhammer). They contrast the film with Selznick's earlier Since You Went Away and Cotton's different characterization of a soldier here, while also noting that he was on the rise as a star here while better-known co-stars Rogers and Temple were trying to redefine their careers as actresses (with the former breaking away from her association with Fred Astaire and the latter trying to move on from her child star image). Also included is the film's theatrical trailer (1:51) and trailers for the Selznick productions Since You Went Away, Duel in the Sun, Portrait of Jennie, and Farmer's Daughter.

Overall

 


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