what they said: the power of the dog and don't look up
grand piano (eugenio mira, 2013)

night in the city (jules dassin, 1950)

Classic film noir, and a high point in the career of Jules Dassin. The oft-told story is that Dassin was about to be blacklisted, and Darryl F. Zanuck sent him to England to make Night in the City, unencumbered by the blacklist. It is now seen as one of his best films, second only to Rififi. There are two versions of the movie ... I saw the "American" version.

The very title of the movie suggests film noir ... "Night and the City" could be the title of an essay on noir. Jo Eisinger's screenplay is taut, and the cinematography of Mutz Greenbaum is appropriate. At times, the London underworld seems like Paris in the French New Wave, with the love of the city that the New Wave often demonstrated. Richard Widmark plays Harry Fabian, a low-level con man with big dreams. You know from the start that his dreams will be thwarted, and Widmark is brilliant as a man who sees his future fall apart even as he is living it. Gene Tierney plays the closest thing to a sympathetic character. Googie Withers steals most of her scenes.

I don't know how it played with audiences in 1950, but Harry's big scheme, to take over the pro wrestling world in London, seems a bit absurd. It's all treated quite seriously, with a subplot where a classic "real" wrestler played by "real" wrestler Stanislaus Zbyszko (he was 50) takes umbrage at the new, "sports entertainment" angle represented by Mike Mazurki (who also wrestled professionally). There is a terrific ring battle between the two, but nonetheless, I couldn't quit thinking it was silly (and I like pro rassling).

But that's a minor quibble. Widmark grabs the screen, the atmosphere is suitably ominous, and Night and the City is as good as people say it is.


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