Nightmare Alley Review: Guillermo del Toro’s noir should not be missed

Nightmare Alley takes its name from a damp and dark concrete stretch in Chicago, where destitute people seek shelter. They are people who have been brought down by life and kept there by addiction, ripe for exploitation. And because this is America, there are people who are happy to do so, if only to show off to others.

Based on the 1946 novel by William Leslie Graham (and earlier adapted in 1947 by director Edmund Goulding and writer Jules Furthman) by Guillermo del Toro Nightmare Alley At first it seemed like a departure for one of cinema’s most famous monster lovers. Instead of a supernatural dark fairy tale like the Oscar winner Shape of water or his breakout movie Pan .’s Labyrinth, Nightmare Alley is frank, a stylish and dark work about lies and liars. And in our current theater time, its slow movie is a little harder to sell than the latest Marvel movie, but no less dazzling spectacle.

Like the previous two versions of the story, del Toro’s film follows Stan Carlisle (Bradley Cooper), a man eager to leave behind a life of misery and do hard work for a tourist festival, only to to discover that he has a knack for the carny life. . As his talents grew, Stan finally hit his stride with a successful psychotic act, catering to a wealthy crowd. Through it, Stan meets Dr. Lilith Ritter (Cate Blanchett), a psychologist who is initially suspicious of Carlisle and is interested in punching holes in his actions. Before long, their match leads to a proposed partnership and a dangerous scam: convince an extremely wealthy recluse that Stan can help him see his wife again. his deceased.

Stan Carlisle goes to a carnival looking for work in Guillermo del Toro's Nightmare Alley.

Photo: Kerry Hayes / 20th Century Studios

Nightmare Alley totally sick of foreshadowing, a beautiful blue and orange film that takes the viewer from a carnival zigzag to dark streets to opulent mansions for a story that That’s where people, everywhere, want to deceive themselves – and less so than liars like Stan.

All three versions of Nightmare Alley begins and ends in the same place: With Stan Carlisle in awe of his carnival delight. A lousy tradition and a cinematic horror theme that stretches back to the infamous 1932 film Bizarre, A Freak is a quirky gripping show in which a man is abused and depressed until he becomes a maniac in the pit ready to bite the head off a chicken for a paying mob. Every time I talk about Nightmare Alley shows Stan Carlisle, have mercy on this poor creature. Similarly, each ends with Stan becoming one.

Where Nightmare AlleyIts tremendous strength lies in the long road it has to go through from start to finish. Stan was a quick learner and natural at crowd work, and quickly set about building a new life in a profession where liars hard at their trades. In the first half of the film, Stan is surrounded by people who lie for a variety of reasons, the main difference being how they rate his score. Some, like fortune tellers Zeena and Peter Krumbein (Toni Collette and David Strathairn), see their clients compassionately, using their behavior to entertain and enlighten. They adhere to the moral code of moral deception, telling them what they want to hear, but not going so far as to keep them going in the vain hope of becoming miracle workers.

Stan Carlisle sits in Dr. Lillith Ritter's art deco office in Guillermo del Toro's Nightmare Alley.

Having tremendous power in knowing how to lie and manipulate crowds, Peter warns Stan as he teaches him some of his secrets but hides them from others. “People are desperate to tell you who they are,” he said, “desperate to be seen.” And few things are more dangerous than a man telling you what you want to hear.

However, most people don’t share those values ​​and see others as bloodsuckers and lusts to usurp them for all their worth. Specifically Clem Hoately (Willem Dafoe), a man who built his carnival and livelihood by knowing how to take advantage of others to keep him in black hands. His mantra is to find what other people fear and sell it back to them. Therefore, he needs a geek. In the film’s most chilling scene, Clem tells Stan exactly how to make a freak. It begins with a drink offered to alcoholics or addicts during hard times, a drink laced with opiates to keep them hooked. Then it comes with a job offer: a temporary job as a new professional, just until they find a regular job to fulfill the role. Lie a little to make them think they will only bring themselves down for a short while, when in truth, they will never get out of the weirdo’s cage.

As Stan, Cooper is a selfish cryptographer, one who values ​​his ability to make others transparent and himself obscure, and is determined to use these skills to further his ambitions. For a story of arrogance, he’s perfect – a handsome and capable man, with a long way to go before being so underrated. By design, the performances that drift in and out of his orbit are far more memorable: Straitharn delivers a brief but beautifully dramatic performance as the closest thing to the moral heart. Nightmare Alley Yes. The sinister pragmatist Dafoe as carney Clem’s boss. And Blanchett is a foil, fully formed and ready to meet Stan as he escapes the carney life and puts on a suit for a penthouse as he deceives the urban elite.

Nightmare Alley is a careful and lavish adaptation of a popular work in which its most interesting aspects are those that come to mind when the viewer asks “why telling this story now?” Its script, by del Toro and Kim Morgan, is neither instructive nor drastically different from its predecessors. However, few major studios perceive this moment more acutely. Nightmare Alley filming a bad drama about liars and what makes people believe them, a cycle of exploitation where wealth and privilege are the only thin lines separating a fraudster from a a bloodsucker and an eccentric. Crucially, the movie spends very little time in the actual alley from which the movie derives its title, but it’s always there. There are countless Nightmare Alleys across America, and the moment you think you’re high ends up in one of those moments when you’re about to get stuck there.

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