peteg's blog - noise - movies - 2022 03 29 AtlanticCity

Atlantic City (1980)

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A pointer from Christos Tsiolkas's prognosis for this year's Oscars:

Does anyone really care about the Oscars anymore? My own faith in their legitimacy was destroyed in 1982, in my final year in high school. I had watched all five films nominated for Best Picture over that summer, and when it was announced that Hugh Hudson's leaden historic drama Chariots of Fire had won over Warren Beatty's lushly romantic Reds and Louis Malle's exquisite chamber piece, Atlantic City, I turned off the television and muttered to myself, "They have no bloody idea!" And so, with the sanctimonious certainty of a 16-year-old, I dismissed every single voting member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. I knew better: they were all wrong.

This is Burt Lancaster as a minor league mafioso, charged with taking care of his departed boss's wife (Kate Reid) for a stipend. The plot gets started with aspirational card dealer Susan Sarandon's husband (Robert Joy), who has impregnated her sister (Hollis McLaren), finding themselves in Philadelphia and soon in dire need of a coke distributor. They arrive in an Atlantic City that is being destroyed so it can be rebuilt as the Las Vegas of the east; this is somewhen before Trump got to it. All three are fleeing their tiny Canadian hometown. Things amble along genially in the mode of the times, culminating in a sort-of reverse Remains of the Day. It's as pure a piece of Americana as was ever built by a Frenchman.

Roger Ebert: four stars in 2005. Vincent Canby got right into it. IMDB trivia: Malle: "... [that] bizarre parking place with elevators — an absurd structure I have never seen anywhere else. It was so inconvenient, but it was typical of the place."