Friday, April 07, 2006
Night and the City
Night and the City (Jules Dassin, 1950) 
It’s not very often that I have to run out and buy a film right after seeing but this one made me right out and do it. This is an incredibly entertaining film noir with a career-defining performance by Richard Widmark as an American grafter/club tout in London who is doomed from the start. Widmark’s performance as Harry Fabian, a naïve, believing he’s somebody when he ain’t dope is possibly one of the best I’ve ever seen (and I’m not exaggerating). While Widmark’s performance alone could carry the movie, Dassin’s direction isn’t too shabby either. The film is dropped into the messy London underworld, a place where nobody has a past and where only people with money have the power. The trouble starts when Harry beliefs he can become a big shot in the wrestling business only to have a series of unfortunate events occur that make his demise inevitable. There are some great film noir images here, with Dassin emphasizing the sweat, dirt, and worry on the character’s faces. An interesting fact: even though this is film noir, there is really no crime as the axis of the story. The film occupies a world of perpetual crime. I have to say that Night and the City is one of my favorite film noirs, and Jules Dassin, along with Jacques Toureur, as two of the most capable, yet forgotten noir directors.