Last week, the University of Chicago's Doc Films
presented a screening of Frank Borzage's A Farewell to Arms
, an adaptation of the Ernest Hemingway novel. Borzage is a great filmmaker, but the general consensus surrounding him seems to argue that he is a neglected director, even though his work does not lack for incisive and important critical commentary, particularly here in the pages of the Reader
. And yet his films have never really captured the public's imagination, perhaps because they deal so closely with matters generally considered sentimental, frivolous, or—for lack of a better word—uncool; stuff like love, romance, hope, and emotion. So much of the writing on Borzage general scholarship restricts him as a sort of transcendental romantic, a director whose films envision a world where romantic love holds limitless power, even the ability to transform time and space. Admittedly, there's enough evidence in his work to support such claims—including the final sequence in A Farewell to Arms
—but the more I work through Borzage's filmography (and I regret to admit that I haven't seen nearly enough) the more I detect a sort of earthbound humanism that runs parallel with his mystical romanticism. Taken hand in hand, these seemingly disparate elements allow for a deeper appreciation of the director and his work. You can find my five favorite Borzage films below.