QueenOfNoirs

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  1. Just a comment on The Asphalt Jungle: The scene where Jean Hagen pulls her false eyelash off transforms this movie from the 40's to modern with that one simple gesture. The big fake eyelashes clearly place the character in the 1940s but as soon as she takes the second one off, the look and feel of her role transforms to modern acting. I was really struck by that.
  2. Violent sexual perversion set to classical music. A Clockwork Orange.
  3. Holy Toledo what a scene. The swinging light is like a police strobe, or an anti-aircraft Kleig light alternatively revealing and concealing the damned devil himself. I was struck by this scene when I saw this move once ages ago and now I want to go dig it out of my collection to see the movie in its entirety. Noirs got grittier and dirtier and more nihilistic as time went on...from the grace of "The Maltese Falcon" the the nasty all-hope-abandoned "Brute Force". This course has really helped me to come to a much fuller and deeper understanding of the Noir Style-Movement.
  4. We watched part of Angel Face, and all of The Locket as well as many others this last Friday. I'd like to say that I prefer femme fatales to femme mentals. A femme fatale makes the choice to be wicked and that's interesting. Femme mentals just need therapy and it's just kind of sad.
  5. The Miles Davis trumpet underscores the singular nature of our protagonists. Both the man and the woman are presented as individuals without context and a tentative, surrogate connection via the telephone. Their intimacy is artifice: you can't kiss someone with a big phonebox in the way. The camera pulls back on the man to reveal him as the only occupant of a large angular building with a wall of empty windows: you can look in but nothing is there. The music enhances this lonely singularity. I love this era of Miles Davis; straight ahead and be-bop are my favorite jazz forms. This movie is significantly enhanced by this particular musical score.
  6. All of this precision timing is BEGGING for the hand of fate to come along and knock it asunder.
  7. I agree! I see the hen-pecked husband and the unhappy wife in this opening sequence from 99 River Street and it echoes the opening of Too Late For Tears where another grumpy wife lays into her hapless husband. I am interested, in both of these scenes, with the unhappy wife. Apparently they got the short end of a bargain and are now disillusioned with the wagon they have hitched themselves to. In Too Late For Tears the wife's avarice and discontent drive her to take the money and run (uh oh spoilers!) achieving a modicum of happiness before her denouement. I expect that in this movie era, a "happy" wife would be presented as married to a well-off, respected man. That depiction is probably just another male movie-makers' fantasy. In fact my suggested depiction implies that I think that women haven't figured out just yet that they have to make themselves happy. That may not be so, but the Feminine Mystique was not published until 1963! Except maybe Lizabeth Scott's "Jane" in Too Late For Tears. She knows what she wants :-)
  8. Oh goodness. Where to start with the Noir elements that will play out? 1. Our district attorney drinks too much 2. Our returned childhood friends presumes too much on his friendship with the DA: lingering blackmail? 3. Our returning friend has a girlfriend in the clink. 4. Our DA is corruptible 5. Our returning friend still lusts for the wife 6. The wife has a hot flash for the returning friend 7. The married couple with the slam of a door signal their unhappy relationship. This is down and dirty in so many ways. I expect all of these Noir elements to come crashing together in an unholy climax. In fact I know they will because I have this movie on VHS (!)
  9. NICE! Jane is Large and In Charge. How refreshing! From the very opening we know who Jane is. She's the unhappy wife of sad sack Dick who apparently is falling short in the ka-ching department. She simply Will Not be going to be looked down upon by some diamond encrusted woman who lives atop the Hollywood Hills. She's rather wreck the car! And then: Shazam! A bag of money falls literally into her lap and she is not going to let go of this bounty. I love how Jane figuratively and literally drives the car to get this movie hopping. She wants that money and she wants it bad and it bodes ill for hapless Dick. Fatalism: could it have arisen from soldiers returning from the war? I expect that returning home alive must have seemed like some sort of miracle to returning servicemen but in more introspective and perhaps clinically depressed returnees a sense of fatalism could have set in. I expect this is related to the fickle finger of fate (Detour) that pervades all the great films noir.
