Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Atlantic City (1980 film)

Directed by Louis Malle and written by John Guare, Atlantic City is the story of a former gangster who protects a young courier after her husband had stolen some money as they’re both on the run from the mob. The film is an unlikely love story where an old man falls for a younger woman as they deal with chaos over stolen money in the middle of Atlantic City. Starring Burt Lancaster, Susan Sarandon, Kate Reid, Robert Joy, Hollis McLaren, Al Waxman, and Michel Piccoli. Atlantic City is a thrilling yet enchanting film from Louis Malle.

The film revolves a former gangster who befriends and falls for a young woman whose estranged husband had stolen some drugs from mobsters as he does whatever it takes to protect her. It plays into a man trying to cope with aging as he is struggling to get by as he is caring for an old woman as well as make money for the poor as his neighbor is a casino waitress training to be a courier. The two come together when Lou Pascal (Burt Lancaster) tries to help out this young drug dealer named Dave Matthews (Robert Joy) try to score a deal in which Lou will get a cut but things go wrong when the drugs that Dave stole belonged to a mob.

The film’s screenplay explores this old man trying to find meaning again as he falls for this young woman named Sally (Susan Sarandon) who wants a new life as she copes with her husband’s bad deals and how it would affect her chance for a brighter future. Even as Sally has to endure her ex-husband and her pregnant sister Chrissie (Hollis McLaren) as they would stay at her apartment while Lou spends his time taking care of a mob-boss widow named Grace (Kate Reid) where he doesn’t feel appreciated. All of which play into Sally and Lou coming together and make a new life for themselves.

Louis Malle’s direction is quite simple as there aren’t a lot of very stylistic shots yet it does play into a period in time where Atlantic City is moving away from its roots into something more modern and less glamorous. While it is a largely intimate film, there are some wide shots as it plays the decline of the old Atlantic City where its hotels and buildings are either destroyed or in ruins in favor of cheaper and more modern-day casinos. Malle does make the city a character as it is mostly shot on the actual city while he goes for close-ups and medium shots to play into some of the drama and suspense that looms throughout the film. Especially as there’s moments where Lou and Sally are in the same room but the latter isn’t aware of the former’s presence until the film’s second half. Malle’s direction does keep thing engaging as it includes some intense moments into the suspense as well as bits of humor as it play into Lou’s desire to reclaim his sense of youth and his attraction towards Sally. Overall, Malle creates a very engaging yet fun film about an ex-gangster protecting a young woman from the mob.

Cinematographer Richard Ciupka does excellent work with the film‘s very soft yet lush cinematography to capture the sense of griminess and bleak colors of the locations along with some unique lighting schemes to play into some of the romantic textures of the film. Editor Suzanne Baron does terrific work with the editing as it‘s very straightforward to play into the drama and suspense. Production designer Ann Pritchard and set decorator Gretchen Rau do amazing work with the look of the apartments of the key characters as well as some of the places they go to including the casinos.

Costume designer Francois Barbeau does nice work with the costumes from the suits that Lou would wear to the waitress/casual clothes that Sally wears to play into the ideas of the old and new world. The sound work of Jean-Claude Laureux is superb for its sound effects from the way music is heard on locations to the atmosphere in the casinos. The film’s music by Michel Legrand is wonderful though it is very sparse as it is mostly an ambient soundtrack while much of the soundtrack consists of different array of music from soul, rock, pop, classical, jazz, and opera music.

The film’s brilliant cast includes an appearance from the singer Robert Goulet as himself as well as notable small roles from Al Waxman as a dealer Lou knows, Wallace Shawn as a restaurant waiter, Hollis McLaren as Sally’s spiritual yet pregnant sister Chrissie, and Robert Joy as Sally’s estranged husband Dave who would try to create deals only to get himself into serious trouble. Michel Piccoli is superb in a small role as a courier teacher who tries to teach Sally the ropes in dealing while Kate Reid is fantastic as the aging mob widow Grace who orders Lou around while lamenting over the loss of the old Atlantic City. Susan Sarandon is amazing as Sally Matthews as this woman eager to make it as a courier while working part time as a waitress as she copes with her husband’s troubles and the protection of Lou. Finally, there’s Burt Lancaster in a phenomenal performance as Lou Pascal as this former gangster who was a top numbers man back in the old days as he copes with aging and the thirst to feel young again as Lancaster brings a sense of charm and energy into his performance.

Atlantic City is a remarkable film from Louis Malle that features top-notch performances from Burt Lancaster and Susan Sarandon. It’s a film that manages to transcend all genres while being very exciting with characters that are engaging and lively as it’s also one of Malle’s most accessible films. In the end, Atlantic City is a sensational film from Louis Malle.

Louis Malle Films: (The Silent World) - Elevator to the Gallows - The Lovers (1958 film) - Zazie dans le metro - (A Very Private Affair) - (Vive Le Tour) - The Fire Within - (Bons baisers de Bangkok) - (Viva Maria!) - (The Thief of Paris) - Spirits of the Dead-William Wilson - (Phantom India) - (Calcutta) - Murmur of the Heart - (Humain, Trop Humain) - Place de la Republique - Lacombe, Lucien - Black Moon - (Close Up (1976 short) - (Dominique Sanda ou Le reve eveille) - Pretty Baby - (My Dinner with Andre) - Crackers - God’s Country (1985 film) - (Alamo Bay) - (And the Pursuit of Happiness) - Au Revoir Les Enfants - (May Fools) - (Damage (1992 film)) - (Vanya on 42nd Street)

© thevoid99 2015


Dell said...

I vaguely remember this coming out way back when. Just wasn't the sort of thing I was going to watch at that time. Sounds interesting, though. Great review.

thevoid99 said...

Thanks. It is actually very interesting if you're into films that has something for everyone as it's one of Louis Malle's more accessible films.

Anonymous said...

I prefer Malle's less accessible films, but this one is pretty great too :-D

thevoid99 said...

@Fisti-Same here though I think it's one of his finest films.