Two convicts break out of Mississippi State Penitentiary in 1936 to join a third on a long spree of bank robbing. The youngest of the three falls in love along the way with a girl met at their hideout.
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Altman's 70s films play like a revision or corrective of Hollywood's past, representing old genres in new ways. So for a revamp of They Live By Night, note that Keith Carradine plays the lead as an amiable rube instead of a vacant angel and that Shelley Duvall is usually not the first pick for a romantic fantasy. And the film cuts all the deeper for it, capturing Altman's complex love-hate relation with the US of A.
One of the more human films to take place in the depression era South. Altman presents an intimate look at a tight knit band of bank robbers who don't have the best of luck. Also the score for this film is the radio shows of the 30s. More brilliance from Altman who had the knack of capturing the essence of a time and place.
Just saw it for the first time in years last night. On glorious 35mm. A perfect imperfect confection - the Altman house specialty. What really grounds these things in the 70s is their radical disdain for the social apparatus. Free love, however, is not in the cards. Love is not free in Altman, and sex is conjoined to a perilous social enmeshment. Carradine and Duvall: truly one of the great (trapped) screen couples.
Cinematography by Jean Boffety. "Desire" list. One of John Carradine's son, the most beautiful and charismatic, direct heir of the performing skills of his father, in a symptomatic role of what he might have been as an actor if he had acted in the classical period: an actor of wounded characters, misfits on the run, perfectly integrants of Ray or Huston films.
This film holds a special place in my heart for personal reasons. Love the use of old radio as the soundtrack. Carradine and Duvall have never been better and have some of the best on-screen chemistry I've ever seen.
From the same material, Ray did "They live by night" and Altman this "Thieves like us" ! Another Bonny & Clyde story (almost) without the violence, but that shows you the love, the casual life, the poor life too, and maybe justifies the need for more. I liked how Altman sucked the romanticism out of it. Great Photography by Jean Boffety.