In a Lonely Place discussed

My thoughts on In a Lonely Place

More from Forum with No Name (Warning--plot and ending discussed in close detail):

ChrisJ: In a Lonely Place is a great film indeed and I completely agree with your assessment Noel. I really enjoy Sunset Blvd. but it's a cartoonish guilty pleasure compared to IN a Lonely Place.

DH1: Hmmm... I don't know that I'd characterize Sunset Boulevard as a 'cartoonish guilty pleasure.'

Yes, it's lampoonable. And it's been lampooned many times since. But don't confuse it with the lampoons. There are a lot of other cinematic classics that are equally lampoonable, but that doesn't make something like The Godfather, for example, any less of a classic.

Tonya J: I haven't seen In a Lonely Place in forever, but based on Noel's description I can see why Chris would make that comparison. No denying Sunset Boulevard has some great stuff in it, but it lends itself much more to being a cartoon based on its over-the-top Norma Desmond character. FF Coppola took a pulp novel and made it into something extraordinary. While you could make the argument that Marlon Brando is just as lampoonable as Gloria Swanson, his character and how he inhabitsit is utterly believable, while Swanson seems to approach Norma as less human than caricature.

ChrisJ: I was making a side by side comparison as Tonya understood perfectly, but I'll be very clear.

Sunset Boulevard--good movie. Like it.

In a Lonely Place--great movie. love it.

Compare the two and... see previous comment.

Swanson's performance is not quite a parody, but close and it works as entertainment and in the film which has a deeply black humored cynical tone throughout.

Brando's performance has been constantly lampooned, but is still strong and feels authentic... Pacino is just as good in 1 and even better in 2. One ofthe finest ever IMHO (Pacino in 2)

ted fontenot: Sorry, but I have to say that I think Sunset Boulevard is the much better movie. It's more original in conception, more intricate, and sure, in the laying out of its elaborate conceit, the plot's tighter (ILP is all over the place--I mean, the Frank Lovejoy and wife subplot -- indeed, the whole "mystery" -- is so aimless and even unnecessary), SB's dialogue so very razor sharp, and its characters more realized and much more sympathetic. Bogart is very good, although often his character often seems undermotivated, acts inexplicably. Holden is just note perfect. ("When makes love to the crazy, demanding old woman, his face shows a mixture of pity and guilt and nausea." Pauline Kael) His line readings, of some very fine lines, are just right. He did the same thing again in Stalag 17.

I like much of In a Lonely Place a lot, but it's basically film noir that stays merely film noir. And how many movies are there like that? A whole bunch. But, SB -- the combination of hardboiled realism and a screwball Grand Guignol tragifarce--it never fails to take my breath in its audacious and novel take. But, then, I have pretty much the same reservations re Ray that some have re Wilder. Whereas Wilder has this tendency to pirouette out of his movies, whether appropriate or not (his uncalled for concession to a sometimes overweening and facile cynicism), Ray goes for that all too obvious big bang. Of course, Ray's foray into his own brand of the Baroque, if not Grand Guignol, in the form of a Gothic western, is recalled to mind. But, that's another movie--and one, for all its pluses in concept and intent, is ultimately too stupid to remember with any feeling of self-respect. A pity fuck blind date between Daphne Du Maurier and Sam Peckinpah--but who's getting the pity fuck?

Kael sums it up on both of the movies for me: "Ray doesn't seem to have an adequate budget or enough ideas to play with . . . the dialogue is no more than functional [compare a really good film noir like Out of the Past], and there's not much of a supporting cast."

On Sunset Boulevard: "This brittle satire tribute to Hollywood's leopard-skin past . . . is almost too clever, yet it's at its best in this cleverness . . . ."

I almost always prefer the thoroughgoing witty and clever to hamfisted earnestness, however powerful in places.

TonyaJ: I tend to like realism (not necessarily earnestness) over cynicism and over-cleverness. For unrealism or flights of fancy I look to guys like Gilliam or Jonze or now, Gondry to make my mind sing about the ridiculousness/fabulousness of life.

Noel: Difference in taste, ted. Swanson's Desmond is larger than life and vivid as hell, but I can't see myself knowing someone like that, whereas Bogart's Steele, yep--know one or two at least, plus their kinks (okay, I kind of know a few people in my local film industry). Not just alcoholism; one of the filmmakers I have in mind has a gambling problem; the other used to do drugs. And they're both charming as hell.

I don't quite think Swanson's Desmond is cartoonish--I think she gives the figure enough detail to make it rounded, a real human being (that's where the tragedy comes in), and I do think it's a great performance, but I also think Bogart's Steele has equal magnitude (at least), but with fewer outlandish gestures. And against Holden's beautifully subtle performance I'd pit Gloria Grahame's wonderfully believable one (with the additional and totally unfair remark that I thought Grahame was a hell of a lot sexier).

And yeah, Wilder polishes his dialogue to perfection, which is what I disliked about it; it was too perfect (again, this is strictly according to my taste). The dialogue in In a Lonely Place has its zing, but you have to be more alert to catch it; the cleverness isn't as obvious. It also feels more of a time and place, like the kind of dialogue you and I would speak, whereas I can't imagine people talking as brilliantly as in Sunset.

Remarkable too if you consider what Dorothy Hughes' novel was like--basically a first-person narration by the killer himself, and how he was eventually caught. The film shifts the focus from the killer to Steele and Gray, and their relationship.

And I disagree with Kael; I don't feel this is noir, but a kind of domestic tragedy with a murder tacked on (which seems to be Bogart--who executive produced--and Ray's intent). Dorothy's novel was noir--it's much darker than the film--but again, seems to me that's the filmmakers' intent: it's as dark as life would be.

(Liked Out of the Past a lot, incidentally, but was much more impressed by Robert Siodmak's Criss Cross (a rougher, grittier, more realist movie), which TCM once showed side-by-side...)

And the plot, which I agree isn't as tight as Wilder's, seems to meander just the way life would. Love it that the killer who dominates the first half fades away (so to speak) in the second, and love the way Ray focused on the police officer and his wife after Steele leaves their dinner party; their scene together doesn't add anything to the plot, but it so beautifully encapsulates their relationship in such detail that you suddenly see them as two real human beings, and a kind of complementary couple to go along with and comment on Steele and Gray's relationship (how's that for originality?).

As to hamfisted earnestness--not to my ears, I guess. Really think this is terrific stuff, torn it seems from the actor's and filmmaker's inner lives (but I've stopped being a big fan of Wilder, just a middling one, so that may be a factor...).

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