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Sunday, 26 May 2024

Film at Wahnfried - Nightmare Alley

Montagu Events - Film at Wahnfried - Nightmare Alley
At Wahnfried, McGregor
On Sunday 26th at 4pm: Guillermo del Toro’s neo-noir psychological thriller film NIGHTMARE ALLEY (2h30mins) starring Bradley Cooper, Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara.
Critics praised Del Toro’s direction, the cinematography, score, production design, and performances of Cooper and Blanchett and the film was nominated for four Oscars.

Having a knack for manipulating people, Stanton Carlisle, a secretive wanderer with a violent past, chances upon a 1930s travelling carnival. In urgent need of cash and a place to stay, Stanton joins the troupe and learns the ropes in Madame Zeena's mind-reading act, determined to catapult himself into the limelight. Taking advantage of his new set of skills, the deceitful spiritualist makes himself indispensable to the unsuspecting, gullible elite until enigmatic psychoanalyst Lilith Ritter draws Carlisle into her dangerous high-wire act. Now, there is no turning back. Can the Great Stanton escape from the dark Nightmare Alley?

“Guillermo del Toro hits us with a spectacular noir melodrama boasting gruesomely enjoyable performances and freaky twists. He shows us that in spite of the old song, there are in fact a couple of businesses like showbusiness: psychoanalysis and crime. Del Toro conducts us into a fairground of fear with his usual love of the fantastical and the hallucinatory, the same adoration of classic golden age Americana and some spasms of body-horror violence. Thankfully though, it’s without the supernatural whimsy that sometimes threatens to drown his movies in twee. Nightmare Alley is adapted from the 1946 novel by William Lindsay Gresham, who had a great fascination for the US’s sleazy carnies, circuses, travelling shows and magicians with their weird shimmer of the occult.
This film has a horribly ingenious premise and there is something chilling in the central concept: Stan’s mind-reading spiritualist routine, though deeply dishonest, is in fact founded on a set of truths about human nature which are revealed to the seedy huckster but not to the educated person who might affect to despise the showman’s preposterous act. Every person thinks their background is their own unique secret, and everyone is indeed haunted by a certain someone, someone who is always near them (the bogus spiritualist will solemnly declare that this person has a ghostly hand on their shoulder), someone whom they love and hate at the same time. That person is a parent. And Stan’s mind-reading is, in its way, entirely genuine.
There is a brilliant set piece when Lilith is in the audience for Stan’s classy show, smirkingly sceptical and demanding to ask the questions herself, not letting Molly use her codewords, and challenging Stan to tell her what is in her handbag. Will Stan be exposed in front of all his tuxedo fans? Stan removes his absurd blindfold, fearlessly returns Lilith’s gaze and gives a magnificent reply, with intuition to rival Sherlock Holmes. Del Toro’s film shows us that Stan, and tricksters like him, are a kind of priesthood, a brotherhood of ruined and corrupt knowledge, imprisoned in a hell that only they can see.” Guardian review

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