Atlantic City (1980)

Directed by Louis Malle

In a corrupt city, a small-time gangster and the estranged wife of a pot dealer find themselves thrown together in an escapade of love, money, drugs and danger.

A potentially early entry into the underexplored subgenre of films whereby a director who knows his film history takes a well-known male American star and casts them in a worn-down and worn-out role, deliberately establishing an intertextuality between their famous earlier work where they were the noble (and often virile) hero the current film where their sheer presence acts as an immediate signifier of someone with a few miles in their legs, a broader reminder of that all things must pass as well as a potent symbol of the falling of American grandeur. Other parallel films would certainly be Martin Scorcese's 1986 The Color of Money featuring Gary Newman, and potentially 2022's Top Gun: Maverick. The implied sexual overtones seem to have changed throughout the decades: whilst it might once have been appropriate—even literally desirably—to portray Lancasters age as a kind of once-sexually experienced lothario who at least knows how to please a woman, the implication of the age and power dynamics cannot play out that way today, especially post #metoo — this might explain why Top Gun: Maverick is somewhat unsatisfactory in a subliminally libidinal way. Either way, this is probably the best of the three examples, despite its face-value age dynamic and peeping-tom aspects due its rather well-drawn characters who never blend into one another whatsoever. And, of course, it is not a sequel and contains an extended cameo with Michel Piccoli… (As an aside, is Louis Malle the auteur with the most diverse output? How is this the same guy who did My Dinner With Andre?)