The Story of Three Loves

The Story of Three Loves ★★★½

Sometimes difficult to justify as a connected anthology with the stories not necessarily feeling aided by one another. It doesn't help that the film's third and final segment is so much longer than the first two.

That said, I actually like all three stories in their own way. I thought Vincente Minnelli's would be the easy highlight, and the sincerity of his vision does shine brightly here, but relative no-name Gottfried Reinhardt does a damn good job in his own right. He handles the other two stories, the first absolutely being my favorite of the three. The final segment makes the whole feature feel a bit uneven, and some of those darker themes feel somewhat mismanaged, but the silent tension of its climactic moments are spectacular cinema. Major credit to both Minnelli AND Reinhardt for their work here, as well as two remarkable cinematographers in Harold Rosson and Charles Rosher. The art direction earned an Oscar nomination that year, quite deservedly so, I feel.

An incredible cast of actors on paper, with some in more minor roles than others. Moira Shearer is great in re-treading familiar ground akin to The Red Shoes, but my personal favorite has to be Ethel Barrymore as the witch. Mysterious, unsettling, comforting, funny, and unpredictable. She's having so much fun with her role while still maintaining a serious dignity. As for the more minor performances, Larry Olsen is barely in the movie at all, yet he still outshines the more awkward Ricky Nelson. Thankfully, Nelson got the chance to show his worth by decade's end in Howard Hawks' Rio Bravo, so his stardom isn't so confined to this more pouty go-around.

Despite this being remarkably obscure for a film with a cast as significant as this and a director as incredible as Vincente Minnelli, it does maintain a mild legacy of its own. Joni Mitchell was reportedly a big fan of it as a kid, and Minnelli's own segment has a resemblance to Penny Marshall's Big that is so obvious, the general assumption seems to be this film directly inspiring that one. And if you're a Kirk Douglas obsessive, he met Pier Angeli on the set of this film and had been briefly engaged. Douglas would attend Angeli's funeral with his wife two decades later.

I suppose it would still be fair to call it a "minor" Minnelli, though I don't believe he or Reinhardt treated it that way. As awkward as it can sometimes be, its ambition is still felt from story to story.

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