Once in awhile there comes a film that is remembered for generations and looked upon as a masterpiece that captures what life was like at that point in history. There are films like “Dazed and Confused” and “Boyhood” that capture life in the narrative style of a coming-of-age story in iconic ways, and the ASUNM Southwest Film Center will be showing the granddaddy of these films this weekend: “Rebel Without a Cause.”
A quintessential film from the 1950s, “Rebel Without a Cause” is a movie about social change and how society reacts to a new generation and their “dangerous” culture. Nicholas Ray’s most acclaimed film captures the beginnings of modern teenage delinquency in a way that made it ahead of its time.
The film also made a huge and lasting star out of the legendary actor James Dean, who was known as one of the first “bad boy” actors in Hollywood, embodying that persona in many of his films. It also had a huge impact on the beginnings of the American motorcycle scene, which quickly exploded into a new way of life for many. Dean’s bad boy biker image, with his slicked back hair, leather jacket and a constant cigarette between his lips, became the iconic picture of the American biker.
“Rebel” was also well-received critically, en route to earning three nominations (Best Actor in a Supporting Role, Best Actress in a Supporting Role and Best Writing) at the 1956 Academy Awards, among other accolades.
“Rebel” follows the story of Jim Stark, played by Dean, a notorious troublemaker whose family has recently moved to suburban Los Angeles. The film shows Jim’s quest for acceptance from his peers to compensate for the love he longs for from his family.
Like any coming-of-age story, Jim gets himself into dangerous and violent situations, from knife fights to “playing chicken” in sports cars, until his and his friend’s antics produce disastrous results.
“Rebel” has stood the test of time and despite being 60 years old it is considered by many to be one of the best films made in Hollywood history. Rebel defined the coming of age story in cinema and has influenced many subsequent productions for its storytelling and production.
This film isn’t for all moviegoers. This isn’t to say that it’s too violent or vulgar, but the narrative styles of 1950s cinema oftentimes can seem tedious to tastes that are accustomed to modern narrative styles.
If you have a desire to see the film — whether to expand your knowledge of classic Hollywood cinema, be introduced to James Dean or just to get out of the dorm this weekend — “Rebel Without A Cause” will be playing in the SUB Theater from Friday through Sunday.
Fin Martinez is the culture editor at the Daily Lobo. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @FinMartinez.