Hollywood Classics: The Cinema Is Nicholas Ray at TIFF Bell Lightbox

From October 2nd through December 13th, TIFF Bell Lightbox will present a retrospective of the work of iconoclastic American director Nicholas Ray (1911-1979). It’s a full-scale exhibition in honour of the centenary of Ray’s birth, and will continue into the new year with another selection of his work.

Ray was a unique character, making personal films about alienated youth and vulnerable people within the Hollywood studio system. Perhaps best known for his work with James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause (1955), Ray had been exploring the same themes from the very beginning of his career. His first feature, They Live By Night (1948), featured two naïve young lovers on the run from the law; it was remade by Robert Altman as Thieves Like Us (1974) and was a huge influence on Arthur Penn’s Bonnie and Clyde (1967) and Terrence Malick’s Badlands (1973). Other career highlights screening during the series:

  • In A Lonely Place (1950): Humphrey Bogart gives one of his best performances as a man accused of murder who finds love but sees it destroyed by his self-loathing rage.
  • On Dangerous Ground (1952): Robert Ryan and Ida Lupino star in this noirish tale of the transforming power of love.
  • Bigger Than Life (1956): a Technicolor marvel featuring James Mason in a terrifying turn as a benevolent teacher transformed by the side effects of a drug treatment.
  • Bitter Victory (1957): an anti-heroic war film set in the North African desert during World War II, the film pits two British officers against each other in the aftermath of a love triangle.

Ray’s focus on outsiders, on the lonely and misunderstood misfits in our midst, was ahead of its time, and has endeared him to modern directors like Jim Jarmusch (who studied under him at NYU in the 1970s), Martin Scorsese, and many of the figures of the French New Wave, most notably Jean-Luc Godard and Francois Truffaut. It was Godard who, in his review of Bitter Victory, provided the quotation that forms the title of the series:

There was theatre (Griffith), poetry (Murnau), painting (Rossellini), dance (Eisenstein), music (Renoir). Henceforward there is cinema. And the cinema is Nicholas Ray.

Tickets for all screenings are now available to order online.

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2 Responses to Hollywood Classics: The Cinema Is Nicholas Ray at TIFF Bell Lightbox

  1. Bob Turnbull says:

    Small correction – “On Dangerous Ground” was 1952. I had to check because it was firmly a Noir and ’61 felt a bit late for it…

    I’m bummed that they aren’t screening “Johnny Guitar”. That’s the one I’m most eager to see by him. I’ve seen 8 of his films (if you count 2 films in IMDB that state he was uncredited), but there’s plenty more to catch. I think I need to try to see “Born To Be Bad” (which sounds terrific), “Bitter Victory” and “Party Girl”.

    Of what I’ve seen, “In A Lonely Place” is easily my favourite. Fan-damn-tastic. “Bigger Than Life” and “They Live By Night” are great too (I also like “A Woman’s Secret” a great deal, but they aren’t showing it).

  2. Corrected, Bob, and thanks! Since they’ve mentioned there will be a Part 2 in the new year, you may get your wish for Johnny Guitar. And maybe A Woman’s Secret, too!

    I confess I’m a total Nicholas Ray virgin but am going to be watching at least Rebel Without a Cause and In a Lonely Place in the next few weeks. Would love to see Bigger Than Life on the big screen, too.

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