The Tarnished Angels (18)
Time Out saysArguably Sirk's bleakest film - perhaps because it was shot in greyish monochrome rather than luridly stylised colour - and one of his finest, this adaptation of Faulkner's Pylon reassembles the three principles from Written on the Wind for a probing but sympathetic study in failure and despair. In the South during the Depression, Hudson's down-at-heel reporter becomes fascinated by a group of stunt fliers, led by Stack's disillusioned WWI veteran pilot and Malone's parachute jumper. In terms of plot very little really happens; characters deceive each other and themselves, try in vain to communicate more fully, and repeatedly sell themselves short. Inevitably, it all culminates in death, which ironically provides some sort of half-hearted liberation, but Sirl's sombre, tender awareness of the illusions that fuel his no-hopers' lives allows no respite. A film totally at odds with the bland optimism of postwar America, it might be depressing were it not for the consummate artistry on view. And Hudson, Stack, Malone and Carson were never better.