Friday 8 July 2016

On Blu-ray - David Hare looks over Delmer Daves DARK PASSAGE and the glorious young Lauren Bacall

Lauren Bacall here photographed by Sid Hickox gazes directly into our eyes and those of the still "unborn" and unseen (for another 45 minutes) Bogie in Delmer Dave's masterpiece, and perhaps the greatest oneiric dream within dream within dream noir ever made, in a gorgeous new Blu Ray of Dark Passage (USA 1947) from WB Archive. 
While the film functions supremely well as narrative noir from the David Goodis screenplay, I think I'm ultimately with the French critics, Jean-Pierre Coursodon in particular, and more lately Jim Hoberman in the NYT on this miracle of a movie as something most sensually and best experienced as an endless corridor of dream and nightmare and dream, ending as it does with the outrageous climax of Bogart sitting in a set on a Warner soundstage emulating a ritzy bar somewhere in a Conrad Hilton vision of Peru, with the Pacific in background process as the soundtrack plays, for the last of many many iterations all through the movie, "You're just too marvellous". I cannot think of many more heart stopping moments in movies than this inevitable but literally incredibly perfect ending. Thus Bacall walks into the set just as we might dream her to, and then into the final two shot with Bogie, just as miraculously, and one might almost say sacredly as Jane Greer walks out of the glare and into the shade of the Mexican cafe in Out of the Past (Jacques Turner, USA, 1947). These are privileged moments in cinema, and especially Noir, the cinema of the dark and sleep and death and dream, one of the three great poetic genres of American cinema. 
Daves' work is more than eminently achieved and as director of action and romantic conflict he's hard to surpass. But Dark Passage comes from somewhere else, somewhere far more subconscious and personal. It's surely a work of amour fou from Daves himself in which he pays rapturous, ecstatic homage to his stars and the material. I just adore the picture.

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