You Can’t Go Home Again: The Ballard of Nicholas Ray

28 Jun

A Lonely Place

 By Eleanor Colla

Nicholas Ray (1911-1979) was an American director who has been payed homage to within the works of Jean-Luc Godard, Francois Truffaut, Win Wenders, Martin Scorsese, and numerous others. And now, cinematheque takes its turn.

Known for traversing numerous genres, styles, themes and narratives, Ray payed great attention to the social and sociological concerns of post-war America. He was particularly concerned with the challenges facing the post-war youth; the new-found freedom of a generation who had not experienced war is present in many of his films. To open the three week retrospective is a Humphrey Bogart ‘Hollywood valentine’ double feature: In A Lonely Place (1950) and Knock On Any Door (1949)

In A Lonely Place has Bogart playing Dixon Steele, a scriptwriter accused of murdering a girl he brought home with him one evening; with the honourable intention of getting her to explain the plot of a book he is too tired to read. Although he is cleared by his neighbour Laurel (Gloria Grahame) and the two begin a relationship Laurel’s suspicious begins to overtake her romantic feelings. Steele’s unknown past of violent outbursts begins to come between them; all while trying to avoid the policeman (Frank Lovejoy) who refuses to leave Steele alone. A true film noir that comments on the pitfalls of success and the pressure to do even better.

Knock on any door

Knock On Any Door is another noir and with Bogart playing Andrew Morton, a lawyer who has risen up from the slums. Against the advice of his colleagues Morton takes up the case of Nick Romano (newcomer John Derek) who has been accused of murdering a policeman and is facing execution. Morton takes the angle that due to both emotional distress and having grown up in the slums, Romano is not as responsible for his actions as he is merely a killer by circumstance, not by nature. Filled with flashbacks, witty dialogue and courtroom drama, Ray’s third feature highlights personal causes and conflicts when it comes to crime and court.

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