In a Lonely Place

From Forum With No Name:

Nicholas Ray's In a Lonely Place (1950) is terrific stuff, a drama-in-the-corrupt-heart-of-Hollywood kind of flick, much like Sunset Boulevard (made the same year), only I think more persuasive: the characters are memorable without being grotesque, the dialogue authentic without sounding polished, the ending quiet (no violent deaths or descents into madness), but with a sense of immeasurable loss. I'd go so far as to say the film is better for the lack of extreme drama--these are reasonably sane, intelligent people who really love each other but just can't seem to hold on to each other. Can't believe the other film is the better known.

Bogart here is amazing--this is the performance he was going for in Treasure of Sierra Madre, only there the role seemed too big for him; here it seems to emerge from him as if it had been there all along (he just needed a few extra years to marinate, relax, realize that exposing himself (this is reportedly the closest Bogart ever got to showing his real self) was the way to go). He treads a delicate line, not between sanity and madness, but between basically decent human being and charismatic but irrepressible sonofabitch (a subtler and more difficult challenge, I think), making the melding of the two identities not just believable, but memorable.

Gloria Grahame--what can I say? Ice-queen blonde, passionate lover, desperate, despairing woman all in one (I'm tempted to say she's a slimmer Monroe, but with sensibility and brains). She makes you understand what's at stake--a woman so lovely and intelligent and totally in love it would be crazy not to want her--same time she makes you understand how terrified she is of Steele and his temper. Grahame and Ray's relationship was deteriorating at this point, and you can't help wondering how much of that seeped into her performance, or the film. It's full of honesty, apparently--Bogart's, Grahame's, Ray's--and as a result it hits home; you feel as if this could have happened to your next-door neighbors, or to you.

As for Ray and his directing style--I literally can't remember. This isn't a putdown; I was so caught up in the story and performances I could barely recall anything, except that Ray manage to capture a wealth of emotional details, the kind I imagine you'd only get if you shot the entire movie in closeup. I sensed some quietly virtuoso shots, and an understated scene where a police officerhands over photos of a woman's twisted corpse to Bogart, which he looks over without much fuss or comment (it isn't the photos that seemed unsettling so much as their indifference). Great film, maybe one of Ray's best, definitely one of Bogart's.

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