The Fountainhead review

If you enjoy the overheated melodramas of Douglas Sirk, then King Vidor's bombastic classic comes highly recommended. Originally released back in 1949, it's entered cinema history as the movie about architecture.

Gary Cooper is Howard Roark, the genius architect who refuses to compromise his artistic vision, to the extent that he'll even detonate a building that doesn't conform to his original plans. Patricia Neal, meanwhile, plays the aloof heiress who is so tormented by her desire for Roark that she flees into a loveless marriage with Robert Douglas' newspaper baron.

The script, based on Ayn Rand's best-selling novel, provides a critique of American capitalism from a right-wing perspective. Collectivism is lambasted ("the world is perishing in an orgy of self-sacrifice," Roark declares during his trial) while pioneering individualism is glorified. However, what impresses the most in this tale of dazzlingly heightened emotions is the expressionistic visual style. Vidor utilises gargantuan sets, sweeping camera movements and noirish lighting patterns, filling his screen with phallic imagery. Enjoyably bizarre.


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