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REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE
1955 - Nicholas Ray
United States
12
Opening Shot

Over the opening title we see a young man (James Dean) laying in the street playing with a wind-up toy. He covers it up with some trash as if tucking it in bed. Sounds of a police car is heard and the image then fades to a shot of two police officers bringing the man into the station.

The Film

"If I had one day when I didn't have to be all confused and I didn't have to feel that I was ashamed of everything. If I felt that I belonged someplace. You know?" Nicholas Ray's 1955 masterpiece Rebel Without A Cause stands a fitting title for both the films director and it's star. James Dean only starred in three feature films prior to his fatale death in 1955 (Giant was released in 1956). Rebel Without A Cause was the second of Dean's career, yet it stands as the role that would mark his icon status in film history. For Ray, Rebel Without A Cause is a personal film as he's a filmmaker often viewed as alienated and he deeply cared for characters who shared similar traits. Ultimately however, Rebel Without A Cause is not simply a film of rebellion. It's a film of three unique souls, who are isolated from the morals of their vulnerable but strict society, that seek to find a separate world of love and care. They are viewed as rebels, but ultimately seek love as the hope for finding individualism within the forced responsibilities of life. Rebel Without A Cause is a deeply moving film of power, beauty, and above all human sympathy. Ray's visual brilliance is astonishing (including a flawless capture of CinemaScope and color, as well as the sweeping camera movements and vivid framing). This was Ray's first color film, and it wonderfully displays his detailed skill with using color in the images. This is a landmark film that is beautifully made with personal artistic expression, powerful emotional, and care. Rebel Without A Cause is a masterwork of American cinema.

The Filmmaker

Though Nicholas Ray started out in theater and began in Hollywood as Elia Kazan's assistant, he would thrive on his own personal style, which is cinematic in every possible way. Ray worked just outside the conventions of Hollywood filmmaking as he often wrote his films. He would work within genres, yet would redefine the genre through an unconventional approach. His debut film (1949's They Live By Night) is a poetic mix of personal expression and film noir. It's youthful romantic depression and longing would define Ray's trademark expressionism as a filmmaker and his debut stands as one of his greatest achievements. Ray continued making unconventional genre films during the 1940s and 50s (notably the bizarre, expressionist western Johnny Guitar and the masterful noir on Hollywood In a Lonely Place- which as an artistic achievement may be his greatest work). Ray would earn acclaim with his 1955 film Rebel Without a Cause, a film that may be his most compassionate and most quintessential. Rebel Without a Cause is most remembered for it's iconic star James Dean who's legendary status is fitting alongside the films title. However, it is Ray himself who is in many ways a rebel and a loner and this film is very representative of its filmmaker. The film is masterfully expressionist in it's visuals (which captures the emotional state of it's characters through composition) and of it's themes (which is a film of three unique souls, who are isolated from the morals of their vulnerable but strict society, that seek to find a separate world of love and care. They are viewed as rebels, but ultimately seek love as the hope for finding individualism within the conformed responsibilities of life). One of Ray's greatest gifts as an expressionist filmmaker is his detailed use of compositions. Notably his masterful use of colors and color contrast (for instance the opposing costumes of the gangs in Johnny Guitar or James Dean's jacket and car in Rebel Without a Cause). Above all Ray is a rebel himself who through his films and characters identified with outsiders that viewed themselves different and longed for romance and peace.

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Resources
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