“Happiness is better than art” declares her idiot singing tutor, releasing vulnerable-as-a-baby-doe

there's never a fainting couch around when you need one

There’s never a fainting couch around when you need one

Ingrid Bergman to run off and marry the passionate and dashing Charles Boyer, a man she met five minutes ago.  Handsome as Satan in a top hat, he sweeps her off her feet and into her dead aunt’s swanky apartment. His high cheekbones and shiny hairdo hypnotize her into believing it’s not insane to move back to a place she has avoided since the traumatizing murder that took her surrogate mother and innocence in one swoop, and not even more insane that he would ask her to do it.

He gives her a broach and then hides it, watching smugly as she berates herself for losing it. He removes pictures from the walls and accuses her, when she protests that it must be someone else, he’s got “are you becoming suspicious as well as absent-minded?” in his back pocket like an oversized comb.

Leaving the house becomes a tipsy exercise in second-guesses and uneasy glances – primarily from smarmy maid Angela Lansbury, hired specifically for this purpose – which shake her sufficiently enough to stay isolated and indoors.
“Really? Walking around the block twirling a parasol? Without your husband? On your legs?” Lansbury questions, both her inflection and eyebrows rising, significantly less congenial than her cartoon teapot alter ego.

Shouldn’t we ask the MAN of the house?

Bergman cracks, swearing she hears footsteps and sees the lights dim as if the gas is being turned on in the “empty” attic upstairs, which is really Boyer creeping around in the dark like the cockroach he is. Thus the term “Gaslighting” is born to the thrill of abusive psychos everywhere.  It is the art of the undermining bait-and-switch, designed to cause the victim to doubt their own sanity, and Bergman caves with heartbreaking speed. By the time she begs him for help with her eroding memory – to which he walks away wearing a look of disgust on his face – she is wondering aloud if a mental institution might be the perfect vacation destination.

Ultimately, it turns out Boyer is after some jewels or magic beans or whatever, and his behavior is part of a larger,  cinematically satisfying plan that explains why he would pretend to love someone only to get close enough to dole out some hardcore abuse. There’s also the suspicious cop with his tingling Spidey senses relentlessly investigating behind the scenes, swooping in with a reasonable explanation at the last moment, to Bergman’s handerchief-dabbing-moist-eyed relief.  Most of us have neither of these sanity-restoring twists written into our plots, which is probably why no one makes movies about us.

For us the running time is may be much longer and the rescue comes not in the form of the muscled hero but from our own, tiny selves. But the ending, by virtue of being the ending, is always happy. And it turns out even without the atmospheric soundtrack and smoky mood lighting, happiness IS more important than art.

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