For Reel

Side Street (1950)
September 3, 2016, 4:24 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Anthony Mann
4 Stars
Side StreetThe early-goings of Side Street recall The Naked City in the way the narration discusses a big city and the people within—New York City is described as an architectural jungle where a murder is committed every day. Over shots of a crowd, it is pondered who will be the victim, and who will be the murderer this time. Character introductions don’t get much bleaker—although audiences are immediately sympathetic to postal worker Joe Norson (Farley Granger), it comes with the knowledge that Norson is simply a small piece in an enormous world that is utterly indifferent to his struggles. In the finale, Norson will be pursued through the streets of Lower Manhattan as they have never been seen before—the streets are so vacant that it seems apocalyptic, giving even more power and weight to the enormous skyscrapers that loom over the action. As with his films with Hitchcock, Granger shows a terrific ability to convey the panic and guilt of an unlikely criminal whose biggest flaw is his moral streak, and Cathy O’Donnell is luminous as the angelic woman he risks it all for. Aside from the remarkable location photography, the great achievement of Side Street is how well director Anthony Mann evokes a descent into darkness. By the climax, the plot becomes increasingly convoluted as more shady figures and crimes get involved in the material, and Mann and cinematographer Joseph Ruttenberg imagine many of the later scenes with a level of expressionism that is largely absent from the early, documentary-like prologue. Even the aforementioned chase through the city plays as abstract in the way it uses the geometric shapes of the towers to create a sense of entrapment, and Mann’s contrast between overhead shots and low-angle views from the street emphasize the sheer horror of being at the mercy of a world of impossible scale.