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Daily Dose of Darkness #10: Nighthawking (A Scene from The Killers)


254 replies to this topic

#1 crimewave

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Posted 04 January 2016 - 07:50 PM

Jamesjazzguitar,

 

Thanks for reading my post and your thoughtful reply.  Your tabulation of the percentage of noir films with positive or negative endings got me thinking.  Off the top of my head I would have guessed that the percentage would skew heavily towards negative endings, as that would seemingly fit into the noir sensibility.  However, the more I consider your point, you’re right, a film can be very dark and still have a “happy ending” a la Kiss Me Deadly.

 

I also like your example of The Sweet Smell of Success to make the case for ambiguous endings.  However, your bringing up His Kind of Woman really jumped out at me.  I’ve seen the film a half dozen times or so and in all honesty I’ve come to enjoy it because I no longer expect to see film noir.  I find it entertaining despite the fact that the film is so disjointed about it’s own identity genre-wise.  Dan Milner’s (Robert Mitchum) dilemma is solidly noir, a guy set up to take a fall, and the scene with the card playing thugs at the six minute mark is very noirishly done.  However, large sections of the film are either centered around Mitchum’s relationship with Lenore/Liz Brent (Jane Russell), or Mark Cardigan (Vincent Price), or various subplots involving the other hotel guests that, while revealing different shades of Mitchum’s character, really have very little to do with Milner taking action to solve the story problem.

 

The writing and direction of Mark Cardigan (Vincent Price) is where the film loses its identity.  While Clute and Edwards on their podcast enjoy how well Price plays his character, and their point certainly has merit, the entire performance undercuts the film’s ability to be noir.  Price’s farce/comedic performance of a narcissistic, aging matinee idol seeking something, anything, to change the course of his life is an interesting study but I can’t help but ask myself why is this character and this performance in this film?

 

The climactic last quarter of the film crosscuts the Shakespeare quoting Cardigan in zany, over the top scenarios (the sinking rescue boat in three feet of water) with the very real and violent torture of Milner (whipped with a belt buckle).  These scenes are so impossibly different that it’s hard to reconcile what genre the film thinks it is.  The viewer is put in the position of having to switch genre gears each time the film cuts back to Milner or Cardigan.  In essence the film has two leading men to the detriment of Mitchum and the noir sensibility.

 

Clute and Edwards like the script.  I agree that the dialogue is snappy and very quotable.  Many of the scenes, when taken alone, are well constructed.  However, I think the writing lost its way when viewed as an entire film.  Perhaps the writing choice to make Milner (and the audience) wait at Morro’s Lodge to learn the details of why he was hired inadvertently created a second act vacuum that had to be filled with random subplots and more importantly, the larger than life Mark Cardigan.  Mitchum waiting at Morro Lodge structurally reminds me of Casablanca, The Wages of Fear and Kansas City Confidential where the main character(s) wait for the decisive action to heat up and the audience learns about the other characters’ stories and subplots.

 

On the Warner Brothers DVD there’s commentary by UCLA professor Vivian Sobchack.   She cites script rewrites showing that Raymond Burr’s character, Nick Ferraro, was added after principal photography was finished and they had to go back and shoot virtually all his scenes.  Also, producer Howard Hughes loved Vincent Price’s Mark Cardigan character and wanted it increased, thus the rather lengthy (for film noir) 120 minute run time.  I was curious about which parts of the film the two directors, Richard Fleischer and John Farrow each directed. In Sobchack’s commentary she states that Fleischer directed all the scenes on Farrow’s yacht as well as the reshoots with Burr.  With His Kind of Woman it’s hard to know to what was originally intended versus how it ended up due to rewrites, a new director and actor, and the additional shooting.

 

I’m open to looking at the films that fall outside the textbook examples of film noir.  Times change and it makes sense that artists want to explore, experiment, and push boundaries rather than just repeat what came earlier.  If in fact the finished film follows the writer(s) original intent, experimenting with writing a noir and farce/comedy in the same script is a little unexpected, but okay, let’s see what happens.  In the end, however, if it’s categorized as noir then it’s fair to look at it in terms of whether or not it successfully fits, or expands, or redefines, etc., that genre.  Personally, I find the film an oddity, with its unusual mix of writing, character design, acting styles, and conflicting genres.  While His Kind of Woman certainly has its charm and is entertaining, the use of ceiling shots and venetian blind lighting doesn’t necessarily turn it into a noir film.  Consequently, if you’re watching a lot of noir films and are conscious of the various noir elements, His Kind of Woman is a great film to watch because it does raise the question about whether or not it should be considered an example of film noir.


