Wasn’t there a Top 5 Films About Loneliness list a while ago? I need to go make sure this one is on there. Just in the opening scenes, we see Bogart play a cynical Hollywood screenwriter who seems to know everyone and yet seems completely, tragically alone. I mean, I love this protagonist, right. He’s flawed but also completely honest with himself and refuses to pretend to be any other way – even to the detriment of himself and all that’s important to him. It is a melodramatic film, albeit less so than Bigger Than Life and Johnny Guitar perhaps but that’s what gives it all this intensity.
I love the beautiful noir look, the so-very-memorable lines and the general sense of inevitability that permeates the entire film. I always like Bogart but he blew my mind in this one. He just captures the spirit of an intense, lonely artist whose intensity is ultimately his own undoing. That’s really what’s so great about this film in some ways. The plot itself is pretty simple and straightforward but the characters are all so layered and complex that the film feels so rich and suspenseful at all times. This is true not just of Bogart and Grahame’s characters but also the cop and his wife before him Bogart recreates a possible version of how the crime went down (that scene gave me the chills) and the alcoholic thespian who is a nobody at this point. And Laurel is not just another beautiful woman in love with possibly the wrong man. She seems really lonely as well and seems to be carrying her own dark baggage that she doesn’t seem able to shed either.
I also loved the way the relationship between Dixon and Laurel is portrayed. The scene where Dixon lays out breakfast for the two of them is so devastating and unforgettable.
The cinematography is pretty cool too… the camera seems to move less and less as the film progresses (at least that’s how I remember it) and the sense of claustrophobia and being walled-in that Dixon are Laurel are feeling are palpable to the viewer as well.
It’s pretty incredible how the movie is able to walk this fine line where we are never quite sure of Dixon and yet find ourselves really rooting for him and Laurel to be together and happy. And such a perfect ending – Dixon walks out the door and Laurel is on the phone with the cops destroying any last vestiges of hope we may have had for them. Just awesome.