I wish I had been able to watch this again, but alas, it seems to be completely unavailable. For a while, Netflix was streaming a low quality version of it, but like nearly all their classic films, it has since disappeared. This would be a prime candidate for a shiny new Criterion release some time down the line. As would much of Borzage's filmography, which sadly is not only unavailable to stream anywhere but barely available on DVD. Even though I didn't get to rewatch MOONRISE, I still really wanted to get it on my list, if only because I relish any opportunity to champion Borzage's work. I've only seen MOONRISE twice, but I have a feeling that if I could've seen it for a third time, it would likely have been in my top 30. As it stands, I'm just glad I could get it on here.
I first saw MOONRISE for my golden age lists project as part of my excursion into 1948, one of the best years in cinema history. I recall trying to rank 1948 as being nearly impossible. Half of the top 10 could have been #1 for most other years. I think I ranked MOONRISE somewhere around 5 or 6. Though I struggled with the ranking, 1948 was also one of the best times I've had writing up a year in review for our old film blog. I noticed while watching many of the films from that year that "redemption" was a pervading theme throughout most of them. I ended up doing a write-up where I tried (and mostly failed) to explore the theme of redemption in each of my top 10 picks from the year. It was fun. Here's what I wrote about MOONRISE at the time:
"MOONRISE, a gorgeous, poetic, sensitive, and emotional noir is really what started this whole redemption theme in the first place. I apologize for having it so low on the list, but I’ll need to see it more or reflect on it more before I let it rise the way it probably will. The Self-Styled Siren has a nice little write-up for this film about how jarring it’s opening images are and how unusually humanistic it is for a noir (two things that stood out to me as well). It’s basically the opposite of something like CRISS CROSS or ANGEL FACE. It is actually actively seeking redemption and healing for itself. The final moments of the film are so beautiful that I couldn’t help but tear up. A broken piece of flesh is literally learning to become a human being again. He greets his fate, accepts his punishment, but takes both with a newfound dignity that has eluded him his whole life. His embrace of the dog he previously kicked pulled at my heart. His final promenade with the woman who has always believed in him made the tears grow. If the sort of redemption in JEZEBEL is rare nowadays, then the sort of redemption in this film is just nonexistent. Beautiful, beautiful movie."
Thankfully a few years ago I got to see the film again and it did rise even further in my estimation. But I do stand by everything I originally wrote here. In fact, I probably agree with it more now having seen more of Borzage's films since. There is a nonpareil sincerity to Borzage's work that utterly defies cynicism. They affirm nothing post-modern and do not contain a shred of irony. They believe unabashedly in the power of love to restore and to heal. MOONRISE is one of his finest examples of this earnest belief in love as a form of immanent grace.
STATS: Unfortunately, the only Borzage film on here. I'd love to make room for the likes of MANNEQUIN or MAN'S CASTLE, but haven't been able to see them in a long time.
Also, while I'm on the topic of love and healing, I want to seriously send all my love and prayers for healing to Brandon's dog, Lou, who is one of the best dogs to ever bless this earth.