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#2 jamesjazzguitar

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Posted 12 December 2015 - 01:57 PM

 

With the above in mind, I now see many films noir as intensely dark and utterly adult “romance” movies devoid of dreamy happy endings. 

 

Very nice post.  Those 3 noir films are some of my favorite noirs as well.   As for the ending in noir films;   I wonder if someone has the percentage of films that have unhappy endings verses happy endings (or substitute hopeful verses hopeless).  Of course there are films that fall in the middle of these two.  

 

My casual review of noir films from 1941 - 1959 indicates around a 50\50 split.    Take noir icon Mitchum.   

 

Angel Face,  Out of the Past and When Strangers Marry have unhappy endings for the Mitchum character (dead or arrested).

 

Cross Fire, His Kind of Women, Macao,  The Racket,  Where Danger Lives;  these all have hopeful endings for the Mitchum character as well as others in these film.   

  

Of course Lancaster ends up on the short end in most of his movies except I Walk Alone while a few are ambiguous.  (e.g. Sweet Smell of Success isn't a happy ending for the Lancaster character but his sister and her boyfriend are off to a hopeful new life).


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#3 crimewave

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Posted 12 December 2015 - 11:20 AM

After The Summer of Darkness course I re-watched Out of the Past, Criss Cross, and The Killers, three of my favorite noir films, with two of my favorite noir protagonists, Robert Mitchum and Burt Lancaster as well as the stunning and talented femmes fatales played by Ava Gardner, Jane Greer and Yvonne De Carlo.

 

Prior to The Summer of Darkness course I had seen a fair number of films noir, some many times, and I consciously associated film noir with a twisty plot driven narrative that in part defined the film noir style.  While I still believe that is true, one of my takeaways from the course is I’m now much more drawn to the relationships in the films.  In prior viewings, while enjoying the relationships, for whatever reason the plot jumped to the fore.  Perhaps after many viewings of the films, the plot becomes less important because, quite simply, you know what’s coming and aren’t surprised.

 

With the above in mind, I now see many films noir as intensely dark and utterly adult “romance” movies devoid of dreamy happy endings.  In thinking about the three films I found myself hesitant to criticize the The Killers because I truly believe The Killers is an A-list example of film noir.  However, in the context of the relationships between the male protagonist and the femme fatale, Out of the Past and Criss Cross works better than The Killers.

 

The three films have a fair amount in common but there are notable differences.  In all three films the male protagonists are not criminals but are pulled into criminal activity due to their attraction to the female leads.  In all three films there is a love triangle between the femme fatale, the male protagonist and the male antagonist.  In Out of the Past and Criss Cross the femme fatale, loathes the male antagonist and is in love with the male protagonist.  However, in The Killers, the love triangle is a ruse.  Kitty Collins (Ava Gardner), unbeknownst to The Swede (Burt Lancaster) as well as the audience, is in league with Big Jim Colfax (Albert Dekker) for the entire film.

 

Films usually benefit from having more than one source of conflict.  The choice to portray Kitty as indifferent to The Swede diminishes the dramatic potential of the film.  Had The Killers intensified the love triangle, the forces of conflict would correspondingly intensify beyond just the heist or insurance investigation by adding the volatile world of sexual possession where the male protagonist is swept up in the dynamic of, “where desire meets danger.”  Of the three films, I find Out of the Past and Criss Cross more satisfying than The Killers in terms of the intensity of love and lust that threatens to undo the tenuous, uneasy trust between the male protagonist and antagonist.

 

Unlike novels, films have a relatively strict 90 to 120 minute run time limit.  According to IMDb, Criss Cross has a run time of 88 minutes.  Both Out of the Past and The Killers have a run time of 97 minutes but I find there is a much deeper relationship developed between Jeff Bailey (Robert Mitchum) and Kathie Moffat (Jane Greer) in Out of the Past as well as Steve Thompson (Burt Lancaster) and Anna Dundee (Yvonne DeCarlo) in Criss Cross than The Swede and Kitty Collins in The KillersThe Killers, by nature of its Citizen Kane investigative style spends quite a bit of time on Jim Reardon’s (Edmund O’Brien) insurance sleuthing and in fairness, the Jim Reardon character does solve the mystery and does drive the climax of the film by bringing justice to the hired assassins that killed The Swede.  However the emotional core of the film has to be what occurs between The Swede and Kitty.  His attraction to her creates and fuels the forces of conflict and antagonism that prompts Reardon’s investigation.

