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U.S., 1955
Directed by Nicholas Ray
Starring James Dean, Natalie Wood, Sal Mineo
Screenplay by Stewart Stern, Irving Shulman
Approx. 111 min. 35mm.

“You’re tearin’ me apart!” wails James Dean’s Jim Stark to his apron-clad dad Jim Backus, and a generation of frustrated Eisenhower-era teens chimed in. Fifty years later, the icon of tormented youth Dean incarnated is more potent than ever, perhaps because, unlike the leather-clad punks of more exploitative 50s j.d. flicks, REBEL’s trio of maladjusted high-schoolers (Dean, Natalie Wood and Sal Mineo) are suburban every-kids, the poignancy of their performances now heightened by the real-life violent deaths that would later befall all three. Director Nick Ray’s fable of adolescent angst is heightened by a garish CinemaScope palette, a touch of the Tragic Unities (the actions unfolds within 24 hours), and, in the celebrated planetarium scene, the elevation of teen torment to the cosmic plane. “In REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE, homosexuality exists, but it doesn’t last. Plato (Sal Mineo), a sensitive high-school outsider abandoned by his wealthy parents and raised by an unnamed Black servant, has a photograph of Alan Ladd pasted to the inside of his locker and develops a crush you could see from a mile away on newcomer Jim Stark... [Dean] has another admirer, gang leader Buzz Gunderson (Corey Allen), who expresses his attraction just before the two rivals will have a car race in which Buzz will be killed. Plato is effeminate; Buzz’s homosexuality lurks behind his macho facade…. Remarkably, the film’s homoerotic currents were not noted in any of the contemporary reviews.”  – Foster Hirsch


“Breathes haltingly, with adolescent lungs, unable, like so much in Ray, to contain itself under the pressure of the encroaching world.”
– Anthony Lane

Film Forum