classicsuz

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Everything posted by classicsuz

  1. I had always been a fan of "classic" movies shown on the only three television stations broadcasting where I grew up far too many years ago. (Cable was yet to be invented.) But what really sunk the hook in for good were two film courses on film noir that I took in college. The courses initially served two purposes: to relive my glory days of youth watching classic films at home and to alleviate some of the humdrum tone of other required courses for my major. What the two courses actually did, though, is embed a deep appreciation for the art form of film and, especially, film noir. I remember being impressed by viewing the films in an auditorium on a large screen, with "Scarlet Street" and "The Big Heat" among the most memorable of many Fritz Lang films we reviewed and discussed. I never enjoyed viewing classic film so much as in those two classes, and this class brings back and newly creates many wonderful memories of discovering the deeply artful nature of film noir.
  2. I thought the shadows on the walls and floor were very noir. As Frank sits at the counter talking to Cora's husband, a confined shadow of cross hatches is located on the wall behind Frank, at the same level visually as his head. When the lipstick tube rolls across the floor, the camera shoots the shadows on the floor, presumably from the diner window, on the diagonal. As the camera eventually views Cora in full, there are diagonal cross hatches on the walls on either side of her very cramped framing, with the shadows larger on the left versus the right. These crossing linear shadows in diagonal form suggest that deeper motives--cross purposes, betrayed, double crosses--are at work, compared to the superficial motives we see of a guy looking for temporary work and a woman who dropped her lipstick. I liked his entrance in the scene in that he's being driven by someone else. He lets others drive him to his eventual destination, in more ways than one, and what he does is prompted by cues generated by others--the sign with "Man Wanted" led him to seek work at the diner. His introduction suggests he is not completely in control of his present circumstances. Cora's also standing at the bottom of a staircase that is behind her. Stair cases in noir suggest the fortunes of the characters on or by a staircase--whether they go up or down the staircase foreshadows their trajectory in the film. Although we don't see her coming down the steps, her standing near the base of the steps may suggest she's reached the "bottom" in more than the usual sense. Interesting that the stairs are also viewed on the diagonal by the camera and not straight on--another noir feature implying a tipping point in the story--with a tidy bull's eye on the floor at the base of the steps. Although Frank's burger is burning, she's also reached the depths of her declining moral fortunes by her position at the bottom of the staircase.
  3. Great points about this clip by The Working Dead on framing techniques, the sense of confinement noted by Toni Noir, and black looking portals into which Mitchum walks while in search of Greer mentioned by Bill Holmes. All of the shots filming Mitchum walking toward the cantina show increasingly narrow frames, created by walls on the right side of the frame, and a wall on each side in the foreground as he sits in the bar alone before Greer enters. The trap is ever-narrowing in a visual sense. I thought the background of the shots of Greer and Mitchum as they talk reflected their reactions to one another. Greer, giving little away and cutting him off, has a wall in back of her and her shadow--her alter ego--is evident against the wall. It's as if he's hit a wall in trying to get information from her. Mitchum, more open in his attraction to her if not his reason for being there, has the bar patrons, the bar, and a display cabinet of plates--a "homey" visual reflecting Greer's comment that he go home--in the shot behind him. This more complex background suggests a deeper, more complex set of emotions experienced by Mitchum's character while they talk. The wall behind him hints that he's hiding something, like Greer's character, but the wall only takes up a portion of his background and he throws little to no shadow on it. The differing backgrounds underscore the disparity between the two at this point. And that wall is two toned--light and dark. Another visual motif of the dual perspectives, goals, and feelings between and within each of the two characters that is only just becoming evident in the film. It's also another way to create a "shadow" in a relatively well lit cantina--well lit at least compared to many noir settings.
  4. classicsuz

