[Editor's Note: This review is part of the The Mystic: The Films of Nicholas Ray feature at Not Coming to a Theater Near You.]
In Hot Blood, the film’s Los Angeles gypsy community may be marked by insistent patriarchal attitudes, but they weren’t counting on Jane Russell. As the male figures aim to dictate the terms of the colony’s life, Russell’s character, Anne Caldish, attempts to work out her own place in the community and, with the exception of the tacked-on reconciliation between her and her husband at the film’s end, repeatedly thwarts any attempt by the male authority figures to force her into undesired roles. Still, for all the film’s concerns with the structures of patriarchy, director Nicholas Ray seems less interested in teasing out all the thematic implications of Jesse Lasky Jr.’s screenplay and more concerned with staging a glorious Technicolor extravaganza, delighting in arranging his characters and their variegated costuming across the ‘Scope screen and even staging several dance numbers. Still, if it’s difficult to argue with the results from an aesthetic standpoint, this shift in focus on Ray’s part nonetheless makes the question of constructing a coherent reading of the film somewhat problematic.
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