Monday, 17 January 2011

Capital Celluloid - Day 18: Tuesday Jan 18, 2011

Bigger Than Life: BFI Southbank, 8.30pm NFT 3

Nicholas Ray, who directed In A Lonely Place which was the featured film on Sunday, was one of the most interesting directors of Hollywood's Golden Age. Famously lauded for Rebel Without A Cause, he was also responsible for some of the most remarkable movies to emerge from America in the 1950s.

Ray directed the weird western Johnny Guitar and a fascinating anti-war drama in Bitter Victory, a Richard Burton vehicle now almost entirely forgotten but which deserves its growing reputation. However, Bigger Than Life is Ray's masterpiece. A searing indictment of American middle-class values, the film was trashed on release but came to the attention of film buffs in the 1960s after being championed by Francois Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard.

In the movie James Mason plays a quiet sububan teacher who is transformed into a murderous megalomaniac following his addiction to cortisone. If the radical story wasn't recommendation enough, Ray's use of colour and his unequalled use of Cinemascope are masterful. Here is the trailer.

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