The Bottom of the Bottle ★★★★

Red light danger
Signaling bad blood of the past.
Hangover emotions
Rushing like a wild river.

The kind of special discovery you’re glad you made time for (a Twitter poll turned up blanks from many, but Chris Wells dug up this very great Kent Jones blurb). A sort of faux-western melodrama with an alcoholic binge, dealing with not just the psychology of desire to hit the bottle but how one can operate in a society built on drinking as a social norm. Feels like a last Western in some way, or a film that laments the old ways of the West (a great shot frames Ruth Roman and her guests behind a landscape painting of Monument Valley — all that’s left of the old days). Joseph Cotton and Van Johnson slowly negotiate their pasts and their presents, brought together by old passions but kept due to a river with almost magical powers to keep the drama going. That river makes up the film’s climatic moment—a stunt more terrifying (and perhaps real) than most Westerns. That it comes after a visually dense melodrama that truly knows how to work the paranoia CinemaScope frames can create only makes this a major work waiting for serious reconsideration and rediscovery.