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USA, 1953 (MIFF 1996, Ida Lupino - Director)

Director: Ida Lupino

The Hitch-Hiker, considered by many, including Lupino herself, to be her best film, is a classic, tension-packed tour de force thriller about two men (Edmond O'Brien and Frank Lovejoy) in Mexico on a long-awaited fishing trip whose car and lives are suddenly commandeered by a psychopathic killer (William Talman). The technical brilliance Lupino displays in every one of her films is more visible to all when it is no longer in the service of her own, intensely feminine, and disorientingly 'odd' perspective.

In the familiar framework of a suspense actioner, the elements very hard at work in all Lupino's films magically regain their 'legitimacy' —the striking compositions (two blanketed figures like shrouded corpses separated by a narrow stream from a gun-cradling madman, whose eye cannot close even in sleep), the on-pulse kinetic editing as heightened conscious­ness-flow (the alternation of dramatically linear action sequences and frozen, impossible nervous waiting-time), the spatial integrity of a determined and determining sense of locale (the pitiless topography of a rock-bound, horizonless Mexico over which hovers an ever-present death), the gritty, but never 'degrading' physicality of undecorized, unsymbolic milieus (a haphazard, surprisingly well-stocked Mexican grocery store, a dusty little filling station), and the full utilization of contrasts between night and day, inside and outside (the night's saturation and the day's terrible clarity.- the constant friction between the three men in their fixed car positions and even more fearful range of possibilities outside the car) That is not to say that The Hitch-Hiker is in any way an atypical film from Lupino. Like many tour deforce performances, it incorporates in an abstract, diagrammatic, and condensed form, many of the underlying concerns of her earlier works. (RS)

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