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They Live By Night (1948)

They Live By Night poster.jpg

Nicholas Ray made a stunning debut with this poetic and doomed story of three prison escapees, one of whom, Bowie, pairs off with a sympathetic girl, Keechie. Brilliantly directed and written, with terrific performances from the cast, this is why Ray made his name.  It is distinguished by brilliant photography – just look at the moving camera and the shot selection – and sparingly effective use of music (Ray had spent some of the previous decade collecting folk music) and is tough, tense, tragic and touching right up to the end. If he was relegated to a few melodramas for the studio over the next three years, it made no difference to his talent, and he made another masterpiece, In a Lonely Place, a few years later and continued to make fabulous films as long as he was allowed. It is this film however that led Godard to say Cinema IS Nicholas Ray.

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About elainelennon

An occasional movie-watching diary.

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