I've clogged this forum with my reviews, which I think makes it tough for it to be heard when I do ring the bell in celebration. Watching these two movies back-to-back, I didn't want to let my admiration get lost among a gaggle of brief comments as I compile a final report on Losey. These two have reframed my opinion of the director and have me excited for what lies ahead.
The Lawless (1950)"Stay away from those Americans."
"I'm an American."
The tension between a small California town and the large population of Mexican-Americans picking crops on the farms snaps when a fight breaks out at a Good Fellowship Dance. While intended to promote harmony between the cultures, it's largely viewed as an event tailored to the immigrants, that the country club kids crash looking for a bit of trouble. It's impossible to not see how fresh the subject matter still is. While the actual lead is an older white journalist, the latino characters are given a large amount of screen time.
The story is all hot buttons, yet by focusing on characters instead of issues, Losey is able to make all the points without hitting most of it as hard as the script is set up to do. The Mexicans aren't salt-of-the-earth saints and the townies are rambunctious teens, not redneck racists. When a rich, white father agrees to bail out everybody - pure fantasy in today's world - it's brought up that doing so is an admission of guilt on both sides. This has some of the rough qualities of an early work or an indie made on a tight budget for a niche audience, but it has a lasting effectiveness, and should be making the rounds at retro-houses.Rating: ★ ★ ★ - Good
The Big Night (1951)"I guess I can take the time to find out whatever your beef is,
or were you just planning to shoot me without letting me in on the secret?"
At George's 16th birthday party, a stranger enters and gives the father a harsh beating. What follows starts as a simple mission of revenge but becomes more complicated as George must come to terms with who his father really is, how much he's been influenced and how some of that may be a really bad thing. Like The Lawless, this is like Noir except Losey stays away from the easily-identifiable style and focuses on character, so the result is more like a drama from the Noir period.
For those that have seen the film, there's an unforgettable moment where George attempts to sweet talk a black singer and some racism slips out. At first it seems like a side point, but this is where I quickly realized the boy's actions are due to how he was raised. Now is the time to question those beliefs and be perhaps a better man. This is not the dramatic path of a revenge drama, but it's the more interesting option, one that continues to build and reveal as the story plays out. Different and very satisfying because of it.Rating: ★ ★ ★ - Good