Friday, February 15, 2013

ATLANTIC CITY (1980) movie review

Atlantic City
d. Malle, Louis (Canada/France)

Few actors had Burt Lancaster’s sense of masculine grace, and in his aging years, he gave us a couple of wonderful swan songs to remember him by (Local Hero and Field of Dreams come to mind). But Louis Malle’s ode to a city in transition and little people with littler dreams served not only as a showcase for Lancaster as a sad and lonely numbers runner in the titular township, but also provided Susan Sarandon with her first Oscar nomination (not to mention an incredibly memorable opening sequence. I doubt anyone who sees it will be able to slice another lemon the same way again.)

Malle offers up lowlife characters, but never seems to be judging them, allowing viewers to connect with them on our own individual terms. This has a European feel to it, despite its American setting, and carefully avoids a multitude of could’ve-been clichés within its storyline (drugs, casinos, mob bosses, running from hired killers). Even the “action” sequences feel somehow dreamlike and otherworldly, with the chase of scruffy dealer Robert Joy in the rotating car park a distinct highlight. Kate Reid’s performance, as Lancaster’s brassy and sassy downstairs neighbor and sometimes paramour, is another.

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