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You Only Live Once

Screening on Film
Directed by Fritz Lang.
With Sylvia Sidney, Henry Fonda, Barton MacLane.
US, 1937, 35mm, black & white, 86 min.
Print source: HFA

Eager to exploit the sensational story of Bonnie and Clyde, maverick producer Walter Wanger offered Lang unusual creative freedom on this lovers-on-the-run scenario. The director responded by transforming Gene Towne and Graham Baker’s social-problem script into a razor-sharp rendering of Depression-era America anticipating film noirs like They Live by Night and Gun Crazy. Even with Sylvia Sidney at his side, the deck is stacked against Henry Fonda’s ex-con from the start: so much so that it hardly seems to matter whether or not he was responsible for a violent bank heist, a point deliberately elided in Lang’s bold montage. The director’s intense concentration on detail here threatens to come wholly unglued from actuality, revealing what V.F. Perkins calls “a secret movie in tension, if not at odds, with the genre piece that You Only Live Once so powerfully delivers.”

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The Complete Fritz Lang

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The Dark Worlds of Fritz Lang – Part Two

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