The Hustler

The Hustler (Robert Rossen, 1961)

This picture is famous mostly for Paul Newman's strong lead as the talented billiard player: Fast Eddie. He'll try to make a fortune by being a real winner with a real life. Piper Laurie as his love interest will play the part of morale that keeps Eddie on the right path. Fast Eddie is one of the first anti-heroes of his generation. Besides his conventional settings he'll forge the path of the new American hero or antihero. Not as interesting or extreme as Taxi Driver's Travis Bickle, we sense that maybe Fast Eddie was one of its precursors.

The clean black and white photography reminds us the beautiful Noirs of the 1940's that probably inspired the many scenes shot in bars and billiard clubs. In comparison with Scorsese's sequel, The Color Of Money, the billiard scenes were shot in a more naturalistic way. Scorsese's film was more of an artistic experiment of moving cameras and angles.

The billiard is the wallpaper of the plot, Fast Eddie's approach to his relationships is the center of the story. His struggle against his weaknesses is his path.

The way the story evolves is very 1960's, because the filmmaker takes all the time to set up his story. In some way, I found some similarities between The Hustler and À bout de souffle. They aren't in the same category but I think that it treats of the same generation that grow in the post-Second World War era of plenty and freedom. Those kids represent the fallen heroes of the pre-1970's pictures. This generation of the Cold War era pre-hippie "fashion or trend" was the pivot between conformism and liberalism.

I don't think that The Hustler is a movie as important and as revolutionary as Godard's. But I think it slowly opened the way to a more progressive point of view in American Cinema.

It is indeed a great piece of film that I really enjoyed in the richness of its plot and the wonderful performances by Piper Laurie, George C. Scott, and Paul Newman. A Classic!

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