Mickey One Film Details
Overview: After the mob tries to kill him for an unknown reason, a comedian steals the identity of a homeless man and goes on the run.
Tagline: …and the name of the game is Mickey!
Review: TCM has been showing a number of Arthur Penn’s films in the wake of his recent death. I have never been much of a fan of his work–Bonnie and Clyde has always seemed to be a one trick pony with one good idea that does not stand up to repeated viewing. Little Big Man–another one trick pony, but a good trick–and the underrated Four Friends, striking elegy for the 60s, are the two films of Penn’s that really work for me. Penn was a quintessentially 60s director–with some of the good and much of the bad that that would imply. One of the bad things about the 60s was trendiness for its own sake–something that has unfortunately become embedded in our zeitgeist. Mickey One is a perfect example. Just about every element is trendy. And the result is predictable. This is one of the worst, and most pretentious, films I have ever seen. With its sumptuous black and white photography, it is like a turd in a silver and jet setting. I’ve read quite a number of the comments on here, and it appears that many of the commentators have a pretty shaky grasp of what the following terms for trendy elements mean: Felliniesque, French New Wave, paranoid,existential, Kafkaesque, surrealistic. They are neither interchangeable nor synonymous. Let’s try to apply things with some degree of precision. French New Wave and Fellini: these two black and white styles are not identical, although they have similarities. New Wave is often characterized with rapid cutting and hand-held camera-work–Breathless, for example. Fellini’s characteristic technique involves striking and unexpected images, as in the opening of La Dolce Vita with a large status of Christ dangling from a helicopter over the city of Rome. OK, apply to Mickey One. Black and white, check. More Fellini or New Wave? Less like Breathless, more like La Dolce Vita–the end, for instance, echoes La Dolce Vita. And certainly the whole junkyard / horse drawn junk wagon sequence is very reminiscent of Fellini. The problem? The best directors have a style. And when a good director does an homage, he picks a single style. Woody Allen stuck to Fellini in Stardust Memories, for instance; Truffaut stuck to Hitchcock in The Bride Wore Black. And beware of your sources. Fellini’s use of symbolism verges on, and often crosses into, the painfully pretentious rub-the-audience’s-nose-in-the-meaning. Most Fellini imitations are bad. This one is. Now–can we call this paranoid? I think not. Great paranoid thrillers are few and far between–the Manchurian Candidate (original only), Winter Kills, The Prisoner, Twin Peaks. The paranoid thriller, for a good part of its duration, must make it seem that the threat felt by the protagonist may be part of his imagination, and that, ideally, there be no clear motivation for the threat. This is not a paranoid thriller. Mickey knows that he owns the mob $20,000. Good reason to be chased. Hyping around this is just an embellishment to add a bit of mystery to a pedestrian plot–one that could as well be worked as a comedy. Kafkaesque implies a particular degree of paranoid in which the reason for the threat is never really made clear–as in The Trial. Do we have that here? Not really. Existential or existential angst. Very popular in the 60s, particularly among undergraduates at selective colleges who wore black and worried about authenticity. Any work where the protagonist questions the ground of his being can be called existential, and so may this. The problem, of course, is that existentialism can be staggeringly pretentious. In my view, it generally is. And so it is here. (I suspect the core audience for this film is people who dress in black and worry about authenticity.) Finally, surrealism. From the French, meaning “above the real” or “heightened reality”. Characterized by striking images associated with dream or unconscious states. Fellini is often called surreal, but incorrectly, I think; there is just not enough of the subconscious there to justify the label. (Luis Bunuel is the master of surrealist cinema.) Mickey One is not surreal. There is one other element that has to be mentioned because it is of a piece with the rest of the film. That is the score. In my experience, a jazz score on a film is usually the sign of a producer or director who is trying desperately to show how hit they are. Boy is that the case here. So: we can agree that Mickey One, stylistically, echoes Fellini (at his most garish and pretentious) and to a lesser degree the French New Wave, not particularly well, inasmuch as these are not compatible styles; and that, thematically, Penn has embellished a simple guy on the run from the mob plot with lashings of existential angst and pseudo-paranoia. All this to a cacophonous, hipper-than-thou, score. The cinematography is quite good. Shake until addled and you have a preposterous and pretentious mess. This film might be taken as a perfect example of how not to create something new. When your clear list of influences are all trendy and of the moment; and when the influences remain distinct and unblended; the result, inevitably, will stink. It does not help that Warren Beatty’s performance, to be charitable, make his turn in The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone as rent boy Paolo look like Oscar material. A long journey to a short sentence. Don’t bother. Avoid this dreadful mess. Gregory, the infallible movie cat, started howling piteously and ran from the room as fast as he could within the first five minutes. He was able to tolerate more of Richard Burton in Exorcist II. Better yet, burn the negative.
Country: United States
Language: English, Polish
Duration: 93 min
Genre: Crime, Drama
Also known as: Mickey One,Kauhu,ミッキー・ワン,Pewien Mickey,Mickey, az ász,Asi soy yo,Acosado,Sorriso Amargo,Микки один