Friday, July 10, 2009

In a Lonely Place

Nicholas Ray, 1950, bw (8.8*)
This excellent and surprising drama shows a side of Humphrey Bogart's acting skills never seen before. He plays a three-dimensional character with internal angst, loneliness, and a touching vulnerability. Bogart stars as a once-in-demand screenwriter, Dixon Steele, now trying to make a comeback. He has a girl come to his apartment to summarize a novel he has to adapt for the screen, and he ends up being the last to see her alive before she is murdered, so he's the obvious suspect.

That is, until neighbor Gloria Grahame clears him, in my favorite performances of this underrated actress (It's a Wonderful Life, Oscar® for supporting in The Bad and the Beautiful). She really gets to show her range here as she and Bogart begin both a professional and personal relationship, and establish a wonderful chemistry together onscreen. Grahame has both the beauty of an actress, yet somehow also seems accessible like the girl next door, which she literally is in this film. The film is really not about the crime as much as its effect on all the people who become involved, including a detective friend of Steele's, well played by Frank Lovejoy, but who naturally suspects his friend here. All the relationships become strained by the crime investigation, and the actors make you believe they are falling apart emotionally.

One of the best films ever made about Hollywood, for me this is the most rewarding film of director Nicholas Ray, better known for Rebel Without a Cause; this one is thankfully missing the over-acted melodrama of that film, and offers a much more honest portrayal of real characters. An oft-overlooked classic, it's #361 on our Top Ranked 1000 Films.

4 comments:

Shubhajit July 11, 2009 at 7:39 AM  

This is one of my favourite films. You're right, it isn't as famous as it ought to be. Humphrey Bogart's character is filled with so much angst and silent fury that it makes this a truly disturbing film. In fact, I like calling this the cinematic equivalent of Camus' Outsider - both are sharp critiques on the hypocritical nature of society.

Jose Sinclair July 11, 2009 at 7:11 PM  

Excellent observations! In fact, I just upped my rating from 8 to 9 upon further reconsideration. It's been bugging me since I saw it, mainly, (a) why haven't I heard of this before now? (b) where were the Oscars? Gloria Grahame won hers for a role about 10% as demanding, and she was a complete revelation here - I may now be in love again! (c) I now have much more admiration for Bogart as a serious actor, and Ray as a serious filmmaker - for me this blew away Rebel Without a Cause..

Director Curtis Hanson (L.A. Confidential) made the remark that "Grahame was perfectly cast: beautiful enough to be an actress, but not so beautiful as to be unapproachable" (although this could find some disagreement, especially among men! For me, she looks similar to Gwyneth Paltrow, but with a more lively sparkle in her eye.. very vivacious and alluring. For me she would be unapproachable, I think Hanson meant "for Bogart".)

Good stuff, glad you also appreciate this small gem! I'm gonna watch more obscure Ray films now.. I even loved the apt complex he chose to rebuild - I've stayed in Hollywood and know the look and area..

Thanks! -- Jose

LukaZ (PL) July 16, 2009 at 9:29 AM  

I very like this film. It is great :) I can watch it for all time.

(yes i know my english is bed. i came from Poland)

Jose Sinclair July 16, 2009 at 12:30 PM  

Luka! Not only is your English as good as many Americans, but you're using at least two languages, that's impressive!

by the way, Joseph Conrad was one of the greatest writers of all time, Polish writing in English.. same for Jerzy Kosinski - his "Steps" is one of the greatest 10 novels ever written to me..

What are some great Polish films? any available at Netflix?

thanks! Lonely Place was terrific!
Jose

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These are the individual film reviews of what I'm considering the best 1000 dvds available, whether they are films, miniseries, or live concerts. Rather than rush out all 1000 at once, I'm doing them over time to allow inclusion of new releases - in fact, 2008 has the most of any year so far, 30 titles in all; that was a very good year for films, one of the best ever.



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