 

It’s fascinating when characters knowingly and willingly walk down a path that will lead to their destruction, but a certain degree of accepting that choice must occur for the audience to bond with a character making self-destructive choices.  Frequently, this begins with the overwhelming sexual appeal of the female protagonist and then nicely devolves from there, as the male protagonist will do anything to be with the woman of his dreams.  It’s hard to imagine anyone wanting the audience to balk at accepting the ill-conceived decisions of the male protagonist and the way to avoid this potential problem is to develop the male/female relationship to the point where the audience not only accepts the male/female self-destructive choices but also acknowledges that, to a lesser or greater extent, somewhere within themselves exists a fine line between healthy and self-destructive behavior.

 

Consequently, The Killers would be an even better film with about ten more minutes of The Swede and Kitty being together.  This might deepen a bond between them after which they’re willing to throw caution to the wind.  I want to see them doped up on love to the level where they can’t make wise choices.  One point in the screenplay where this could have occurred is the moment after the heist where The Swede and Kitty hole up in a hotel in Atlantic City.  Since the film is structured on flashbacks that allow Reardon to recreate what happened, rather than starting with investigating The Swede’s suicide attempt and resulting mysterious insurance policy with Queenie (Queenie Smith), the script had every opportunity to show the Swede and Kitty alone together after she dupes The Swede to steal the heist money.

 

Watching the film, we know Kitty is beautiful and we know that beauty instantly sends The Swede over the moon.  What I want to see is Kitty enticing and possibly falling for The Swede as a means to achieve her and Big Jim’s grand plan to steal the heist money from the others participating in the robbery.  Unfortunately, Kitty couldn’t care less about The Swede and I can’t help but feel that this was not only a missed opportunity, but also weakens the degree we care for the characters.  If Kitty doesn’t care about The Swede and the film doesn’t really show why she cares for Big Jim, then why should the audience care about Kitty?

 

The table was more than set for a big dose of love and betrayal and this might have propelled Kitty’s character from good to great.  While I’m sympathetic to any screenwriter’s challenge of balancing character and plot development in under 120 minutes, I wish screenwriter Anthony Veiller had cut back some of the Edmund O’Brien scenes (especially repeatedly asking permission from his boss to continue working on the case) and given the time to further The Swede’s and Kitty’s relationship.

 

-Mark



#4 forlorn_rage

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Posted 26 July 2015 - 08:46 PM

The first 2/3 of the clips when the characters are talking to each other are realistic shots.

 

Formalist shots are comprised of the diner owner watching the two hoodlums leave through a window (as if he was watching an animated painting), the tracking shot of Nick running out of the diner and leaving the Swede’s room.

 

The dark lighting and shadows of German expressionism is evident in the last third of the clip from when Nick hops the fence to when he gets to the Swede.

 

The opening to The Killers is an example of all influential elements of noir so beautifully and seamlessly blended together just when film noir is being recognized as a genre in and of itself. 



#5 moovipassion2

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Posted 23 July 2015 - 04:05 PM

In this film we see the influence of German Expressionism in the opening act. We get a feel of the typical film noir style with the use of low key lights to create a dark scene. Shadowy figures and low mood of the characters, as well as, the inclusion of seamy characters that are meticulously placed about the scene to invoke feelings of an eerie, uneasiness that something is about to happen. A shot of a cafe/diner late in the evening... could be anywhere in Small Town, America. The props,the low activity and somber ambiance of the people in and outside of the cafe is classic of what one might expect in a town of this type. It is realism at its best. A first glimpse of one the killers is revealed in a frame through the diner's curtained window from an angular diagonal shot with the camera.The sound of the screen door slamming as a man is going in and out of the diner let's us know that he is angry and upset; audio of the man talking to the cafe owner let's the viewers know that he is angry because he could not purchase a meal because the cook did not show up for work. This is the setup to let us know that something is very odd and wrong here---a cafe that is opened in the middle of the night for business and you can't order a meal? And if you look closely at the panel near the entrance of the door you will see a dark shadowy figure of a man as the potential customer enters in/out the doorway.We can assume with great suspicion that he is there for no good.
Other art forms that we see in the clip are:(1)The cafe is designed as a replication of Edward Hopper's 1942 painting,the Nighthawk; (2) the film itself is an expanded version and adaptation from Ernest Hemingway's 1927 short story "The Killers"; and (3) the music,sets the tempo for what Siodmak wants the audience to feel as well as to add drama.
The scene takes a shift from realism to formalism,with a long shot of Nick dashing across the backyards jumping over fences to urgently get to the Swede to warn him about the men. When he reaches the Swede; we see an odd triangular shaped lamp and it's shadow cast upon the wall of a dimly lit room, that looks much like the viewing room of a mortuary, where one would expect to find a dead body laying inside a casket. Strangely enough, the first image we see of the Swede is of him lying on his bed(still alive)as if he was displayed in a casket. His body is stagnant as he lays there listening to Nick's urgency to flea pending danger. However, his replies are low,monotoned,and resigned...awaiting his tragic fate. This is surreal, most people who have done something "...wrong" or the worst criminal you can imagine would make some attempt to flee or find a way to make amends for their wrongdoings. Even a child will try to find a way to avoid trouble if he can.

