RARA-AVIS: Arthur Penn (and Tony Curtis)

From: davidcorbett622 (davidcorbettauthor@gmail.com)
Date: 01 Oct 2010

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    Tony Curtis' death this week eclipsed the news that Arthur Penn died as well. Maybe BONNIE & CLYDE didn't change crime story-telling forever, but it did remind us that crime and criminals could be very very sexy--even when they're impotent.

    But it's Penn's MICKEY ONE that really shocked me when I saw it. It played maybe four times over a single weekend when I stayed in LA in the late 1970s, and it was just mesmerizing. (Can't find it on DVD or even VHS, sadly.) It stars Warren Beatty as a stand-up comic from Detroit driven off the stage by the Mob, and who has to face his past when he resurfaces in Chicago and tries to resurrect his act under a new name. There were some interesting gay innuendos in the new club owner's (Franchot Tone) interest in him, refreshingly unsubtle for the time (1965). But the film is really just a tour de force for Beatty's acting and Penn's quirky directorial style. It was even more bold than B&C, stark black-and-white, with razor-sharp cutting and unsettling camera angles. The final scene, when the reckoning comes, is unforgettable for reasons you don't see coming.

    Maybe with Penn's death, they'll reissue it. (Says the eternal optimist.)

    As for Tony Curtis, it was nice to see at least a few obits credit his performance in THE BOSTON STRANGLER.

    David Corbett www.davidcorbett.com

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