Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Mikey and Nicky

(Elaine May, US, 1976)

May's third feature as director (out of only four, sadly) has the emotional and temporal compression of a stage play, and her nearly exclusive focus on the actors, often to the detriment of the niceties of cinematic craft, make it seem as if the script began its life in the theater.  But there is an element of immersion in place (grimy, nocturnal inner-city Philly melts into the sunny, doomed morning of the suburbs) and another of motion (the characters flit about the city like mad, lonely moths), that keep it rooted in the world of cinema.  The writing is so good, and so well delivered by the never-better duo of Falk and Cassavetes, that you are willing to ignore all the gaffes, from visible lighting equipment to continuity errors to whole swaths of extremely poorly dubbed dialogue.  Mikey and Nicky is a study in the dissolution of a friendship, and ultimately a kind of tragedy.  It's a tragedy that could only have existed in the American cinema of the 70s, but it has moments of comic bliss, and it seems unlikely that either actor ever had such a richly prepared meal in front of him; both of them dive in and devour it. 

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