In Lang's film,we see the influence of German Expressionism, similarly, as well with the use of low key lighting and a high angle camera shot of the children playing below a dark tenement. We are made to feel their vulnerability. A long shot of the balcony above of a woman reprimanding the children below let's the viewers know that she is an authority figure--a mother perhaps. Again, low mood and despair of the adult women;the chant that the children are singing paint a picture of doom and gloom lurking in the air. Dark streets, ticking clocks, the sound of street traffic,a child walking home alone....bouncing a ball. And a close-up of a dark shadow slowly appearing, overlapping a sign post that, interestingly, tells the tale of what has been happening to the children in the community. The dread that is felt leading up to this moment is confirmed when the shadowy figure of a man begins to ask the child her name.
The contribution that today's clip, "The Killers", provides is important because of its portrayal of both realism and formalism within the film noir style.

#6 SwooningOverCinema

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Posted 09 July 2015 - 10:54 PM

 -What are some of the influences you see in this sequence from other cinemas (such as German expressionism) or other art forms? For example, consider this scene in relation to the work of Fritz Lang (who also worked at UFA).

 

As well as Hopper's Nighthawks I see a bit of Norman Rockwell in the everyday Americana of a diner, gas station, pinned back curtains and picket fences. In the shot in the diner I really noticed the ceiling shadows. In the Swede's room the chiaroscuro lighting from German expressionism - definately some UFA influences. And in the Swede's room the feeling of being trapped reminded me of Lang's composition.

 

-How does this sequence shift its visual design from realism to formalism, as it moves from the diner to the Swede's room?

 

In the diner I feel I'm in the regular world, clearly lit, the mise en scene is in focus with cuts and pans following the clear distinct faces, we see plates and cups, napkin holders and a coffee maker. The Swede's room is in all in one shot, chiaroscuro lighting just from the window and then from the hall, the objects in the room all hidden in shadows. Nick's face is only briefly fully lit and Lancaster's is never revealed from the shadow and he barely moves, befitting his despondancy.

 

-In what ways can this sequence from The Killers be considered an important contribution to the film noir style?

 

Another great Noir with so many of the classic noir elements and themes. Great lighting, camera angles and score heightening the tension and anxiety as we watch the killers through the diner door and the tracking shot of the run - will he make it in time. With the use of formalism we feel Swede's mood yet don't get to see him or understand why he feels resigned to his fate. Who is he, what did he do wrong, does it really warrant death? And why doesn't he run? It sparks interest and questions, makes us eager for more.



#7 felipe1912t

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Posted 09 July 2015 - 08:37 AM

This short excerpt have a lot of noir on it! Is clear that the director's influence by German expressionism made hum create a misc-en-scène really interesting visually, specially in the running sequence from the bar to the other building. We can see here the shadows, the sillouetes and all that singular composition already seen in 'M', for example. The first seconds of it already are an introduction to that, with a more formalistic view from the director. And speaking about formalism, we switch from the man's running to a moving camera that only reveals the tension and some shadows. That's the realism speaking from itself in a really clear way.

And music is just essential to this entire sequence tension. Once the two men are free, we can hear the dramatic score play out loud and clear for the audience, with strenght and much cinematic value.



#8 Sharper

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Posted 30 June 2015 - 07:36 AM

-- How does this sequence shift its visual design from realism to formalism, as it moves from the diner to the Swede's room?

The diner is your everyday level of sound, lighting with just a bit of a threat from some hoods; everyone in the diner has a name and we can see their faces clearly, the dialogue is 'everyday'.  Our boy jumps A LOT  of picket fences when he moves from this world to the room of 'the Swede'. When he reaches 'the Swedes' room there is a distinct change in the lighting to big shadows and we never see the face of 'the Swede'. He is a mystery man who speaks and acts differently to the guys from the diner; he is prepared to accept his fate which is contradictory to what his friend would do, and indeed wants him to do.



