In a Lonely Place Blu-ray Review

     Actors: Humphrey Bogart, Gloria Grahame, Frank Lovejoy
  • Director: Nicholas Ray
  • Format: Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region A/1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Not Rated
  • Studio: Criterion Collection
  • Release Date: May 10, 2016
  • Run Time: 93 minutes

  •         Despite being adapted from a novel by Dorothy B. Hughes, In a Lonely Place says more about the director and stars than it does the author of the source material. Films about Hollywood have this tendency of bringing out the honesty from filmmakers who understand the cynicism of the text better than most, and beneath the violent noir narrative are raw performances and parallels with real life events. Bleak as the film may be, it also offers audiences one of the more unadulterated perspectives of the industry from those who knew it best. Nearly 70-years later and In a Lonely Place remains one of the most accurate depictions of the battle between art and commerce, reputation and reality, and the way that Hollywood often confuses them for each other.

            Humphrey Bogart stars as a bitter screenwriter whose demand in Hollywood is fading with increasingly foul reputation for being difficult. Rather than write, Steele drinks heavily and often finding ways into violent confrontations, which he justifies by clinging to his own personal code of morality and good taste. His reputation sinks even further when Steele becomes the prime suspect in the murder of a young woman (Martha Stewart). Though Steele claims his innocence, he has no alibi until a new neighbor clears him.

            Laurel Gray (Gloria Grahame) is a failed actress who has recently escaped a relationship, and her vouching for Steele leads them to a passionate relationship with each other. Suddenly Steele begins to write again and everything in their lives seems full of hope once again. But we are constantly reminded by the typical noir voiceover by Steele that this happiness is fleeting. These bright moments are merely a sample to make their removal all the more devastating. Soon we discover that Laurel’s statement to the detectives wasn’t entirely honest, and she is forced to consider the possibility that Steele may be a murderer, as are we.

            Steele’s knee-jerk reaction conflict is to lash out; sadness, fear, and anger always find their way to violence. Each outburst raises concerns, along with his fascination with the murder he is accused of. Instead of writing a book adaptation he has been commissioned to do, Steele starts a screenplay about the murder. To make matters worse, Laurel’s growing doubt only increases Steele’s vulnerability and propensity for violence. Their relationship begins to spiral until they have reached a place where the resolution of the murder mystery isn’t enough to return to the moments of joy in the beginning.

            If the narrative within the film weren’t tragic enough, the sadness is increased by the story behind the production. Grahame was hired primarily because her husband was the director, Nicholas Ray, who had fought for her casting. Though they kept it a secret, their marriage dissolved during the production of the film and they were forced to continue working with each other as though nothing was wrong. This adds an extra layer to Grahame’s performance, which is among the most complex you are likely to find in a film noir. Bogart’s performance is also extremely raw, with many claiming this character share the closest resemblance to the star’s own persona. All of this adds up to a genre picture that somehow ends up tied to true life and realistic heartbreak.

            The Blu-ray special edition includes a new 2K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack and an optional commentary track featuring film scholar Dana Polan. The special features has the condensed version of I’m a Stranger Here Myself, the 1975 documentary about Nicholas Ray. There is also a new interview with biographer Vincent Curcio about Gloria Grahame, a brief featurette from 2002, and the 1948 radio adaptation of the novel by Dorothy B. Hughes. Also included is a foldout insert with a heartbreaking essay by critic Imogen Sara Smith.  

    Entertainment Value: 7.5/10
    Quality of Filmmaking: 9/10
    Historical Significance:  8.5/10
    Special Features: 9/10

    No comments: