Friday, 1 May 2015

Art of the Poster - Arthur Penn's "Mickey One" (1965)

Considered ahead of its time - and perhaps it still is - this unusual drama, inspired by the French New Wave, brought Warren Beatty and producer-director Arthur Penn together for the first time - two years before their landmark Bonnie and Clyde.

Believed by some critics to be one rare example of American nouvelle vague (e.g. Ethan Mordden in "Medium Cool" - recommended 60s cinema reading) it vaguely foreshadows "New Hollywood" auteurism - soon to arrive with "Bonnie and Clyde", another Penn/Beatty collaboration two years later.

Beatty stars as a Detroit night club comic who incurs the wrath of The Mob (he doesn't know why) and flees to Chicago to start life anew - but still living in fear.

But the plot is secondary to the look and sound of this film (a favorite of Martin Scorsese), which boasts a score by Eddie Sauter and stunning photography by Academy Award-winner Ghislain Cloquet (1980, Best Cinematography, Tess).

Unavailable for many years, this early Arthur Penn-picture has now been newly remastered and released to DVD.

The cast of this one-of-a-kind motion picture includes Warren Beatty, Alexandra Stewart, Hurd Hatfield, Franchot Tone.

... And yes, he gorgeous "Girl" struggling with the windshield wipers under the opening titles is Donna Michelle, Playmate of the Year 1964.

Get it now!

The wonderful original score (now available in an expanded edition on CD) was composed by Eddie Sauter and features sublime saxophone improvisations by the legendary Stan Getz ... click LINK on LHS.

The soundtrack to Mickey One is a little-known sequel to tenor saxophonist Getz and composer Eddie Sauter's superior jazz-and-strings date Focus of 1961.

For the film, Getz again improvises his way across Sauter's punchy or lush orchestral charts. (Different takes were used for the LP and the film itself; the CD has both.) Given the dark moods and expressionist visuals of Arthur Penn's black-and-white allegory, however, this is the cheerful Focus's id-driven flip side. The soloist's usual limpid lyricism and melodic invention are in full view, but Getz--"in character" as a panicky entertainer on the run--indulges his more expressive side too.

Tracking Mickey's progress, Sauter (and Getz) drift through playful impressions of rock & roll, polka, Vegas schlock, Salvation Army, jazz, and bossa nova, skipping lightly like style-quoting missing links between Charles Ives and John Zorn. It's vividly mysterious, fun, and a little mad--like the picture.

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