Good Night, And Good Luck
Growing up, ours was the only house on the block with a party at Christmas-time. We were Hindu but my sister was born on Christmas Eve, and it was a perfect pretext to celebrate both occasions, one of which rightfully belonged to us; the other we confidently claimed as ours because we had seen it in countless American movies, most memorably in a little jewel written by Preston Sturges called Remember The Night. All my family lives in India and so, on the night of Christmas Eve this year, when American families were presumably gathered around trees or fireplaces, I ventured out into the cold and clear to go see a movie. I was the only one in the theater for Good Night, And Good Luck.
George Clooney begins this black-and-white film, set in the 1950's, with a tenor sax playing the melody to "When I Fall In Love". But he's being ironic, because nostalgia is the last thing he's after. This is a wisely small and compact movie that never overstays. It is meticulously written and the lead performance, by the brilliantined David Strathairn as Edward R. Murrow, is the best I've seen all year. Senator Joseph McCarthy plays himself, on kinescope, and almost the entire film takes place indoors in spaces where people work. Modest though it is, there is a coherence and clarity to Clooney's conception that is pleasantly startling. Next on my to-rent list: Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind.
I like the way Clooney weaves in vignettes of Dianne Reeves performing with her band in the CBS studio periodically through the movie. At first it seemed like lazy filler, easy connective tissue, but then I thought of Nicholas Ray having Hadda Brooks sing "I Hadn't Anyone Till You" in that nightclub scene with Humphrey Bogart and Gloria Grahame in In A Lonely Place. There is a dry ironic aftertaste to many of these songs from the Great American Songbook — they are romantic and courtly on the outside, but lean into the lyrics and you'll find them issuing dispatches of disappointment and betrayal. Which suits the unforced, glancing parallels with the tenor of present times that seem to be on Clooney's mind.