There’s stand-up and there’s run-like-hell. In this infernal vision, a Detroit nightclub comic (Warren Beatty) takes it on the lam after being dogged by unknown thugs for an unspecified crime. “I’m guilty for not being innocent,” he explains with perfect paranoid logic. Having discarded his identity and resurfaced in Chicago, the newly named Mickey One is in a bind—he desires both anonymity and to be on stage “where sometimes it’s the only place in the world you’re free.” He haunts the gin joints, taking on small-time gigs, all the while never shaking his nameless guilt. The wincing story is of little consequence in this masterful existential noir; rather it is the setting suffused with suspicion, strains of aching jazz, and an almost verité squalor that binds us to its alienated convictions. Beatty, so young he looks unfinished, brilliantly captures the fragile temperament of this joker gone wild. Mickey One is pure Penn, not a punch line pulled from the New Wave as some suggest. It’s just that no one was expecting Kafka with a laugh track. —Steve Seid
Once the vanguard of 1960s-1970s Hollywood New Wave, director Arthur Penn saw his cinematic fortunes decline with the mid-‘70s rise of more straightforward blockbuster entertainment. Even as he struggled through the ’80s and ’90s, however, Penn’s legacy was assured by such films as Little Big Man (1970), Night Moves (1975), and the pivotal masterwork Bonnie and Clyde (1967).
Born in Philadelphia, Penn was trained to follow in his father’s footsteps as a watchmaker, but by high school, he knew he preferred theater. While stationed at Fort Jackson, SC, during World War II, Penn formed a small drama circle with his fellow infantrymen, and continued his education as an actor at school in North Carolina and Italy after the war. Though Penn acted in Joshua Logan’s theater company and studied with Michael Chekhov at the Actors Studio’s Los Angeles branch, he opted for a career behind the scenes when he got a job at NBC TV in 1951. By 1953, Penn was writing and… read more
Fascinating time capsule that along with 'A Thousand Clowns' really captures that mid sixties confusion about identity in the post 50's cookie cutter ideal and the coming storm of near revolution Not really a plot based film and definately has the aesthitic of the french new wave. Beatty and Stewart both great here but its the direction of Penn, excellent b&w cinematography and a jazzy score that make it special.
A propulsive survey of scores focusing on the thriller: procedurals, bank heists, neo-noirs, spy films, giallos, and sci-fi mind-games.