Review of The Southerner (1945)
Seen in 2020.
A poor farmhand in the US South gets his own lot in the early 1940s.
The go-to reference is the adaptation of The Grapes of Wrath (1940), which is undoubtedly better, but Renoir’s touch is good. I like the atypical dramaturgy, putting a celebration right before the storm to sharpen the peripety. It’s an emotional switchback, an unusually melodramatic variation on the theme of man (one man) versus nature. Although non-whites are conspicuously omitted, racism is otherwise absent, despite the title of the film.
I find it funny that Granny, who wants a record player to listen to the gospel song “Beulah Land”, was played by a woman named Beulah. You don’t get a lot of Beulahs in 2020 Hollywood, and not a lot of movies with this much of a footing in poverty, struggle, ignorance and failure.