“Nightmare Alley”, fatal fable
by Guillermo del Toro
American film, 2:30
Does the magician Guillermo del Toro doubt his tricks? The Mexican filmmaker abandons the fantastic, his dreams and his nightmares, for an incursion into the harsh reality of film noir. four years later The Shape of Water, supernatural thriller whose praise of difference seduced Hollywood (four Oscars in 2018), here is Nightmare Alley, the second film adaptation of a post-war noir novel (The Charlatan, 1947).
→ REREAD. “The Shape of Water”: the voiceless beauty and the nameless beast
Consider the story of Stanton Carlisle (Bradley Cooper), a character with a troubled past, who finds his way in a traveling fair, with a clairvoyant and her husband (David Strathairn). A good talker, he seduces the angelic Molly to put on a number that triumphs in New York. Intoxicated by the glory recently acquired, Stanton promises rich notables a little gullible conversations with loved ones who have disappeared too soon. A dangerous game to which he associates a psychiatrist with a poisonous charm (Cate Blanchett).
The limits of illusion
Femme fatale with platinum blond, hero marked by fate, dark painting of the underworld, heinous murders: Nightmare Alley aligns all the archetypes of film noir, without however multiplying the winks too supported. In superb settings, Guillermo del Toro takes his time to set up his characters, interpreted by a troupe of excellent actors. Starting with Cate Blanchett, more disturbing than ever, and David Strathairn, a moving voice of wisdom who warns against the dangers of illusion.
A way for the great filmmaker, at the height of his glory, to show that he is not fooled by his powers. Despite its sincere personal dimension, this harsh fable on the weight of social determinism is weighed down by an unnecessarily long and grandiloquent outcome that would have deserved a wave of a magic wand during editing.