#9 Artistgirl45

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Posted 29 June 2015 - 12:22 PM

In the opening scene of the clip, I noticed a couple of things that were really stunning.  One of the things I didn't see much was Hopper's "Nighthawks"--maybe in the first ten seconds of the clip, but instead I did see that the perspective in the next shot was identical to Da Vinci's "The Last Supper".

 

The lines in the ceiling and the lines of the counter point toward a vanishing point in the center of the shot.  In fact, the design of the ceiling is reminiscent of the ceiling in the room in the painting. The center of the shot is the napkin dispenser on the counter, not the diner owner or the killer. The diamond shape inside a rectangle on its side is the main focus-when we look behind it, we see the rest of the items on the counter lined up behind in perfect perspective.  It is the star of the shot and not the men, which reminds me of El Greco's "The Conversion of St. Paul" in which the horse of St. Paul is featured in the center of the painting with the light of the holy spirit shining upon it and not Paul.

 

In the foreground the circular objects are out of focus but notice the repetition of the rectangle all over the shot, they're everywhere.  And again, the curvy or round objects in the room are not very noticeable, however the round buttons on the killer's coat are.

 

The white coat of the diner owner contrasts heavily with the black coat of the killer-we know the owner is a good man and the killer is a bad one.  The diner owner rescues his helpers in the kitchen and the first thing he does is get a glass and fill it with water for Sam, the cook and offers one to Nick, the kid.  He mentions that nothing like that had ever happened around there before, so we know the town is pretty quiet and tame.  He pats Sam on the shoulder to reassure him--he's a good man and a good citizen.

 

When Nick runs out the back of the diner we see the realism of him jumping the fences and running across yards but when he turns toward the Swede's rooming house we see the formalism in the high shot from what turns out to be the Swede's window and again that vanishing point.  This time Nick is the center of the shot and it is about him.  The music swells and is intense-Nick is alarmed and he runs at top speed to warn the Swede.  It's a heckuva buildup.  The scene shifts from outside to inside the room seamlessly.

 

The Swede is lying on a bed in semi-darkness.  We can't see his face so we don't know what his expression is but we don't really need to see his face because the tone of his voice and body language says it all.  It's over for him, they know where he is and it is just a matter of time now.  He is resigned to the fact that he's run out of time and that's all there is to it.  Nick is stunned at first, then leaves the room, defeated and perhaps a little bewildered.  This scene is all shadow and it's used to great effect.

 

The references to the Great Masters are hard to miss but so are the elements of German Expressionism and noir--the fatalism of the Swede, the camera angles, the high, medium and low shots, the shadows, the contrast in the characters and also character exposition; the music also plays a huge role in the exposition of the characters' emotional states. 

 

This clip is an excellent example of film noir because it contains all of its elements and then some.


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#10 Monty

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Posted 27 June 2015 - 04:41 PM

What I like about this scene is the way everything stops as soon as we get to the Swede. When the two guys leave the diner, there's a lot of panic. The music is getting loud and tense, and the kid has to run across back yards to get to the Swede. Everything's heightened.

 

And then, when we're in the Swede's room, all that goes away. The Swede isn't panicked. He isn't excited. He doesn't move. We don't even see his face. The kid is also immobile, and the scene might as well be between his shadow and the Swede.

 

Even the Swede's tone of voice is calm and measured. Compare that to the tough guys at the beginning, talking about whether "bright boy" would keep his mouth shut. They contrast the Swede in every way.


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#11 Heserrano

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Posted 25 June 2015 - 08:32 PM

There is another great example of a long single take (a la Preminger) in this scene.

The camera first looks down from the Swede's 2nd floor window as Nick jumps the last fence, then pulls back, into the room, to show the Swede lying on his bed, the lamp casting a shadow on the wall, rather than light. It stops and lingers on the scene for a few seconds, then suddenly moves right as Nick comes through the door. Then it follows Nick left as he moves to the foot of the Swede's bed to give him the warning. It's to no avail, and Nick leaves the Swede to his fate. End of shot. Brilliant.

This shot seems to move from realism to formalism--the overhead shot, in deep focus, could almost be a pov shot, except (as we discover) the Swede isn't bothering to look out his window. But the entire conversation in the Swede's room is so formalist, so expressionist. Really cool!



#12 bclarke18

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Posted 24 June 2015 - 11:57 AM

I think what stands out to me is the crisp appearance of each of the first characters we see in the scene. Clean, tight colors. Stark whites and deep blacks. The colors pull your eyes from person to person, to the bright lights on the walls and then to the long black curved countertop set in the diner of sharp angles. Then there's perspective. Watching the thugs leave the diner and continuing to peer through the window at them as they run to the gas station. Then peering through the window of the Swede's room. Watching the kid make his way to the Swede. Long shots of small running movements I would say lend depth, layers of removal from the action to the viewer. 

