They Live by Night (1948)
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Before he made Rebel Without a Cause, Nicholas Ray plunged head-first into the disaffected youth genre with his freshman effort, They Live by Night, the story of really naive teens who run off together, he (Farley Granger) just broken out of prison by a gang of toughs and on the run for crimes he took part in, she (Cathy O'Donnell) a bored girl next door who falls in like with him. They don't really know anything, including the fact they have no hope of settling down. It's quite edgy and forward-thinking at times, with helicopter shots lending some frantic energy to the escape scenes and the inferred sex and violence. And bold in that it never shows you any of the crimes, always cutting to the aftermath and to the film's real focus - the relationship. At the same time, I found it unbearably old-fashioned and syrupy at times, the Hollywood score in particular, and the mannered line delivery in those breathless romantic scenes. It's like Ray was reaching for a more realistic piece of cinema, but couldn't see his way out of an older, more theatrical way of doing things. And I hate every character's name/nickname with a passion I didn't know I had inside myself.
Textbook Noir. Great stuff by Nick Ray, a lot of "new" camera angles were used. (Helicopter, back of the car)
Nicholas Ray's debut noir leans more toward the drama & romance side of the spectrum - mind that if you expect a hard-boiled Bogart type of crime film.
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In 12 official lists
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This movie ranks #34 in 101 Gangster Movies You Must See Before You Die
This movie ranks #56 in TSPDT's 1,000 Noir Films
This movie ranks #56 in TSPDT's 100 Essential Noir Films
This movie ranks #73 in Quentin Tarantino's Coolest Movies of All Time
This movie ranks #282 in Jonathan Rosenbaum's Essential Cinema
This movie ranks #397 in David Thomson's Have You Seen?
This movie ranks #433 in Sight & Sound's The Greatest Films of All Time
This movie ranks #714 in TSPDT's 1,000 Greatest Films
This movie ranks #871 in The New York Times's Book of Movies
This movie ranks #887 in The Guardian's 1000 Films to See Before You Die
This movie ranks #915 in Time Out's 1000 Films to Change Your Life
This movie ranks #1025 in The Criterion Collection