In a Lonely Place ★★★★½

Wow. An unerringly played melodrama of the first order that I should have seen years ago (to be fair, I pretty much knew that before I watched it); the way Ray's camera seems completely powered by emotions, including deeply troubling ones, is intense enough to make you swoon. Humphrey Bogart, always so engagingly willing to play the bastard in this era, is a decrepit mug of a washed-up screenwriter who's burned lots of bridges with his assholery. On the night he's speciously connected to the murder of a local girl, he happens also to fall hard for an independent-minded neighbor (Gloria Grahame) whose will he proceeds almost inadvertently to break down as they fall further and further into the hole of his buried misery and violence. As potent an examination of what we now call "toxic masculinity" as there exists; many noir classics touch on this but few with such force, nuance and empathy, allowing the brutally doomed romance at its core to occur between two extremely complex people, without that complexity ever covering up for the fact that the misdeeds that escalate throughout the film are anything but inexcusable. The final scene, a devastating send-off, is played to absolute perfection by the two leads; it feels immediately to me like one of the greatest endings to a Hollywood film. As usual, the experience of seeing an acknowledged classic like this for the first time is humbling, and reminds me there's so much I don't know.

While I understand that the film differs dramatically from Dorothy Hughes' novel, it doesn't seem coincidental that such an atypically all-encompassing and ageless portrait of misogyny, abuse and a relationship gone sour, so much more intimate than any trope-defined idea of noir, is sourced from a novel by a woman, in much the same way that the female screenwriters on Suspicion turn that into such a different and more incisive story than it might otherwise have been. It's a handy challenge for anyone who claims that "old movies" didn't or couldn't have sophisticated portrayals of difficult or problematic relationships (though why are you listening to anyone who says that, anyway?).

Nathan liked these reviews