I recorded Giant, that mid-50s sublime, sweeping, elegant, and I would even say expressionist film starring Rock, Liz, and James. What a trio. I had seen it years ago in my teenage James Dean phase, which only later I realized very few girls in the 1980s went through. I blame/thank Mom for this one. Giant is an amazing film, and only in seeing it again this past week (and yes, it was seen over the course of a week in small chunks. the thing is hours long!) did I recognize its brilliance. It has everything: class warfare (nouveaux riche meets rancher/Texan rich meets Maryland aristocracy), gender (boy howdy Liz's character is a firecracker, and Luz? one of the most poignant portrayals of queerness from the 50s, if I may be so bold), race (the fight in the diner is still one of the most horrifying scenes on film), nationalism/Texas separatism/patriotism (eg said fight with the Yellow Rose of Texas blaring from the jukebox), and modernity in all its glory (the rise of the oil rich and the entry of technology, from phones to planes, alongside the o-so-fabulous interior design choices at the mansion. sigh.)
Can James Dean act? I don't know. It seemed as though the director was more interested in fun noir lighting whenever we had a closeup of him, and thus it's unclear. But the range of emotion/age he is asked to portray, and the line he walks between sweet and lecherous is just too precise to really be an accident. I'm going with yes, good acting, and boy did Brad Pitt steal everything from this guy.
Rock Hudson's opening moment, with the camera sweeping across the Maryland landscape to the train and then to the window and his chiseled face--how striking. The hat! the look! His portrayal of the well-meaning but ultimately backward-looking patriarch was touching, humorous, and a perfect match for Liz...
who, let's face it, as my mother and I used to say, aged much better in real life than she did in the film. a few too many surgeries, darling, but ya look great.