 

The technique that I think also stands out is the use of shadows again. My favorite shadow is, of course, the one that hides the Swede's face. You can't read his face. Everything leads us to believe that he is in danger and needs to leave. That danger is coming his way. He's a good guy and needs to hightail it out of there. We want to save him. And upon warning, his face remain unreadable. A shadow cast by a lamp, no less, hides his facial response. We can make out the outline of his arm casually placed behind his head and his still body in quiet, relaxed repose. His action contrary to the actions that preceded it. Stillness. His verbal response, one of shocking abandon...he did something bad once. Very gothic. 

 

All of this lends itself to the expressionism that we've learned about. The scene is unsettling because it does not adhere to what we would expect from a guy who finds out some gunmen are looking to kill him. It is intellectual as we question what we see as opposed to what we feel. The reality of the diner and the chase and the formality of the room that is set to bring about quiet dread.



#13 Thief12

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Posted 23 June 2015 - 10:09 PM

I enjoyed this scene a lot. Great camera work, as well as use of light and shadows. The music score is also very effective in heightening the tension of the scene, particularly as the guy runs through the houses. The long take at the end was pretty cool as well as the way the shadow never leaves the Swede's face.



#14 Jon Severino

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Posted 22 June 2015 - 11:45 PM

10. KILLERS Swede Reaped
Death are the wages of sin (originally and by Hayes Code) and there's no point running out when your time does.


#15 BrianM

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Posted 22 June 2015 - 09:44 PM

There is another great example of a long single take (a la Preminger) in this scene.

The camera first looks down from the Swede's 2nd floor window as Nick jumps the last fence, then pulls back, into the room, to show the Swede lying on his bed, the lamp casting a shadow on the wall, rather than light. It stops and lingers on the scene for a few seconds, then suddenly moves right as Nick comes through the door. Then it follows Nick left as he moves to the foot of the Swede's bed to give him the warning. It's to no avail, and Nick leaves the Swede to his fate. End of shot. Brilliant.


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#16 skootie116

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Posted 21 June 2015 - 11:53 PM

DDD #10  The Killers

 

First section, in diner, plays subtle games with perspective.  Angles keep one slightly off balance. High contrast. Deep blacks. Verticals sometimes aligned with frame, sometimes not. This is Expressionism gone subtle and noir.

Front section of diner -  Coffered ceiling included in shot and curved counter make the composition dynamic, unsettling.   Hot down lights part of set design. Two eyelines against one -threatening.  Only after baddies leave and door shuts is there music: a short, percussive phrase repeated progressively louder and faster.

 

Backroom/kitchen of diner.  Up-from-floor shot.  Ceiling in the shot, shelves angle back toward unseen vanishing point. Harsh down light from ceiling.  Low contrast lighting.

 

Nick goes to tell the Swede that men are after him.  The score becomes faster and increasingly louder with more complex melodies and rhythm. There is a long parallel traveling shot as Nick races through the  wooded shadows and over uniformly picket fences towards the Swede’s place.  Cut to high crane shot looking back and down at Nick coming towards us out of the mist and jumping more fences. We see him running down a concrete path below us and then the camera pans up the building Nick is approaching, into the Swede’s room and stops with the full back of the door in the frame. .  Nick enters. leaving the door open. Great sequence! The Swede is lying on his back on the bed, his head made invisible by a table lamp and deep shadow.  A headless man, doomed.  Nick stands over him, his back to the light streaming in from the hall.  He casts a high, deep black, clear-cut silhouette on the wall beside the Swede. As Nick weakly gestures, begging the Swede to let him help, his shadow looks like a black ministering angel preparing the Swede for death.  The Swede refuses help, Nick sadly turns away and leaves closing the door. The Swede has never moved, hardly seems to be breathing. From the beginning of the crane shot until Nick’s exit there have been no edits. 

 

Is the latter section, after Nick exits the kitchen, formalistic because entirely cinematic techniques are used to advance the narrative and convey meaning?  



#17 skootie116

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Posted 21 June 2015 - 11:31 PM

Watching The Killers clip, it must be a definitive work of shifting between cinematic realism and formalism.  I experienced a dissonance in what I was feeling versus what I was seeing or knowing.  

