Surreal drama Mickey One arrives on dual format DVD/Blu-ray from Powerhouse Films. Martin Carr takes a closer look…
This black and white Warren Beatty film from 1965 features the star on low beam. Directed by Arthur Penn who went on to direct him again in Bonnie and Clyde, Mickey One is unique on many levels. Featuring close up camerawork, under cranking to speed up action and selective silences it comes across as part pot boiler with film noir overtones. Beatty’s performance feels heavily influenced by Marlon Brando and James Dean, combining smouldering outbursts of anger, perfect hair and posturing without a sense of his own identity.
Incorporating outdoor locations, natural lighting and a select number of sound stage sets, Mickey One feels more nineteen forties than nineteen sixties. Where it stylistically strikes an original chord is in Penn’s methods of manifesting Mickey’s paranoia. Coin operated pier front viewers show an old flame in various stages of undress, spotlight operators instil panic, while Hurd Hatfield’s Ed Castle is accused of being in league with old Mob connections. Penn’s use of montage to establish relationship, context and back story along with voice over also shows off another major strength of Mickey One.
As a standalone example of Beatty before he became famous, turned producer and became part of Hollywood history this is worth watching. Less of a movie star than he would ever be again this understated performance, minus a few moments of theatricality works perfectly. It may be true that his identity had yet to fully mature, but there are undeniable moments of poise and star power on display. One of which will go down as a singularly surreal moment, both in terms of directorial innovation and film star vulnerability.
Captured within the beams of a spotlight, Mickey is panic stricken and beyond help. Blinding his audience with florescence, capturing every bead of sweat clinging to Mickey’s face, Penn’s camera does nothing but linger interminably. Supporting players wait silently in the wings while a close up camera remains static. As the image slowly dissolves from light beam to Beatty, Penn pans out. What awaits his audience at the pinnacle of this surrealist moment probably had them scratching their heads as the credits rolled. Whether the culmination of Mickey’s paranoid delusion, a depiction of his afterlife as lounge singer with Manhattan backdrop, or simply Penn throwing rule books out the window. His choice of ending raises the bar just when audiences were getting ready for something easy and formulaic.
Difficult to pin down, categorised by a formative film star performance and getting by on its invention, Mickey One represents something of interest to include in Beatty’s movie archive. Before that face, those opportunities and Hollywood history turned him into an icon for better or worse.
Powerhouse Films releases Mickey One as part of its limited edition Indicator Series on DVD & Blu-ray. The release features an array of excellent additional features including a new interview with the celebrated actress Alexandra Stewart speaking about the film as well as an interview with Arthur Penn’s son Matthew who talks about his father’s work.
An illuminating hour-long archival audio recording of The Guardian Lecture with Arthur Penn conducted by Richard Combs at the National Film Theatre in London is another great addition to the release. A limited edition exclusive can also be found in the 40-page booklet featuring a new essay on the film by Nick Pinkerton, Richard Williams on the film’s Sauter/Getz score, archive interviews with director Arthur Penn, and historic articles on the film.
Written by Martin Carr
Directed by: Arthur Penn
Written by: Alan Surgal
Starring: Warren Beatty, Alexandra Stewart, Hurd Hatfield
Released: 1965 / Genre: Drama
Country: USA / IMDB
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Top 10 Films reviewed Mickey One on Blu-ray courtesy of Powerhouse Films. The film was released on DVD/Blu-ray dual format on July 24, 2017.