Washington Post columnist Sonny Bunch posted an interesting commentary about how Nightmare Alley has been able to rise above the fray through a very smart re-distribution of the film in a black and white version. Writes Bunch (excerpted):
Of all the Oscar nominations this year, “Nightmare Alley” earning a Best Picture nod was the most pleasant surprise. Though the film was a little lost on its initial release — coming out the exact same day as “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” the sixth-highest-grossing film of all time will have that effect — Guillermo del Toro’s picture earned a renewed burst of attention with a black-and-white rerelease late last month that emphasized the film’s noir credentials and made it a must-see in theaters for true cinephiles…
And talk about it they should. Seeing the picture on an enormous screen in black and white is an entirely different experience. There’s something chilling about Cooper’s eyes drained of color; his Carlisle has a new snakelike quality. The smoky atmosphere of the Art Deco office in which Dr. Ritter does her dirty work has the feel of classic Hollywood, drawing a direct line to the this film’s noir ancestors.
“‘Nightmare Alley’ is unique for noir,” Eddie Muller writes of the 1947 adaptation in “Dark City: The Lost World of Film Noir.” “There’s no gunplay, no gangsters, and the lone ‘crime’ — the death of Pete — is handled with ambiguity. … ‘Nightmare Alley’ presaged a world of televangelists, home shopping hucksterism, and New Age charlatans.”
If that version was a vision of the world to come, then the 2021 iteration from del Toro and Morgan is a mirror held up to our own time, one in which a not-insubstantial portion of the population is looking for a mountebank to tell them pretty lies and soothe their internal anguish. And it’s one we, understandably, flinch from. But everyone deserves to see Stanton Carlisle’s ruined, anguished face projected in cold black and white, 40 feet high, gibbering uncontrollably as he accepts the fate he’s made for himself.
It’s a warning to do better, a warning you won’t soon forget.
from “How ‘Nightmare Alley’ scared up a Best Picture nomination“, by Sonny Bunch, Washington Post, February 8, 2022
The Naro will be presenting Nightmare Alley: A Vision in Darkness and Light, during this Oscar season – please see our calendar for dates and times