Saturday, February 27, 2010

1950: In a Lonely Place (Nicholas Ray)

1950: In a Lonely Place (Nicholas Ray)

This is one I didn't see for the first time until about five years ago.  What the hell took me so long, I wondered, when I finally got around to it.

Like Double Indemnity and Out of the Past, this is film noir of the highest order -- incredible script, surprise, great acting, twist, wonderful direction, social commentary, surprise, twist, a movie firing on all cylinders.  

I like art film, movies that challenge you more than entertain you.  I like mainstream movies, movies that entertain you more than challenge you.  But most of all, I like movies that are a hybrid of both -- ones that challenge AND entertain you, films that are working vertically and horizontally at the same time.  Vertical is the depth, horizontal the story charging ahead.  

Like everything else, it's arbitrary when a movie is successful being this ideal hybrid as I describe it above.  But, as in a great relationship, I watch In a Lonely Place and wonder if I'm not getting everything I could ever want.  It's mysterious, heartbreaking, scary, fun, sexy, beautiful, sensitive, and smart.  And, if I weren't already, hell I'd probably want to propose to it.

Other contenders for 1950: As with other years, I have gaps here that I still need to fill.  These include:  Robert Bresson's Diary of a Country Priest (somehow, this is a Bresson I've never seen), Michael Curtiz's The Breaking Point, Michael Powell's Gone to Earth, John Ford's Wagon Master, Vincente Minnelli's The Father of the Bride, Jacques Tourneur's The Flame and the Arrow, Anthony Mann's The Furies, Henry King's The Gunfighter, and Alf Sjoberg's Miss Julie. Both All About Eve and Sunset Boulevard are films I need to re-visit at some point.  After first viewing, neither impacted me like I would have expected.  Meanwhile, there are a good number of films from this year that I do love.  I'll break them into two tiers: films I love and films that were the closest runners-up.  In the first group are Luis Bunuel's Los Olvidados, Roberto Rossellini's The Flowers of St. Francis, and John Huston's The Asphalt Jungle.  My closest runners-up would all be among my favorite films of all time:  Jacques Tourneur's Stars in My Crown, Anthony Mann's Winchester '73, and Jules Dassin's Night and the City.

10/28/10 I watched Vincente Minnelli's Father of the Bride.  Cute if a little silly at times.  But Tracy gives it some weight and adds most of the humanity.   While Minnelli keeps it light and whirling along in a slick but artful way.

10/29/10 I watched John Ford's Wagon Master.  There's a lot going on, and a depth and darkness in this one that I don't find in all of Ford. Joanne Dru is beautiful, and the Cleggs add a real menace to everything.  A strong Ford western.  

10/31/10 I watched Jacques Tourneur's The Flame and the Arrow.  It's a rambunctious affair with a very nice use of Technicolor and childish fun.  But I found it just somewhat entertaining without too much more than that.  

10/31/10 I watched Anthony Mann's The Furies.  As is typical with Mann, it's dark and very psychological.  There are also several moments where Mann's incredible eye is on display.  A strong Stanwyck performance.  But overall, not spare nor visual enough to match my favorite Mann work. 

11/5/10 I watched Robert Bresson's Diary of a Country Priest.  The most difficult of the Bresson films I've seen so far and my least favorite. But it still demonstrates Bresson's tremendous feeling for nature and for the first time I realized how adept and expressive Bresson could be with moving the camera.  Claustrophobic for me to the point of a little disinterest, part subject matter, part Bresson's approach here.  

11/19/10 I watched Alf Sjoberg's Miss Julie.  An elusive, and at times quite lyrical film.  Anita Bjork is painfully beautiful and effective as the vulnerable Julie.  And for much of the proceedings, Sjoberg keeps a pretty light touch on it all.  

9/22/12 I watched Michael Curtiz's The Breaking Point.  So many things at once - a family melodrama, an action-adventure flick, a noir of reckless abandon, and a great film.  Curtiz shoots it with a wonderful sense of invention, every shot, a little off and angular, immediately creating an atmosphere of complete unpredictability.  The third act can be felt strongly in Taxi Driver and why this film doesn't come up more during discussions of the great noirs is beyond me.

4/19/14 I watched Joseph H Lewis' Gun Crazy.  A second viewing of a film that enjoys a major reputation but that I struggled with the first time I saw it.  The second viewing of course brought out some different observations, namely the cinematography is almost always innovative and interesting.  But I am sill not the fan that I am of some of my favorite noir.  There is too much score in this one for me and it is lacking the meanness of image and tone that I feel is key to make noir truly pop. 

11/28/14 I watched Jean Cocteau's Orpheus.  A very unusual film full of fantasy and Cocteau's unique flights of fancy.   It feels like Lynch must be a big fan and the film as a whole is still striking as incredibly modern today.  I cannot say I fully understand all that Cocteau is saying but it is a highly noteworthy work.  

5/1/16 I watched Ida Lupino's Outrage.  There are a few flashes of brilliance, such as the initial chase and assault, but overall feels like a very minor work from the very talented Lupino.  

1/4/17 I watched Charles Walters' Summer Stock.  Not sure where this falls in Kelly's career, but there is an extra dose of energy and charm whenever he is on screen.  Some of the performances and some of the music are not an absolute level of greatness.  But between Garland and Kelly there is so much talent on display that it is hard not to enjoy.