    Movie (Auto)Biographies

    I don't remember who said it--whether Robert Osborne or someone he was interviewing--but the comment was made that some of the most interesting information on Hollywood is in the autobiographies of the less well known stars. Mentioned in that conversation was the autobiography of Evelyn Keyes from 1977, Scarlet O'Hara's Younger Sister, covering her early years and marriages/relationships. After reading this book, I found her descriptions of Hollywood royalty in her social sphere--given her film career, marriage to John Huston and relationship with Mike Todd--to be detailed and entertaining. Her lengthy relationship with Artie Shaw was also very revealing, and she doesn't gloss over the unflattering aspects of Hollywood in the 1940's and 1950's. Her second book, I'll Think About That Tomorrow in 1991, is less focused on Hollywood given her career shift to stage/television and writing, but she maintained some of her industry contacts. Neither book is a heavyweight, so to speak, but both were good reads that I bought cheaply online, as my library did not have them. Mary Astor's two autobiographies--one describing her personal life but without much detail as to her work on individual films and a second describing only her work in Hollywood and films with little mention of her personal struggles--were OK. In the first book, she rarely gave the year she was talking about, making it difficult to correlate her personal experiences with whatever film work she may have been engaged in at the time. I would have enjoyed one book covering both her personal and her professional life. The two books may be worth looking up in a local library. Just my two cents.
  5. In this week's lecture, the questions of what film noir stole and from whom is asked, and I see some elements of Cubism in this opening sequence of Border Incident. With Cubism, an influential art form from about 1900 to 1920, the artist disassembles, views and reassembles the object from different perspectives to create a whole. In this sequence, I was impressed with the differing views of industrial farming in California: we are first told of the broader industrial Imperial Valley and its benefits, then we hear of the groups of law abiding braceros who work in the fields, and finally the illegal crossings and related suffering is brought to our attention--all different perspectives on the overall issue of large scale farming in California. This is underscored by the changes in camera movement from the beginning to the end of this sequence, as mentioned by several posters earlier. With the exception of a speeding truck coming at an angle toward the camera/the viewer, the opening credits are imposed on static shots of arid unpopulated landscape. The camera then shows us the Imperial Valley from high above, moving diagonally to the right, following many diagonal shots of the landscape, while the narrator gives a fairly broad and perhaps widely accepted description of farming in the Imperial Valley. As the narrator mentions the many law abiding workers who wait patiently to work in the vast fields, the camera pans quickly downward and continues to the right, showing us the braceros behind not just one but two criss-crossed chain linked fences--which provide visual depth that hints at discord in this subject. Once the bright lighting darkens and the narrator mentions the struggle and suffering of those working illegally in the fields--which the narrator tells us, to paraphrase, is something we should be informed about--the camera pans strictly left, across arid land, struggling individuals, and coming to rest on the ominous government signs. The camera work throughout this sequence seems to parallel the different views described by the narrator on the entire topic, giving us a view of the whole stemming from differing perspectives. In this way, I can't help but wonder if Cubism is at work in this very interesting film noir sequence.
  6. Did anyone notice the radio up high on a shelf above The Swede's bed, and how the shadow of Nick's head falls onto the wall just beside the radio as he warns The Swede? In this week's lecture, we are told that items positioned in a scene, like in a photograph, are there for a reason. Although this is not directly related to the prompts at the end of today's Daily Dose from The Killers, I wonder if this artifice of object and the actor's shadow is another aspect of formalism in the scene. The position of the radio and Nick's shadow suggests that Nick was The Swede's "radio," telling him the news that the killers were out to murder him. Back in the 1940's, and especially in 1946 as World War II was winding down/concluding, most people received their news from the papers or the radio. With a written notification being a bit slow given the nature of the information being conveyed, Nick is giving The Swede information verbally, as though it were a radio news alert. Also, most radios in films of this era are on nightstands or somewhere easy to reach, yet here it is out of reach for anyone lying on the bed and listening to music. This led to me to consider why it was placed in such an unusual location, and then I noticed the shadow of Nick's head right next to it as Nick gave The Swede the awful news that two men were out to kill him. This set up suggests that Nick is The Swede's radio announcer, alerting him with a very personalized heads up on dangerous, momentous impending events, not unlike many radio broadcasts during and at the close of the war. It is perhaps no accident that the warning being given is that The Swede is about to be killed, as many radio broadcasts during the war were related to death and destruction. Although released in 1946, the film was perhaps made while the war was still a significant concern to all and wartime updates were routinely issued through the radio. Just a thought. Now back to our regularly scheduled program . . . .
  7. classicsuz

    [b]Robert Osborne's Absence Thread[/b]

    I am hopeful that Mr. Osborne's surgery is successful and that his recovery brings him back in better health to loyal TCM fans. He has been incredibly generous in sharing his talent with us for so long and so consistently. In more recent years, I've come to more fully appreciate the depth of knowledge and commitment he brings to us as fans and viewers each evening. He is a remarkable person. My heartfelt and very best wishes go out to him and his loved ones. classicsuz

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