The Best Years of Our Lives (Wyler, 1946)

My disillusionment with modern Hollywood often overwhelms and overshadows my love for American cinema, which is why films like The Best Years of Our Lives are essential, making the process look beautiful and effortless like only a master craftsmen can do. Its storytelling devices are seamless, like all great Classic Hollywood films, but completely demanding and harrowing at the same time, a combination modern day American filmmakers have the hardest time accomplishing. William Wyler’s masterpiece of three U.S. Servicemen returning home from WWII deals with many themes, which unfortunately have become even more pertinent today as soldiers return home from Iraq, namely indoctrinating ones self back into the scary normalcy of every day life and gaining strength in ideologies outside the realm of strict military code. The opening moments, when Frederic March, Dana Andrews, and Harold Russell sit in the nose of a bomber taking them home, each looking at the passing countryside and wondering why it looks the same but completely different, has to be one of the greatest sequences in film history, not only for perfectly capturing a beautiful, brief reconnection with the familiarity of male companionship, but also for it’s reliance on what’s not said between men returning home from battle. Each understands the other, the frightened at that the dream of survival has come true, and now it’s time to make good on this gift, especially for all the guys that weren’t so lucky. The Best Years of Our Lives tells a universal story of hardship and love, for one’s country and family, for the future and the past. In short, it’s one of the best America has to offer, and it would be to all young director’s credit to look back and take it’s shining humanism sharp intelligence as a prime example of expert filmmaking.

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