Understanding Finality As an Adult

lonelyplace3Film writing, when done smartly and astutely, can be almost as transformative as film. And few are better at it than James Harvey, whose book Movie Love in the Fifties is essential reading for anyone who love classic film. He’s particularly strong when he devotes an entire chapter to Nicholas Ray’s masterpiece In a Lonely Place, possibly the most adult drama to ever come out of Hollywood (and starring KCD favorite Gloria Grahame). What other movie could possibly be described thusly:

Not only the final film but the presence and performance of both Grahame and Bogart make that earlier rejected ending, with its trashy, dumb irony, seem all but unimaginable. The grown-upness of Dix and Laurel is so central to our understanding of them—their ability to recognize too-lateness, to accept what cannot be unsaid or undone. Whatever their problems or flaws (sizable in both), they are not the sort of characters who need to be arrested or killed to understand finality.

Just reading that makes me want to watch the movie again—and that’s how I spent Labor Day this year, sitting with an audience of strangers in the dark at Lincoln Center, crying because a fictional relationship wasn’t destined to work out despite how much both parties wanted it to.

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