BIGGER THAN LIFE

Nicholas Ray


T. it.: “Dietro lo specchio”; Scen.: Cyril Hume e Richard Maibaum, da un articolo di Berton Roueche (“Ten Feet Tall”); Coll. scen.: Gavin Lambert, Clifford Odets; F.: Joe MacDonald; M.: Louis Loeffler; Mu.: David Raskin; Int.: James Mason (Ed Avery), Barbara Rush (Lou Avery), Christopher Olsen (Richie Avery), Walter Matthau (Wally Gibbs), Robert F. Simon (Dr. Norton), Roland Winters (Dr. Ruric), Rusty Lane (Bob LaPorte), Rachel Stephens (infermiera), Kipp Hamilton (Pat Wade), William Schallert (farmacista, scena tagliata); Prod.: James Mason per 20th Century Fox; 35mm. D.: 95’.

info_outline
T. it.: Italian title. T. int.: International title. T. alt.: Alternative title. Sog.: Story. Scen.: Screenplay. F.: Cinematography. M.: Editing. Scgf.: Set Design. Mus.: Music. Int.: Cast. Prod.: Production Company. L.: Length. D.: Running Time. f/s: Frames per second. Bn.: Black e White. Col.: Color. Da: Print source

Film Notes

 

What Welles was to deep focus, Ray was to CinemaScope. The ’Scope frame gave a new acuteness to his architectural sense: he both uses the inherent horizontal emphasis of ’Scope, and fights it by an equal insistence on the vertical. The constriction of the frame (a shot showing the whole length of the body has automatically the effect of long-shot) repeatedly intensifies our awareness of the characters’ sense of entrapment.

Robin Wood, in Film Comment, n. 3, 1972

Nicholas Ray’s potent CinemaScope melodrama dealt with the ill effects of cortisone on a frustrated middle-class grammar-school teacher at about the same time that cortisone and other “wonder” drugs were hitting the market. But the true subject of this deeply disturbing picture is middle-class values – about money, education, culture, religion, patriarchy, and “getting ahead”. These values are thrown into bold relief by the hero’s drug dependency and resulting megalomania – which leads to shocking and tragic results for his family as well as himself. Ray’s use of Scope framing and color to delineate the hero’s dreams and dissatisfactions has rarely been as purposeful. It’s hard to think, moreover, of another Hollywood picture that has more to say about the sheer awfulness of “normal” American family life during the 50s. With Walter Matthau in an early non-comic role as the hero’s best friend.

Jonathan Rosenbaum

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