The lonely place is Hollywood, itís the unstable heart of relationships, itís the highway at night before Humphrey Bogartís darting eyes. The artiste is a washed-up screenwriter (Bogart) who makes a point to "never see the pictures I write," his muse is the failed actress across the courtyard (Gloria Grahame), they get together at the police station after the corpse of a breathless coat-check girl ("Sheís your audience!") turns up sprawled on the pavement. (The Black Dahlia is a hovering specter, so is McCarthyite paranoia.) The writer is "an erratic, brutal man" forever one push away from a brawl, "an exciting guy" who can weave his own mise en scŤne, moody lighting and all, while describing a murder to his friends. Heís also Bogie the superstar laid bare by Nicholas Rayís scrutiny, the legendary persona eroded to reveal the desolating macho violence. Strangulated by suspicion, Grahameís bruised coolness dissipates: When the hand that caresses your cheek had a minute earlier damn nearly smashed a manís skull, does it matter whether heís the real killer? "Good love scenes should be about something beside love," the psychotic protagonist tells his distressed beloved, demonstrating with a grapefruit knife with a straightened-out edge. Poignantly low-key where their Sunset Blvd. colleagues are baroquely acerbic, the unsettled characters are "popcorn salesmen" in the business of emotional illusions, fragilely connected. Noir mystery purposefully gives way to womanís drama, romantic happiness is a flickering rear-projection screen of a picnic at the beach, even the POV camera from Bogartís Dark Passage makes a telling appearance. Above all perhaps is a stingingly personal documentary about the breakup between a filmmaker and an actress, with Ray contemplating the self-lacerating tough-guy staggering out of the screen and all but muttering, "I was born when she kissed me..." Rossellini promptly picks up the confessional line of thought for Viaggio in Italia, Cassavetes in Minnie and Moskowitz executes his own Bogie dissection. With Frank Lovejoy, Carl Benton Reid, Art Smith, Jeff Donnell, Martha Stewart, Robert Warwick, and Morris Ankrum. In black and white.
--- Fernando F. Croce