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PORTRAIT OF JENNIE ($15) is a haunting and romantic fantasy movie that is unlike any other. Joseph Cotten stars in the film as Eben Adams, a struggling artist who lives in New York City. Eben has genuine talent and is able to sell some of his work, but not enough to earn a living. One evening, Eben enters an art gallery and sells one of his paintings to Miss Spinney (Ethel Barrymore), one of the galleryís owners. Miss Spinney recognizes Ebenís talent, but tells him that his work lacks the passion that could make him a great artist. On his way back to his apartment, Eben stops in Central Park where he comes upon a young girl named Jennie Appleton (Jennifer Jones). Eben immediately senses that Jennie isnít like other girls her age, because she talks about things that happened in the distant past, as if it were only yesterday.

Ebenís encounter with Jennie inspires him to do a beautiful sketch of the girl, which shows the passion that the rest of his work lacks. Soon after their first meeting, Jennie and Eben cross paths again in the park. However, this time, Eben notices that Jennie seems to be somewhat older than their first encounter. Eben and Jennie meet several times thereafter and each time she seems equally changed. Despite the changes, the time Eben spends with Jennie proves magical, and the two begin to fall in love. Over the course of time, Jennie sits for a portrait, which turns out to be Ebenís greatest achievement of his artistic career. Just as Eben finishes the portrait, Jennie disappears from his life. Unwilling to let Jennie go, Eben seeks out the truth about his beautiful and mysterious muse. While the truth makes little sense, Eben becomes determined to be with the woman he loves. PORTRAIT OF JENNIE is a beautifully acted movie that also features a rich atmosphere, as well as wonderful black and white cinematography. The fine supporting cast of PORTRAIT OF JENNIE includes Lillian Gish, Cecil Kellaway, David Wayne, Albert Sharpe, Henry Hull and Florence Bates.

Anchor Bay Entertainment has made the David O. Selznick production of PORTRAIT OF JENNIE available on DVD in a beautiful looking full screen presentation. Most of PORTRAIT OF JENNIE is rich black and white, although the filmís climax is features a green tint and there is one Technicolor insert at the filmís very end. The film element used for the transfer shows very few blemishes, although there are a couple scratches on the print that I wish could have been cleaned up digitally. Other than this minor nit pick, the transfer is quite good. The image is usually very crisp, which brings out many fine details in the original photography. There are some shots in the movie that include optical effects and rear screen projection, that appear somewhat soft, but these are limitations in the original production and not flaws in the transfer. Blacks are pure and the picture displays a nice range of grays up to white. Contrast is very good and there are no instances where the whites blow out the image. Digital compression artifacts are well hidden during the presentation.

The Dolby Digital monaural soundtrack is crisp and free from distortion. Dialogue is fully intelligible and the music is pleasant sounding, despite the frequency limitations inherent in recordings that are over fifty years old. One may wish to amplify the soundtrack for Dimitri Tiomkinís adaptations of Claude Debussyís music.

The basic interactive menus provide access to the standard scene selection feature, as well as a theatrical trailer.

PORTRAIT OF JENNIE is a classic romantic fantasy that film buffs will not want to miss. The DVD looks and sounds great, so be sure to check out this wonderful little film.


Portrait of Jennie



DVD reviews are Copyright © 2000 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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