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Anchor Bay presents
Portrait of Jennie (1948)

"Instinctively, I found myself approaching the bench in the park, Jennie's bench, andas I did, I was conscious of an unaccustomed atmosphere as if time were melting with thesnow."
- Eben Adams (Joseph Cotten)

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: November 16, 2000

Stars: Joseph Cotten, Jennifer Jones
Other Stars: Ethel Barrymore, Lillian Gish, Cecil Kellaway, David Wayne
Director: William Dieterle

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nothing objectionable)
Run Time: 01h:26m:10s
Release Date: November 28, 2000
UPC: 013131126891
Genre: romance

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

Over the years, there have been a number of fantasy-romances which reach across time, such asSomewhere in Time. They all owe a debt to this film, Portrait of Jennie, and RobertNathan's book by the same title. As is the case so many times, the original is the best.

Reliable good guy Joseph Cotten stars as struggling artist Eben Adams in 1934 New York. He isusing his talents on uninspired landscapes and still lifes, until one day he meets a schoolgirl, JennieAppleton (Jennifer Jones). She insists that she will hurry up and get older so that she can marry him. She vanishes, leaving him obsessed with her, but she soon reappears several times to Eben, growingup faster than possible each time. Eben begins to suspect something is not quite right as Jennie makesreference to people long dead and places long gone as if they were still in the present. He puts thatall aside as Jennie inspires him to paint a portrait of her, without age or time. But why does she feelsuch discomfort whenever she sees his landscape of Land's End Light? The film reaches a climax of mystery, romance and suspense that made a huge impression when released, and still carries asignificant impact.

The story has its weaknesses, but it uses ambiguity and the romantic themes of Debussy, orchestratedand scored by music legend Dmitri Tiomkin, to great effect, to paper over the flaws. Indeed, the film's mood of optimism, destiny, and timeless love gets much of its strength from the ambiguities inherentin the story. Therein lies much of its appeal. The contrasts and similarities between Jennie andEben's old maid patron, Miss Spinney (Ethel Barrymore) lead one to some intriguing theorieswhich the film hints at but never definitively resolves. The finale with the dizzying shots up and downa spiral staircase give us a symbolic vortex of time and destiny, interrupted by the power oflove.

Cotten is convincing as always as the struggling young artist, caught by an idée fixe. JenniferJones can at times have the appropriate mysterious air about her, but at other times she just comesacross as vacant rather than haunting. She isn't a very convincing schoolgirl; she looks older in herearliest scenes than she does later on as an adult. She does, however, have a more enticing andappropriate character here than she played later in Duel in the Sun. At her best, she can doa passable Donna Reed imitation, which is sufficient to hold up her end across from Cotten. LillianGish is wonderful in a tiny part as Sister Mary of Mercy, an elderly nun who holds some of the keysto the secret of Jennie.

One unique feature of the film deserves comment. The establishing shots are all photographed through a screen such that they appear to be painted on a canvas. This technique gives the film a slightly surreal feeling as well as the notion of a painting come to life. The scenes of the city, especially in the ice-skating sequences, are gorgeously shot and look almost as if they were impressionist paintings. This is one beautifully photographed film.

Anyone who appreciates a good romance will be more than happy with Portrait of Jennie. Beautifully shot and wonderfully scored, it's still a memorable picture

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Anchor Bay gives us a very nice transfer of a fifty-year-old film. The blacks and grays are excellent,and the picture is crisp and sharp. Artifacting is negligible. There are a few random speckles, but nomajor frame damage is visible anywhere in the film. The green-tinted climax is bright but notoverpowering. The brief Technicolor final shot natural appearing and appropriately exhibits abeautiful range of color, though it is a shade unstable as the camera moves. Bit rates are quite high,ranging around 7 to 8 Mbps.

Image Transfer Grade: A-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: The sound is a nondescript 2.0 mono. The audio is plagued by hiss and crackling, which lessens theimpact of Dmitri Tiomkin's beautiful score based on the compositions of Claude Debussy. This isquite unfortunate, since this film has a wonderful soundtrack. The sound is rich and full, however. Other than the noise, the music is not significantly distorted and the dialogue always comes throughclearly.

Audio Transfer Grade: C


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
Packaging: Alpha
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: The only extra provided is a beaten-up theatrical trailer. Chaptering is generous for a fairly short film.

Extras Grade: D


Final Comments

A sweet romantic fantasy, given a beautiful video transfer by Anchor Bay. Alas, the sound is a littlecrackly, and there's precious little for extras, but recommended nonetheless.


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