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THE ASPHALT JUNGLE

Director: JOHN HUSTON

U.S.A.| 1950. BLACK & WHITE. 112 MIN. NEW 35MM PRINT.


When his unsuspecting invalid wife expresses her distaste for the criminal fraternity with which he has to deal, Louis Calhern’s crooked lawyer replies ruminatively: ‘Crime is only a lefthanded form of human endeavour.’ In this W. R. Burnett story of a robbery caper that backfires—and which French director Jean-Pierre Melville called ‘the greatest film in the world’—Huston treats his rogues compassionately, their criminality motivated by dreams of escape or salvation from city suffocation.
As the heist mastermind, Sam Jaffe deservedly won the top acting award at the Venice Festival, and the film is also notable for the first important dramatic role of Marilyn Monroe as the lawyer’s ‘niece’. An impulsive gambler himself, Huston was at his best when studying desperate men making their last exhausted throw at fulfilment, and the coda of this harsh movie is, paradoxically, one of his most tender —the dream realised, as life expires. —Neil Sinyard.

An 8-minute on-screen introduction to this film with Anjelica Huston will precede the screening.

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