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IN A LONELY PLACE

USA, 1950 (MIFF 1989, Retrospectives)

Director: Nicholas Ray

The place is Hollywood, lonely for scriptwriter Dixon Steele (Bogart) who is suspected of murdering a young woman, until girl-next-door Laurel Gray (Grahame) supplies him with a false alibi. But is he the killer? Under pressure of police interrogation, their tentative relationship threatens to crack — and Dixon's sudden violent temper becomes increasingly evident.

Nick Ray's classic thriller, made for Bogart's Santana company in 1950, remains as fresh and resonant as the day it was released. Nothing is as it seems: the noir atmosphere of deathly paranoia frames one of the screen's most adult and touching love affairs. Bogart's tough guy insolence is probed Do expose a vulnerable, almost psychotic insecurity, while Grahame — her marriage to director Ray at that time on the rocks — abandons femme fatale conventions to reveal a character of enormous, subtle complexity.

As ever, Ray composes with symbolic precision, confounds audience expectations, and deploys the heightened lyricism of melodrama to produce an achingly poetic meditation on pain, distrust and loss of faith — not to mention an admirably unglamorous portrait of Tinseltown.

Re-released here, like The Big Heat, in a new 35mm print, its memorable images, made by Burnett Guffey, dazzle once more; never were despair and solitude so romantically alluring. -Geoff Andrew, Time Out (1988)

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