Monday, October 1, 2012

Night and the City

Night and the City is a film noir drama that tells of the sharp and sudden rise and fall of hustler Harry Fabian. The film is set in London and follows Fabian as he attempts to turn the lemon that is his life into lemonade. Though it’s not explained, it appears that Fabian hasn’t always been so obsessed with success, but, whatever the cause, he is now and man is he obsessed. Day and night, all he can think about is how to ‘get on top’ and be one of the rich and powerful that he idolizes. He keeps many irons in the fire constantly and, thereby, often finds himself short on capital and overextended. In short, this makes him a very small step from living like a bum at any given moment of the day.
Suddenly he meets a wrestling legend and realizes the legend is personally training a protégée that he doesn’t want to end up in the hands of his son, who just so happens to have a strangle-hold on the wrestling scene in London. So, seeing opportunity, Fabian says he’s a promoter as well and would be happy to promote the protégée. All he needs now is the capital to perfect the scam that he’s a legit promoter and he could potentially make tons of cash off this fight. Icarus’ downfall came only when he flew too close to the sun and like Icarus, this ambitious venture may well prove to be Fabian’s downfall.
I liked this movie quite a bit. It’s noir, so the plot is a bit predictable and Richard Widmark’s performance as Fabian is a bit of a caricature, but outside of that I have very few complaints. The cinematography and production design are fantastic. The cinematography in and of vehicles was especially good and ahead of its time. This was clearly a labor of love for the director, Jules Dassin, and this can be seen in his treatment of Gregarious the Great, the wrestling legend. The ancillary characters are absolutely perfect in this movie and none better than the aged legend, his son and the two wrestlers featured. Why do their performances feel so natural? Well, part of it, I’m sure is the superb direction, but it also helps that they are from that world in real life. The aged legend is played by Stanislaus Zbyszko, a real life legendary strong man from the wrestling and vaudeville circuits of way back. The two active wrestlers are played by actual wrestlers, including one who won bronze at the Olympics. In other words, it felt legit. If you like noir and like to watch the obsessed become consumed by their obsessions, check this one out, fo sho.


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