Bigger Than Life

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Mason's furrowed brow and brooding presence have rarely (never?) been used to better effect: 30 years on, his performance as the mild schoolteacher who is prescribed the wonder drug cortisone and becomes a raving megalomaniac addict remains profoundly disturbing. Suburbia is haunted by psychosis; family life torn apart by Oedipal bloodlust. Ray's direction (in 'Scope and Eastman Colour) is as moving as ever - delicate compositions and fluid camerawork contradicted by the image of weak men locked into obsessive self-destruction. At every level the banal props of '50s prosperity are turned into symbols of suffocation and trauma, from the X-ray machine used to diagnose Mason's 'disease' to the bathroom cabinet mirror shattering under a desperate blow. Trashed on first release, resurrected by Truffaut and Godard, lovingly imitated by Wim Wenders (in American Friend): this is Rebel Without a Cause for the grown-up world.

By: CA

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