Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Sneak

Bigger than Life (1956) / Nicholas Ray
When Ed Avery (James Mason, tremendous ol' fashioned craftiness), only recently informed of an illness and disturbed, therefore, by the prospect of how it will disrupt his middle-class American life, goes to the bathroom and looks at himself in the mirror - he decides after a few moments of private contemplation to take the 'miracle drug' (the McGuffin in the film) that may cure him. When he causes the mirror cabinet to open, thereby causing the reflecting surface to swivel, one may catch a quarter-second glimpse of an intruder, a trespasser of Eddie's solitude, another occupant of the bathroom - half-crouched but very alert, it is the director of the film, Nicholas Ray, dressed in what seems to be a off-white (more white than off) overcoat. This is a very curious incident - one that momentarily interrupts the sustained poetic realism of the film up till the point but also, at the same time, enforces Mason's performance of Avery as a normal everyman desperate to live up to someone else's standards.

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