with "Le Coup de l'escalade", Robert Wise elevates waiting to the rank of art


Inaugurated in 1950 with When the city sleepsby John Huston, the genre "breaking film" finds with The stair kick (1959), of the heterogeneous and talented Robert Wise (The Corpse Scavenger, We won tonight, West Side Story…), another popular canon among moviegoers. Jean Pierre Melvilleamong others, had made it one of his bedside works, never losing an opportunity to quote it in his own films, notably in Army of Shadows (1969)where the haunting sound of the latch on the Gestapo gate – where resistance fighters disguised as nurses enter to save one of their own – is directly taken from that of the bank door robbed by the three crooks of the Shot of the stairs.

Who are named Burke, Slater and Ingram. Three lost, three excluded from the American dream. Burke (Ed Begley), the initiator of the coup, is a retired ex-cop who would like to get out of his mess in style. Slater (Robert Ryan), just out of jail, is a racist psychopath who can't control his nerves and is kept by his girlfriend. Ingram (Harry Belafonte) is a high roller in debt who endangers his family, he is black and not very sympathetic to the benefits of white America.

poisoned atmosphere

We see the problem coming. But it will have to wait. The peculiarity of Shot of the stairs, derogating in this from the Hollywood canon, consists in filming the wait. With this meta-commentary from the bully Slater, which will turn everything upside down, in the very body of the film: “The action is fine, but the wait…” Camping its characters, accumulating denotations, the film therefore wanders for an hour in a poisoned atmosphere, while filming the city of New York in a sumptuous and raw way, in saturated black and white, on an unforgettable score by John Lewis of Modern Jazz. Quartet.

All the threads will be tied in the last half hour, picking up the break and the racial conflict in a singularly bitter finale.

All the threads will be tied in the last half hour, picking up the breakage and the racial conflict in a finale of a singular bitterness, of which Wise will seek the incendiary assumption on the side of the masterpiece of Raoul Walsh hell is his (1949), starring James Cagney. In this, the film knowingly betrays the thriller by William P. McGivern (published in 1957), from which it is inspired, which imagined if not a reconciliation, at least an appeasement by death, between the two main antagonists. Everything Harry Belafonte no longer wanted.

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