Monday, September 7, 2009

#477: Rebel Without a Cause (1955)

Director: Nicholas Ray
Cast: James Dean, Natalie Wood & Sal Mineo

A true classic, and far ahead of its time, Rebel Without a Cause centers around three teenagers who each are without proper parent figures. The main character, Jim, has two conformist parents. His mother controls the household with an iron fist, while the father habitually backs down to her. Judy's father refuses to allow her to kiss him at the dinner table as she once had, because now she is "too old for that kind of thing" - which has been the case since she started wearing her red lipstick. John ("Plato") is considered an orphan whose father abandoned the family, and the mother constantly leaves him while she travels.

Without going into much detail, Jim is new to the school, where Judy's friends target him immediately. John, who is clearly (but not outwardly) represented as a homosexual, is attracted to Jim's sincerity and friendly demeanor. Judy is friendly toward Jim, except for when she is around her friends. After a fight on a school trip, Jim finds himself participating in a chicken run against Judy's boyfriend, Buzz. When the game runs awry, Buzz plummets to the bottom of the cliffs.

In this setup, we see Jim struggling to be an honest man and turn himself into the police, while his parents insist on his silence. Judy's conforming ways are arrested with the death of Buzz, and John sees Judy and Jim as replacements for his parents.

There's so much to take in with this film. Symbolism is hidden in every corner, and I'm struggling to write this without making it an all-out analysis. The use of color was extremely important in the creation of this film, from Judy's red lipstick to John's unmatched socks. The score by Leonard Rosenman is great, as well, using a central theme similar to "nanny nanny poo poo".

If you haven't seen it before, get your ass in gear and rent it. The outdated-ness of it slightly takes away from the entertaining value of the film, but it's a great flick if you want to try to break it down.

Fun Trivia (Stolen from IMDB):
  • For the knife fight between Jim (James Dean) and Buzz (Corey Allen), the actors used real switchblades and protected themselves by wearing chainmail under their vests.
  • T-shirt sales soared after James Dean was seen to wear one in this film
  • All three lead actors, (James Dean, Sal Mineo and Natalie Wood) died under tragic circumstances. Dean died in a car accident, Mineo was stabbed and Wood drowned. All three died young.

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