"Like so many of Nicholas Ray’s protagonists, Henty (Joseph Cotten) is on the run, in search of an ideal space where he can be free of society’s restrictions and expectations. And, like those in Ray’s other films, Henty eventually discovers that no such space exists, and that one must create such an environment themselves. Humphrey Bogart [in In a Lonely Place] and James Dean [in Rebel Without a Cause] each pushed social boundaries past the breaking point; Henty, on the other hand, never pushed anything, but instead kept wandering until, finally, there was no place left to go. So he stopped—and the final note of capitulation is one of the most desolate endings in all of Ray’s work..."
"Whereas the traditional musical (Fred Astaire, for example, or any of the other Hollywood archetypes) emphasizes the body of the performer—requiring actors lip-synch so they can concentrate on choreographed movement—La France shifts the focus to the performance itself: stationary, the actors’ focus is not on mimicking a prerecorded song, but in the organic creation of one on-screen."
'Simply put, this is the nightmare of Nicholas Ray: “When life is based on one law: fear. An island of outrage: work and sleep and eat by command; pray by command… Look over the gray fence at the far away hill, look through the bars at the free night, without hope except someday get out, get even.” In Knock on Any Door, lawyer Andrew Morton (Humphrey Bogart), a former child of skid row who was able to overcome circumstance, may be speaking about the experience of juvenile incarceration (which he knows intimately from first-hand experience), but he could very well be enunciating the subjectivity of any of Ray’s protagonists. Fear not only the demons from without, but also from within – as much the capacity for being wronged as for committing wrong – that one may “get out” and successfully “get even"...'
"A Woman’s Secret (1949), Nicholas Ray’s second film, is arguably one of the most maligned and ignored films of his career. While the criticisms seem well deserved (it is clearly one of the director’s weaker movies), the lack of any thorough, sustained criticism on the film is certainly not so deserved. Even enthusiasts of the director’s career, it seems, either circumvent the topic or write it off a failed contract-job in which Ray had little interest—thus justifying their own dismissive evaluations... What stands out in the finished film—and what aligns it with Ray’s characteristic interest in both marginalized, countercultural characters and tension-wrought relationships—is the interaction between Gloria Grahame and Maureen O’Hara. What could have been played as a strict ingénue/director binary becomes a complex power struggle, at once male/female and mother/daughter, which overflows with sexual and adolescent undercurrents..."
Mark Ash and I co-wrote an essay on the cinematic adaptations of Jim Thompson recently for Moving Image Source. It is called "The Devil Inside: Filming Jim Thompson’s first-person pulp psychosis."
"In Jim Thompson’s America, men are born killers—they don’t have killing thrust upon them. The major forebears of Thompson’s pulp fiction, written primarily for the paperback market beginning in the 1940s and continuing until the early 1970s, were the small-town narratives of James M. Cain. But in Cain, everymen are turned into murderers by circumstance, for the sake of money or a girl; Thompson’s innovation was to turn circumstance into a psychological state. It’s not the lure of temptation or the crush of necessity that drives his protagonists to crime, but the perception of its requirement, for self-preservation or out of moral obligation."
"Evoking the deep, rich hues of Velazquez and Goya, director Isabel Coixet brings a baroque elegance to her compositions — coming close to conveying Roth’s own virtuoso display of language, if inevitably falling short. Coixet and screenwriter Nicholas Mayer thankfully make no significant compromises with Roth’s novella: no Terms of Endearment here, Elegy finds no sentimental closure to Kepesh’s mortality or his lingering insatiability for a physical existence."
Cullen Gallagher is a Brooklyn-based writer, musician, and curator whose work has appeared in The Los Angeles Review of Books, The Life Sentence, Moving Image Source, Bright Lights Film Journal, Beat to a Pulp, NoirCon, Crimefactory, Film Comment, The L Magazine, The Brooklyn Rail, Fandor, Not Coming to a Theater Near You, Hammer to Nail, Spinetingler, Between Lavas, Reverse Shot, and Guitar Review. He records instrumental music as Modern Silent Cinema and plays in the hardcore band Night Squad.