By Mike Dub
*Plays Wednesday, June 22, at the Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley as part of the UCLA Festival of Preservation 2016.
Poverty row master Edgar G. Ulmer directs this 1946 melodrama not so much like a great storyteller, but like he’s telling a great story. With only a brisk 88 minutes to tell the story of a young woman of leisure who meets a soldier on leave, becomes pregnant during a one-night romance, and is forced to turn to her compassionate but not altogether altruistic sister for help, Ulmer doesn’t waste a second on periphery. A master of small budgets and quick turnarounds, Ulmer expeditiously leaps through weeks, months, and years in single cuts, bouncing us from New Orleans to the middle of nowhere to New York without any pretense of detail, or even any logic at times, quietly building momentum through character and narrative. It’s as though every scene begins with the words, “And then…” Despite the brisk economy with which the story unfolds, Ulmer is patient with nearly every scene and doesn’t force a heavy hand onto an already sensationalist premise. To be sure, the fallen woman film lends itself easily to exploitation, and Her Sister’s Secret has its share. But amidst the fractured relationships and damaged psyches, Ulmer constantly undercuts the inherent tabloid moralism of his story, creating instead a surprisingly sensitive depiction of womanhood as a cacophony of roles that can’t be reconciled, and the tacit agreement we all make to pretend that they can.
Click HERE for showtimes and more information about the UCLA Festival of Preservation 2016.