  

1.  The Diner -  shifting between styles 

 

The Diner scene – Realism:  Shot on-location, natural lighting, no music, stark, lonely feel.   The Killer’s acting style & dialogue – a mix of realism and formalism.   They move so matter of fact, so comfortable, relaxed and natural.  They deliver their lines in similar fashion.  Yet, the content of the dialogue froze me in a moment of formalistic danger:    

“You wouldn’t fool us, would you? No, he ain’t fooling.  He’d know better than to fool. Come on Al.  What about those two boys back there?  All right? Think so?  Sure. You got a lot of luck bright boy.  That’s the truth.  You ought to play the races.”   In short, realistic dialogue with formalistic style: A succinct, hard hitting statement:  The truth is, You are Lucky. We won't kill  you.  Perhaps, utilizing German expressionism, this is heightened realism utilizing the tool of the chosen “word.”
 

 

2. The Musical Stun!

The Diner scene commences in a void of silence.  The Killers exit the diner, the door slams, and the music “stuns!”    It immediately hits you with a visceral mood of impending doom and urgency.   

 

As Nick deliberates how to proceed, the music lulls back to a hush - bringing us into the secret words and world of Nick.  At the moment he hears:  “Nick you better go tell the Swede first”, the music once again stuns with its volume, mood, and effects.  We are about to enter Nick’s dream world.
 

As Nick races to Swede’s apartment, the music picks up pace.  It conveys impending doom and nightmarish action along the way.  One imagines all the things racing through Nick’s mind.   As Nick swings open the door, another musical stun via the abrupt musical halt.   As Swede acquiesces to doom, Neal leaves the apartment against the backdrop of another “low stun” of soft, barely detectible, fatalistic music.  

 

 

3.   Lighting & “Silhouette Man” 

 

At the onset of the clip, the potential customer leaves the diner and the door swings closed.
I see what appears to be a black silhouette of a man’s head and shoulders, wearing a fedora.  His image is slanted suggesting the silhouette man is looking to the right. The image spans the wall and the front door.    
Who or what is casting this shadow?    

 

At the end of the clip, we see Swede lying on his bed.  His head is completely cast in black silhouette. He is facing to the right.   Meaning or connection, I wonder.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Watching The Killers clip, it must be a definitive work of shifting between cinematic realism and formalism.  I experienced a dissonance in what I was feeling versus what I was seeing or knowing.  

  

1.  The Diner -  shifting between styles 

 

The Diner scene – Realism:  Shot on-location, natural lighting, no music, stark, lonely feel.   The Killer’s acting style & dialogue – a mix of realism and formalism.   They move so matter of fact, so comfortable, relaxed and natural.  They deliver their lines in similar fashion.  Yet, the content of the dialogue froze me in a moment of formalistic danger:    

“You wouldn’t fool us, would you? No, he ain’t fooling.  He’d know better than to fool. Come on Al.  What about those two boys back there?  All right? Think so?  Sure. You got a lot of luck bright boy.  That’s the truth.  You ought to play the races.”   In short, realistic dialogue with formalistic style: A succinct, hard hitting statement:  The truth is, You are Lucky. We won't kill  you.  Perhaps, utilizing German expressionism, this is heightened realism utilizing the tool of the chosen “word.”
 

 

2. The Musical Stun!

The Diner scene commences in a void of silence.  The Killers exit the diner, the door slams, and the music “stuns!”    It immediately hits you with a visceral mood of impending doom and urgency.   

 

As Nick deliberates how to proceed, the music lulls back to a hush - bringing us into the secret words and world of Nick.  At the moment he hears:  “Nick you better go tell the Swede first”, the music once again stuns with its volume, mood, and effects.  We are about to enter Nick’s dream world.
 

As Nick races to Swede’s apartment, the music picks up pace.  It conveys impending doom and nightmarish action along the way.  One imagines all the things racing through Nick’s mind.   As Nick swings open the door, another musical stun via the abrupt musical halt.   As Swede acquiesces to doom, Neal leaves the apartment against the backdrop of another “low stun” of soft, barely detectible, fatalistic music.  

 

 

3.   Lighting & “Silhouette Man” 

 

At the onset of the clip, the potential customer leaves the diner and the door swings closed.
I see what appears to be a black silhouette of a man’s head and shoulders, wearing a fedora.  His image is slanted suggesting the silhouette man is looking to the right. The image spans the wall and the front door.    
Who or what is casting this shadow?    

 

At the end of the clip, we see Swede lying on his bed.  His head is completely cast in black silhouette. He is facing to the right.   Meaning or connection, I wonder.

 

Posted Today, 08:58 AM

 

 

Watching The Killers clip, it must be a definitive work of shifting between cinematic realism and formalism.  I experienced a dissonance in what I was feeling versus what I was seeing or knowing.  