  10. Frank Bigelow himself walks (forever!) to the homicide office to report himself murdered, and the LA Police report that "they *found* Bigelow"? That's some crack police work there, son. DOA has one of the very best conceits in all film noir: the main character is already dead, murdered in fact. The main character recalls his experiences over the last day, solving the crime that was a result of something so random as notarizing a paper for a stranger. How's that for the fickle finger of fate. In terms of our learnings this week there is nothing more existential than a movie where the hero is already dead. Awesome. Of note, we often see the LA police department building from the outside, representing law and order. It is an imposing edifice seen in every Perry Mason episode and many film noirs. This is the first time we have seen that same building as a rabbit warren of hopelessness; long dark corridors with dirty little offices full of men who seems to be sheltering in place and exhausted after that long walk from the front door.
  11. I am hopelessly obsessed by what is in Emmett Meyers' ear. I love the use of light in this opening scene. The way that Hamilton Burger, I mean William Tallman's face comes out of the shadow to menace the two guys in the front seat. "Bringing the crazy" as our prof says in the Daily Dose of Darkness and that is absolutely right. I think this idea of the menace coming out of the night to flag down a lone car is another indication of the fickle hand of fate, and speaks to an existential fear of the vulnerability of the lone car on a dark road and the evil that can materialize out of the dark. This last observation is writ large, and small, in this opening scene, and was also on display in the opening scene of "Kiss Me Deadly".
  12. I am struck by the unsexiness of a naked woman running barefoot and making erotic gasping sounds. Mike Hammer is the antithesis of a suave love-interest, in fact he is downright hostile. At the road block, this dynamic is turned on its head when the woman tentatively takes Mr Hammer's hand and pretends to be something sexy: a sleepy wife. At this point, her gasping stops. Christina is the anti-femme fatale. It's like the whole concept has been turned upside down and inside out. It's Noir made dirty and ugly and crassly "modern". She's a femme *fatal*. We learn that Christina Bailey will do anything necessary for self preservation. We learn that Mike Hammer is an unrepentent **** but he reads situations at a level more subtle than we are lead to believe.
  13. This scene is one of the most compelling and spectacular character entrances in all moviedom. There is no "poetic" in the realism of postwar Vienna but the canted angles and high contrast images make it look like something from a dream. Into this nighttime dreamscape comes an open window and a woman nattering in German (love that the characters speak German in this movie) and light falls to reveal the devil himself hiding in a doorway. He has a cat pausing comfortably at his feet (symbology: cats are evil even little kittens) while he gives us almost an amused sneer. The high contrast light and dark carves out Mr Welles gorgeous face in high relief: the evil exposed; the light from the ordinary world shining right on him. And in an instant, this ephemeral vision is gone. Like the devil himself he disappears to make the witness look a fool. This is a classic instance of formalism: he is a man standing in a doorway, but he is wickedness incarnate in that one instance.
  14. The Swede is already dead. He is lying in his bed-coffin. Only the vague form of his body is visible: you cant see his face or eyes or any other indication of his soul flickering alive within it's mortal casing. The boy is standing over him, like a viewing. The boy's shadow on the wall represents the Swede's soul: it has already arisen out of his body. The door closing at the end is the door closing on the Swede's existence. LOVE that scene. This whole movie is awash with German Expressionism (as I detailed above in the scene with the Swede). I like how that style was less stilted in these movies but was clearly evident. The switch from realism (in the diner) to formalism (in the bedroom scene) is self evident.
  15. I accidentally erased my monograph on this opening sequence. There's a Noir movie right there. Anyway, I was saying: Documentary realism and police procedurals fit nicely into the Noir Style canon in that they explore vagaries of individual lives. Almost by definition a film criminal is a flawed hero or a fallen person especially if the crime was committed out of desperation or moral principle (as an example, gangsters are not ideal Noir heroes because of their gleeful abandonment of civilized, "moral" behavior). The opening of Border Incident is stylistically brilliant: tying the ordered lines of farms and canals to the chain linked fence holding back braceros at the border. All of this order suggests that man can control nature by imposing his will. The chain linked fence suggests a prison; the border jumpers, who are shown on the *other* side of a barbed wire fence, are running free from this oppressively controlled milleu. You can sense from the way this opening sequence is shot that the border jumpers are wild and free and will pay dearly for rebelling against the imposed order.

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