11/29/17 I watched Cy Endfield's The Sound of Fury.  I did not know what to expect, having never seen a film from Endfield.  But I knew the film had a pretty big reputation and was curious to see what it was all about.  It has elements of Lang's Fury that place it in an interesting cinematic context (Endfield certainly has much of Lang's dark, venomous abilities) and offer some historical clue to some of what Endfield may be up to, using noir to lodge an attack on WWII atrocities.  What struck me most is how far Endfield goes into the darkness.  You cringe numerous times as you feel Howard splintering apart, first into violence and then into adultery and alcoholism.  This is uncomfortable noir, spewing out in all directions, unconcerned with softness or any commercial sentimentality.

1/31/23 I watched Henry King's The Gunfighter.  An extraordinary western that is most impressive in how many later noir films and later westerns it prefigures in its fatalistic setup.  King's direction is concise and sharp and it is the emotional weight he infuses into the story that makes the greatest impact.    

8/7/23 I watched George Cukor's A Life of Her Own.  A Cukor melodrama that is strong and focused even if not always the most compelling watch.  But interesting for anyone wanting to better understand the great director and his long career.


  1. My #1 Film of 1950:

    Diary of a Country Priest (Bresson; France)


    Night and the City (Dassin)
    Sunset Boulevard (Wilder)
    Miss Julie (Sjoberg; Sweden)
    In A Lonely Place (Ray; USA)
    Los Olvidados (Bunuel; Mexico)
    La Ronde (Ophuls; France)
    All About Eve (Mankiewitz)
    Rashomon (Kurosawa; Japan)
    Happiest Days of Your Life (Launder; UK)
    Summer Interlude (Bergman; Sweden)
    Wagonmaster (Ford)
    Francis, God's Jester (Rossellini; Italy)
    The Asphalt Jungle (Huston)

    I can't fault you on iota for selecting the film that you rightly assert may well be Ray's greatest film; for me it competes with ON DANGEROUS GROUND in that regard. I was fortunate enough to see IN A LONELY PLACE back in November at the Film Forum for the Ray festival. Although like most, I have seen it numerous times over the years on television and DVD, this was the greatest viewing I've ever enjoyed. Again you penned a review here of authority and appreciation.

    Bresson's DIARY OF A COUNTRY PRIEST is one of the greatest films of all-time and it's a bleak, depressing film about the loss of faith. Claude Laydu's central performance is miraculous and Henri Burel's black and white cinematography is exquisite.

    Jules Dassin's NIGHT AND THE CITY (which may well challenge OUT OF THE PAST as the grestest noir of all-time, came very very close to the #1 position) As you also note, the year has some really great ones.

  2. Sam, I'm so jealous that you had the opportunity to see this Ray on the big screen. At some point, I'd love to do the same. I've only seen it on DVD so far. I would have to say it's my favorite Ray film, but there are at least three more I still need to see.

    And glad to hear your love for NIGHT AND THE CITY. It seems to be one of these noirs that slips through some conversations. But I feel as you that it's one of the most powerful of all the films in the genre. Oh what a character you are, Harry Fabian.

    Thanks, as always, Sam, for the wonderful perspective! Can't wait to catch up with this Bresson at some point soon.

  3. This is an absolutely HUGE year in my opinion and I can make a case for four different films to be my choice:

    All About Eve (Mankiewicz)
    Sunset Boulevard (Wilder)
    In a Lonely Place (Ray)
    The Asphalt Jungle (Huston)

    In my own countdown, I went with All About Eve and I'll stay with that for now, but like I said, I could choose any of those four and feel fine about it. Other favorites for the year:

    Night and the City (Dassin)
    The Furies (Mann) --> very underrated, I think
    Where the Sidewalk Ends (Preminger)
    D.O.A. (Mate)
    Winchester '73 (Mann)

  4. Dave, thanks for the excellent comments! Although I don't quite share your affinity yet for the top two picks, we're in total agreement on the other two. And I couldn't agree more about NIGHT AND THE CITY and WINCHESTER '73, too.

    I'm looking forward to seeing THE FURIES. I already like so many of Mann's films, I can only imagine I'll really love this one, too. The Preminger and Mate films I like, but not quite as much as you.

    Thanks, as always, for the wonderful perspective!

  5. Jeffrey, For me it is Wilder's “Sunset Blvd" though “All About Eve” and “Rashomon” are close contenders and "In a Lonely Place" is certainly a worthy contender. Preminger’s “Where the Sidewalk Ends” is a real gem with Dana Andrews giving a amazing performance.
    #1 Sunset Blvd.

    Runner ups

    All About Eve
    In A Lonely Place
    The Asphalt Jungle
    The Gunfighter
    Night and the City
    Where the Sidewalk Ends
    The Furies

  6. John, great comments! I owe both ALL ABOUT EVE and SUNSET BOULEVARD a revisit in the near future. As I mentioned, for some reason, I've just struggled with both a little up to this point.

    RASHOMON I definitely like quite a bit, just maybe slightly less than a few of the others I mentioned.

    The Preminger I haven't seen in awhile. The thing I remember about it most were all these uninterrupted complicated camera movements that Preminger had orchestrated for it. And, of course, I agree, I always love Dana Andrews.

    Great stuff! I look forward to seeing a few of your favorites that I haven't seen up until now. Thanks so much, John!