Saturday, August 13, 2011

I don't know much about kissing

They Live by Night (1949) - Ray
It concerns young love between 23 year old jailbait Bowie (Farley Granger) and a lonely gas station attendant and a niece of an accomplice, Juliette (Cathy O'Donnell). Just broke out of a jail after serving 7 years for murder, Bowie is mixed up in with tough bank robbers Chickamaw and T-dub. After another heist where people are shot and fallen in love with Juliette in the safehouse, Bowie wants out. They get married at a bus stop chapel and get settled in a small cabin in the woods. But the sensational newspapers blow him out of proportion, making him a some kind of sleek gangster. And the tough guys wanting the third wheel, wouldn't leave him alone.

Ray's attention is on the two young people in love rather than on their impending doom. "I don't know too much about kissing. You will have to show me." The love sick kitten Juliette purrs. "I don't know much about it myself." Bowie replies in earnest. "We'll learn it together." she says. If this was said in any other film, it wouldn't have worked. But it's Nick Ray film. Fresh faced Granger and O'Donnell are perfect for the parts as young lovers who are basically children that the circumstances made them playing grown ups. Instead of coming off as naive, they are sullen and aware of the world they live in. They are just happy they found each other and want to be left alone. You instantly feel for these kids.

Even though it's regarded as the granddaddy of Bonnie and Clyde, Badlands and slew of other caper flicks, They Live by Night is a typical Nick Ray film first.
They Live by Night is a sentimental film. But you can feel that Ray's sentimentality comes from a genuine place, out of well drawn characters. I really loved it.

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