Dark Passage by Bosley Crowther

Dark Passage by Bosley Crowther

06 septembre 1947. Humphrey Bogart / Lauren Bacall. Un couple si attachant. Le passant cinéphile devant cette affiche de Dark Passage qui orne la façade du Strand. Comment résister ? Et ce n’est pas une critique en demi-teinte de Bosley Crowther qui va lui gâcher sa soirée. Non mais.

Critique d’époque :

« The city of San Francisco, which is liberally and vividly employed as the realistic setting for the Warners’ Dark Passage, now at the Strand, scores the major pictorial triumph in this melodramatic tale of love which has Humphrey Bogart and his helpmeet, Lauren Bacall, as its ordinary stars. For Writer-Director Delmar Daves has very smartly and effectively used the picturesque streets of that city and its stunning panoramas from the hills to give a dramatic backdrop to his rather incredible yarn. So, even though bored by the story – which, because of its sag, you may be – you can usually enjoy the scenery, which is as good as a travelogue.

As for the over-stretched fable, it is that of a cruelly-wronged man who, escaped from San Quentin prison, is harbored and befriended by a nice girl who has a most cozy apartment on one of San Francisco’s hills. Her odd generosity towards him is because her father, too, was wrongly jailed – a not very logical reason but no less credible than other dodges in the film. At least, the reason is sufficient to triangulate the two for a slowly-developing romance amidst a man-hunt of somewhat tedious length.The fact that Mr. Bogart gets a gun in his hand but once – and then only threateningly employs it – may be one explanation for the sag which perceptibly comes in the picture along about half-way through. The fact, too, that Mr. Daves has given his actors less action than talk and has overextended slight incidents is another obvious reason for the sag. Mr. Daves has also confused things by using a subjective camera at the start, so that it sees things as through the eyes of a fugitive, and then has switched to the conventional use later on.

This technique withholds Mr. Bogart from the audience’s observation for some time – until a fast job of plastic surgery has supposedly been performed on his face. When he finally does come before the camera, he seems uncommonly chastened and reserved, a state in which Mr. Bogart does not appear at his theatrical best. However, the mood of his performance is compensated somewhat by that of Miss Bacall, who generates quite a lot of pressure as a sharp-eyed, knows-what-she-wants girl.

Agnes Moorehead is also quite electric in a couple of scenes as a meddlesome shrew and Tom D’Andrea, Clifton Young and Houseley Stevenson are vivid in minor roles. Indeed, it is in the bizarre contacts of Mr. Bogart with shady characters such as those played by these well-directed actors that Dark Passage achieves tension and drive. Perhaps he should be given more time with them. No reflection upon Miss Bacall, of course ». Par Bosley Crowther pour le New York Times.

Ironiquement, Bosley Crowther loue la beauté de la ville de San Francisco. Et suggère aux spectateurs d’en profiter pleinement, histoire de combattre l’ennui qui les guette devant ce spectacle trop long, trop étiré. Il s’en prend frontalement à Delmer Daves qu’il accuse de se perdre en scènes inutiles. Même Humphrey Bogart est écorné. Par contre, il se garde bien de s’en prendre à Lauren Bacall. La considère-t-il à la hauteur de son rôle ou craint-il une réaction de sa part ? Mystère.


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3 réflexions sur « Dark Passage by Bosley Crowther »

  1. Ray Ottulich from the group All Films Noir : « I’ve never been a fan of Bosley Crowder. Before I was into Film Noir I was into Westerns Here is his review of possibly one of the greatest stylish Westerns of all time: For A Few Dollars More
    The cool-cat image of a Western gun-slinger that was studiously fabricated by Clint Eastwood in « A Fistfull of Dollars, » under the direction of Sergio Leone, is repeated by Mr. Eastwood in the aptly titled « For a Few Dollars More, » which broke loose with some Fourth of July fireworks at the Trans-Lux West and other theaters yesterday. Everyone susceptible to the illusion that shooting and killing with fancy flourishes are fun can indulge his bloodlust to the fullest at this synthetic Italian-Spanish-made Western film. Once again Mr. Leone has filled his plushly colored screen and his deliberately calculated sound-track with conglomerate stimuli that agitate moods of dread and danger, of morbid menace and suspense, and then erupt in cascades of vivid violence, fistfights, shootings and death. The perils of a professional bounty killer, which Mr. Eastwood portrays, are multiplied in this instance not only by the wariness and tricks of the gang of Mexican banditti he pursues for the prices on their heads, but by the deceits of another bounty killer who is going after the same gang. The menace of this rival, played by Lee Van Cleef, is more dangerous and unpredictable than the known quantity of the murderous gang. Thus it is the presence of this rival, as cool of manner and as deadly with the guns as the crafty, cheroot-chewing Mr. Eastwood, that furnishes Mr. Leone with what there is of interesting conflict between characters of modest scope. The gunman of Mr. Eastwood is a fierce and fearless killing machine. So is the older, more experienced and righteously motivated gunman of Mr. Van Cleef. If anything, he is more clever and more sophisticated with the guns. Both are equally ruthless. Thus their rivalry, their dubious partnership and their frequent temptations to betrayal are the stuff of suspense in the film. But, of course, the dynamics of it are in the freedom and ferocity with which Mr. Leone piles violence upon violence and charges the screen with the hideous fantasies of sudden death. In the close-up faces of his ugly ruffians, highlighted and shadowed in burnished hues, and in the ominous thump of drums and wail of trumpets that preface his menace scenes, he prepares us for the violent explosions that mark the deadly circuit of pursuit. In the bark of guns, the whine of bullets and the spinning bodies of men mortally hit, he provides the aural and visual stimulation for an excitement of morbid lust. One may think that this is sheer fabrication, that the fantasies of killing contrived are devices for emotional escapism, that the foulness of the bandit leader, played with a hint of degeneration by Gian Maria Volonte, is a moral reason and justification for his being run down and slaughtered with his gang. But the fact that this film is constructed to endorse the exercise of murderers, to emphasize killer bravado and generate glee in frantic manifestations of death is, to my mind, a sharp indictment of it as so-called entertainment in this day. There is nothing wholesome about killing men for bounty, nothing funny about seeing them die, no matter how much the audience may sit there and burble and laugh ».

  2. Jean Cottraux from the group All Films Noir : « To taste the flavor of Dark Passage one must consider it is a dreamlike noir…especially the happy ending on the Mexican coast and Bogart’s face surgery. In my view the best American noir with « Dead reckoning » »

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