Atlantic City (1980)

Atlantic City. Louis Malle’s best English-language picture and Burt Lancaster’s most masterful performance; toss in a young Susan Sarandon and you’ve got a trifecta of powerful personalities who can drive the picture, but the real star is in the title. Pre-Trump and post-Boardwalk Empire-era, the Atlantic City of the 1980s was a run-down dump in the process of being demolished: a condition that DP Richard Ciupka lovingly captures as an objective correlative to the dead-beat, has-been, two-bit characters that populate the story. The cinematography is poetic, the action blasé: the real plot takes place inside the main characters whom we never for a moment stop feeling empathy and compassion. Given the despair, decay, and demolition surrounding them, this is a major achievement.

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