Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Criterion Collection - IN A LONELY PLACE on Blu-ray ""

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Criterion Collection - IN A LONELY PLACE on Blu-ray

IN A LONELY PLACE (1950; Nicholas Ray)
Rarely is Bogart as hostile as early in a movie as he is in this one. Within the first couple minutes of the movie, his character (Dixon Steele) picks a fight with a nearby motorist. Within six minutes, he's thrown another man against a table in a tavern. There's more violence to come too. Dixon Steele is a sarcastic and volatile gentleman, but one not without a sense of humor and a razor sharp wit. When an old flame offers to read to him, he shuts her down by saying he's learned to read himself since they were together. He's become cynical about Hollywood over the years and that makes him occasionally not fun to be around. Despite all that and being the prime suspect in a murder investigation, Steele manages to find someone who can bring him back to life again - Ms. Laurel Gray (Gloria Grahame). What I sometimes forget about this movie is how unabashedly romantic it is in spots. The overriding tale is one of minor tragedy and inner demons and it goes more Noir towards the back. There is a very romantic "We'll always have Paris" kind of section in the middle there though. It doesn't last too long and things descend into darkness (as often happens in Nicholas Ray movies). The ending is obviously the tone you are left with, but there's some classic Bogart in here (and classic Bogart is truly classic cinema). Dixon Steele is one of the darkest characters Bogart ever played and part of the resonance comes from how much he humanizes the guy during the lovey-dovey part of the film. It's such a steep drop from that into the fits of homicidal rage that Steele succumbs to later in the proceedings. When Laurel just barely stops Steele from killing a man, the look on Bogart's face is one of emotional terror. The whole scenario of going into a trance wherein the main character can't recall what happened is not pulled off very well most of the time. I've always found Bogart convincing when he does though. He's such a thoughtful, brooding kinda guy that you can totally believe he could disappear into his own head for a while. And what is is about Gloria Grahame that makes her one of the single most compelling ladies in all of movies? She is of course gorgeous, but there is something more to her, an indefinable presence and luminescence that makes it impossible to look away from her. It also makes things believable when you see a guy fall for her completely. She is absolutely one of my favorites.
Whats most lamentable about IN A LONELY PLACE is that, unlike most other Noirs, this one shows you a true manic range of emotion. In your average Noir, things are doomed from the start and there is rarely much in the way of hope for the characters. IN A LONELY PLACE shows the highs of true love and immediate connection after the isolation of not really opening yourself up for a really long time. Both Dixon and Laurel had been less than hopeful about finding their soul mates that when they do, it ushers in a flurry of emotion and euphoria. The movie shows a more "real" side of a ill-fated relationship in that it demonstrates the time-worn idea that people don't change. In movies, people often change, characters have true arcs and there are lots of happy endings. In life, we know this not often to be the case. True, you will see the occasional person able to completely change their behavior in a more positive direction, but in many situations people not only don't change their damaging behavior - they often get worse. IN A LONELY PLACE does the thing that can most make a film stay with you in that it allows you to see characters almost change, but instead end up not finding their way. It's not the movie you instinctively want from a story like this, but that makes it more memorable is that it fights your expectations. Like Dixon Steele himself, it will not give you exactly what you want, when you want it. It'll give you just what it wants to and no more and you'll find yourself caught up in it anyway. Truly a classic.

Special Features:
First off, the Blu-ray comes from a new 2K digital restoration and comes with uncompressed monoral audio. It looks quite good, even if it doesn't absolute shimmer.
The solid package of supplements includes:
-A New audio commentary featuring film scholar Dana Polan.
-I’m a Stranger Here Myself, a 1975 documentary about director Nicholas Ray, slightly condensed for this release.
- A New interview with biographer Vincent Curcio about actor Gloria Grahame.
- A Piece from 2002 featuring filmmaker Curtis Hanson.
- A Radio adaptation from 1948 of the original Dorothy B. Hughes novel, broadcast on the program Suspense.
PLUS: An essay by critic Imogen Sara Smith.

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