Thursday, April 19, 2007

April 19th Log

1974, Robert Altman, United States
1st Viewing, DVD

Thieves Like Us opens with a lyrical long tracking shot that sets the tone for the entire film. It is indeed a film by Robert Altman, and was is made during his incredible streak of films from the 1970s. Thieves Like Us was made after The Long Goodbye (one of his greatest films) and before California Split. The film is typical of Altman from this era in that he re-imagines genre. By focusing less of plot details and more of characters, Altman gives us a film that is equally touching, charming, and poetic. Altman uses the American Depression and the future hope of “The New Deal” as an ironic backdrop. Using period details and beautiful (even when “ugly”) cinematography, Thieves Like Us flows at a pace that seems to capture a dream within reality. Perhaps it is simply the Altman trademarks, but everything works here and the casting selections seem perfect. A couple Altman-regulars from the 70s Keith Carradine and Shelley Duvall are terrific as the innocent young lovers, and John Schuck is especially memorable as Chicamaw. Thieves Like Us is a remake of Nicholas Ray’s masterful 1948 noir They Live By Night, but is more specifically a second adaptation of Edward Anderson’s novel. Like Ray’s film, Altman seems centered on the young member of the gang and his lover. However Altman’s film is lighter and less expressive in capturing the romantic depression then Ray did with They Live By Night. Thieves Like Us is perhaps an inferior film to the 1948 noir and it probably would not rate among Altman’s very finest work of the innovative decade, yet it remains such an endearing film for its definitive Altman-esque qualities.


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