Saturday, June 2, 2012

"Hemingway & Gellhorn": The Film

On Monday evening (5/28/12) I watched “Hemingway & Gellhorn” on HBO. This new film focuses on the two writers' work and relationship during and after the years of the Spanish Civil War. Martha Gellhorn was a great writer and brave war correspondent/reporter in her own right, and the two writers are portrayed in the thick of both the Spanish Civil War and other situations such as a trip to China and secret meetings with Chiang Kai-shek and his wife Madame Chiang, and with Chou En-lai (Zhou Enlai). The thrill and danger of wartime and world affairs were part of what attracted the two to each other. There is apparently, for example, nothing like a romantic interlude in a hotel that is being bombed at the time. Although Hemingway admired Gellhorn immensely, was unfaithful to his second wife with her, and then made Gellhorn his third wife, he also sometimes felt competitive with her, and resented her going off to report on wars and other stories around the world. The movie stars Clive Owen and Nicole Kidman, both of whom are great actors and did well in this film, but somehow Owen -- whose acting I usually admire admire and enjoy -- didn’t quite capture Hemingway for me. To be fair, this may be because Owen played Hemingway in a more subdued manner than he is usually portrayed, and perhaps this more nuanced portrayal is actually more accurate than the exaggerated one we are used to. Kidman as Gellhorn was brilliant. This movie was directed by Philip Kaufman, who lives and works here in San Francisco. In fact, the whole movie was filmed in the San Francisco Bay Area, with some very creative use of various Bay Area sites to stand in for Spain, Cuba, and China, among other places.

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