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Cinema According to Víctor Erice

Friday, July 17, 2015
8:45 p.m. They Live By Night
Nicholas Ray (US, 1949)

Fugitive lovers on the run from nightmare America—drab, mercenary, and insanely competitive—create their own fantasy world full of charm and playful naiveté in Ray's contribution to l'amour fou. Bowie (Farley Granger), an escaped convict, and Keechie (Cathy O'Donnell) are innocents who were "never properly introduced to the world we live in." Like Henry Fonda and Sylvia Sidney in You Only Live Once, they are "the last romantic couple"—romance in its true, not kitsch, sense being the only defense against a cruel world. Already in this astonishing first film, Ray's style is striking in its compactness and expressive mise-en-scène, and personal in its peculiarly nervous existentialism. The tenderness of the love story contrasts sharply with the noir elements of the genre. Víctor Erice coauthored a wonderful critical study of Nicolas Ray and his Rebel Without a Cause was a formative influence on El Sur.

• Written by Charles Schnee, based on the novel Thieves Like Us by Edward Anderson. Photographed by George E. Diskant. With Cathy O’Donnell, Farley Granger, Howard Da Silva, Jay C. Flippen. (95 mins, B&W, 35mm, From Warner Bros. Classics)