  

1.  The Diner -  shifting between styles 

 

The Diner scene – Realism:  Shot on-location, natural lighting, no music, stark, lonely feel.   The Killer’s acting style & dialogue – a mix of realism and formalism.   They move so matter of fact, so comfortable, relaxed and natural.  They deliver their lines in similar fashion.  Yet, the content of the dialogue froze me in a moment of formalistic danger:    

“You wouldn’t fool us, would you? No, he ain’t fooling.  He’d know better than to fool. Come on Al.  What about those two boys back there?  All right? Think so?  Sure. You got a lot of luck bright boy.  That’s the truth.  You ought to play the races.”   In short, realistic dialogue with formalistic style: A succinct, hard hitting statement:  The truth is, You are Lucky. We won't kill  you.  Perhaps, utilizing German expressionism, this is heightened realism utilizing the tool of the chosen “word.”
 

 

2. The Musical Stun!

The Diner scene commences in a void of silence.  The Killers exit the diner, the door slams, and the music “stuns!”    It immediately hits you with a visceral mood of impending doom and urgency.   

 

As Nick deliberates how to proceed, the music lulls back to a hush - bringing us into the secret words and world of Nick.  At the moment he hears:  “Nick you better go tell the Swede first”, the music once again stuns with its volume, mood, and effects.  We are about to enter Nick’s dream world.
 

As Nick races to Swede’s apartment, the music picks up pace.  It conveys impending doom and nightmarish action along the way.  One imagines all the things racing through Nick’s mind.   As Nick swings open the door, another musical stun via the abrupt musical halt.   As Swede acquiesces to doom, Neal leaves the apartment against the backdrop of another “low stun” of soft, barely detectible, fatalistic music.  

 

 

3.   Lighting & “Silhouette Man” 

 

At the onset of the clip, the potential customer leaves the diner and the door swings closed.
I see what appears to be a black silhouette of a man’s head and shoulders, wearing a fedora.  His image is slanted suggesting the silhouette man is looking to the right. The image spans the wall and the front door.    
Who or what is casting this shadow?    

 

At the end of the clip, we see Swede lying on his bed.  His head is completely cast in black silhouette. He is facing to the right.   Meaning or connection, I wonder.

celmaib

 

Posted a photo of the the Diner EXT. NIGHT  I think you'll see that this is not shot on location, but in a sound stage where everything could be fully designed and controlled.  It's realism but not real.  


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#18 billybaker

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Posted 21 June 2015 - 05:44 PM

I love how the camera lingers outside the diner after a patron enters.  Even if he's not speaking, I was immediately drawn to the man on the left.  The way this shot is set up, I'm reminded of both Edward Hopper and Weegee.  When the music kicks in, it really heightens the tension, signaling a deep sense of urgency.  There's an interesting contrast between that sense of urgency and the calm, slow, deliberate speech of the Swede.  We move from a sense of urgency to a man who seems resigned to his fate.  



#19 coleeva

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Posted 21 June 2015 - 03:18 PM

The scene from "The Killers", shift the visual design from the diner to the swedes room by first showing a brightly lit diner and then shifting to a dark mysterious room were the character of the "Swede" lays in the shadows as he responds to a warning about a threat upon his life were he does seem to care. The scene leaves you the viewer wondering and asking yourself: What does the Swede look like? "The Killers" can be an important contribution to the film noir style by the visual technique of wondering what the central character looks like and why the men are pursuing him.

#20 celmaib

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Posted 21 June 2015 - 10:58 AM

That whole opening sequence it's really good. The clip provided starts when the scene has already established, but seing from the beginning it's played as sort of long take with a few cuts. When the two men enter the counter, it starts providing all of these details, like how they enter from different doors, how one is always looking to the door while talking to the dinner's owner, or the slowly pan to reveal there's another customer at the bar. It's a really well thought out sequence.

 

And even if you just listen to the conversation in that scene, it inmediately hits you that there's something way wrong in the way they talk, like they just don't care if they offend everybody. I guess that could be a sort of heightened reality; from the beginning they are established as bad people that don't care anything at all so they go through the menu in a very despiseful way, they're enjoying being hitmen and feeling powerful towards the owner, making him shut up and not caring about anything except the 'job' they came to commit.

 

As for the conection between the Hemingway's short story and the famous Nighthawks painting, it should be noted the first scene when the two men arrive into town and are about to enter the diner room -you have another moody, noirish painting right there:

 

SLDEE6a.png?1


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