Jim Stark is the new kid in town. He has been in trouble elsewhere; that's why his family has had to move before. Here he hopes to find the love he doesn't get from his middle-class family. Though he finds some of this in his relation with Judy, and a form of it in both Plato's adulation and Ray's real concern for him, Jim must still prove himself to his peers in switchblade knife fights and "chickie" games in which cars race toward a seaside cliff. Written by
Ed Stephan <email@example.com>
This film bears watching once every 5 years or so. It is astonishing on many levels, not least of which is the exploration of the underbelly of the happy suburban post-war years in middle class America.
Yes, we all rave about the beautiful and sadly short lived life of James Dean who died before this movie opened. To die also in a manner highlit in this movie - he was co-incidentally a promo for it. Fast driving and fast cars. Poor James.
What I enjoy most though in all of it is the afore-mentioned exploration of hitherto fairly underdeveloped film themes in the America of the fifties. For one, there is the underlying homosexual element to the Sal Mineo character and his obsession with James. And here James is allowed to indulge and return this love, not overtly, but it is there, the tolerance and acknowledgment of it.
The character of Judy, played by Natalie Wood is also of tremendous interest. Here there is an incestuous component in her relationship to her father. It seems to me that the father is terrified of his attraction to his gorgeous daughter and keeps pushing her away to the degree that at one point he slaps her as she tries to kiss him. She escapes from home at every chance seeking male attention from wherever she can get it.
James' parents are a little overblown and too quickly resolved at the end. But the appearance of an "emasculated" Jim Backus (he wears an apron in case we don't quite get it!) is a sight for sore eyes. A little dated in the world of today but so far ahead of its time in 1955.
9 out 10. Satisfying on many levels.
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