The Search (Fred Zinnemann / U.S.-Switzerland, 1948):

The end of the war is a filmmaker's homecoming, Fred Zinnemann in Munich and Nuremberg with a reserved-impassioned camera. (Wilder is right over in Berlin with A Foreign Affair.) The painful regeneration occurs amid the ruins, a trainload of refugee children out of Auschwitz and into the United Nations relief center, Sachs' "Chor der Waisen" visualized, just about. All uniforms look the same to a fearful survivor, the Red Cross ambulance feels an awful lot like a gas chamber on wheels; the bewildered Czech foundling (Ivan Jandl) makes a run for it and finds solace with the affable American GI (Montgomery Clift), an army engineer and "sentimental sucker." Crisscrossing fences and parallel roads are the abiding images—the former lingers in the child's "mind gradually gone blank" until it becomes a charcoal sketch among research snapshots, the latter locates the boy's mother (Jarmila Novotná) on a desperate journey of her own. (A quicker but equally telling image has tiny goldfish from a shattered bowl scooped up into a champagne cooler.) "Les enfants nous regardent," argues Gilles Deleuze, so it goes with Zinnemann's view of sorrow in occupied Germany, quite the close study of Rossellini. Smetana's "Má Vlast" for the idyllic household dreadfully ruptured, "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" transfigured for the classroom of juveniles off to Israel. Electrifying the mix of newsreel urgency and studio convention is Clift's unprecedented presence, a raw and limber naturalism that turns a potentially sticky rapport into a tale of two lost boys. "Oh brother! You better stick to building bridges." Wajda in Korczak pays tacit tribute, Petzold's Phoenix has a vivid recollection of the nightclub portal blazing against the rubble. With Aline MacMahon, Wendell Corey, and Mary Patton. In black and white.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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