Willireo

Members
  • Content Count

    32
  • Joined

  • Last visited

1 Follower

About Willireo

  • Rank
    Advanced Member
  • Birthday
  1. - Discuss how the opening of this film exemplifies the noir style and substance. Driving, urgent music accompanies the appearance of the Universal International logo and continues as we see a documentary style aerial shot of Los Angeles City hall. It's the city, the big city (not the anonymous small midwestern city) it's night for night and the city hall dominates a maze of streetlights. Cut to a parking lot and passing cars weave in front of us revealing two people kissing. They talk as passionately as they kiss. The woman is fearful and the may tries to comfort her but he is equally or more fearful. In extreme closeup Yvonne DeCarlo let's us know they have a past, but this desperate act will help them erase the past. We know how that will turn out. Cut to the always great Dan Duryea in the nightclub. He's giving the third degree to the maitre d' regarding the whereabouts of his wife. The contrast between Lancaster and Duryea is extreme. Lancaster is a more casual man of the street. Duryea is a slick haired glowing well groomed sadist. Night, desperation, adultery, the regular guy vs the sharpie and an impending crime. All the right ingredients. -- Now that you have seen all 32 Daily Doses, what did you take away from the Daily Doses assignment? Did it contribute to your learning about film noir? ​I gained a great deal from the Daily Doses. By watching only 3 minutes of film I was able to view the samples multiple times, take notes and apply the lessons. It also gave me an introduction to many films noir I'd never seen. I'll look forward to viewing them in full. Thanks, Professor Edwards, for your hard work and enthusiasm curating these films and teaching the course.
  2. Sam Levene is one of the great Noir stalwarts. He was in many films of the classic period (The Killers and Crossfire) and always turned in a great performance. As in "Desperate" the scene begins with the victim cowed in the foreground. The Captain's interrogation is cold and becomes increasingly violent. When we cut to the guards playing cards at the table we see their discomfort, even revulsion at what they can hear going on, but they don't do anything to interfere. They need those jobs. The overtones of Nazism had to be significantly felt by filmgoers in 1947. We have a prison, we have a sadistic man of authority, we have a helpless victim and we have Wagner. We have guards who stand by, knowing what's happening. The average guy is helpless in this world and doesn't have a chance. Someone in the audience must be thinking "What did we fight that war for anyway?"
  3. Here are a few discussion starters (though feel free to come up with your own): -- In what ways does Miles Davis' score (improvised while watching scenes from the movie) work with and contribute additional layers of meaning to Louis Malle's visual design? This clip was a pleasure to hear and watch. These questions are hard to answer because they're filtered through 5 decades of different understanding. Eddie Muller has pointed out elsewhere that strings are more prominent in classic Film Noir scores and we've come to associate smoky be-bop brass with Noir as a later accretion. Still the sound is a dominant association with Noir and is reflected in the Neo Noir/Classic Noir, Chinatown and Bob Beldin's Noir piece The Black Dahlia. For this film I think the jazz soundtrack conveys an air of modernity and existential ennui. This film is totally mid-century modern when mid-century modern was still modern. That clock. What the heck was that? I also read that be-bop jazz was disorienting to returning G.I.s. These guys went to war when swing was the thing but music changed while they were away. The improvisational, cerebral and undanceable be-bop was another factor that contributed to men's disorientation in the post-war period. -- Going back to our original discussions of jazz on the film noir style, what is it about the "idioms of jazz" that resonate so well with the style and substance of film noir? Among its many influences Film Noir represented a reaction to the disorienting Post War world. Jazz could be chaotic or melancholy in a way that fit its time. It grew out of a social context (dance halls and before that bars & brothels) often performed by large coordinated bands and evolved into a more abstract and cerebral art form improvised by individuals or small groups. This evolution paralleled the social evolution with the breakdown of norms that coordinated the "big band" of society and the changing roles men and women had to play. The jazz musicians were performing a musical heist with highly skilled individuals getting together to pull off the job by whatever means fit the circumstance.
  4. I've never seen this movie. This clip has me eagerly anticipating Friday night. Describe how this scene uses cinematography to accentuate the brutal beating of Steve Randall (Steve Brodie). -- How do Mann and Diskant utilize different points of view to heighten the tension in this scene? As the scene opens Steve is foreground left and Walt is in hidden in darkness in the center. When one of the stooges tells Walt they got Steve for him Walt strides into the center of the frame growing in size and threat. He dominates the center of the frame, his bulk squeezing his henchmen on the left and right and looming over Steve. It's like a religious triptych of evil. Walt's right hand would get it's own credit if this was the only scene in the film. First we have a surprising violent right hook to Steve's face as Walt makes his first attempt at persuasion. Next that right hand dominates the scene when Walt walks to the phone to drop a dime on Steve's license number. The right hand gets a rest as the henchman work Steve over. The music and sound of the beating allow us imagine the pounding Steve's receiving while the swinging light gives movement to Walt and his third henchman as they stand by. Their participation is voyeuristic. Steve still won't crack so the right hand has to take over again. It holds a broken bottle, shown in close up while Walt threatens to disfigure Steve's bride. The right hand, connected to Walt's malevolent brain finally get the job done.
  5. -- Discuss how this film depicts and utilizes this "unnamed city." Additionally, why do you think the film is entitled "The Asphalt Jungle?" ​It's amazing to see a city so deserted. I have the feeling this is very early morning although I don't recall the time being established. The deserted city starts as the stage for two players. A patrol car and an unknown man in a suit. The patrol car passes the unknown man who, almost instinctively hides behind a column as the patrol car passes. We see the many continuing to walk down a rubble strewn alley. The patrol car gets it's closeup as radio dispatch sends out a bolo for a man fitting the walker's description. The city is a place where predator and prey play cat & mouse. It's an Asphalt Jungle. -- Describe the film noir characteristics, in both style and substance, of these opening scenes. The film opens using the city as a realist, documentarian setting. Although it appears to be daytime there is a pervasive shadowing darkness. We immediately have a sense of criminality when Dix hides behind the post. That moment has a pathological and surrealist quality with the arch and columns looking like a DiChirico painting. Nightclubs, bars, restaurants and diners are often the neutral zone for counters between the high and low in Film Noir. At the diner we get a sense of the pervasive corruption of this jungle. Gus wordlessly takes Dix's .38 and hides it in the cash register. He turns up the radio, maybe solely to needle the cops. The cops enter and Gus confirms he knows nothing. The cops can't find a gun on Dix but they arrest him on a trumped up vagrancy charge. They're corrupt. We switch to a line up. It's nice to see Strother Martin. The lineup further establishes the immoral atmosphere of this jungle. The lineup is obviously fixed since Dix is the tallest man in the lineup. Our witness, however, is easily cowed by Dix's sinister stare pretty much establishing he doesn't expect safety if he fingers Dix. This is a world completely at odds with conventional morality, but in synch with the laws of a corrupt urban jungle. -- Why are these opening scenes an interesting choice for a "heist film?" What are we learning about one of its major characters (Dix) that might be important for later in the film (and I'm not asking for any spoilers, just character insight)? We learn that Dix is wily, sinister, threatening, connected and at home in his jungle. He may not be the biggest predator, but he's a predator with pals. Also, these guys are pros. Gus wordlessly and efficiently takes and stashes Dix's .38 before the cops come in.
  6. -- Discuss the role of time and timing in this scene. Time and timing are in counterpoint in this scene. The pace of the opening is leisurely. No quick cuts and no rapid movement on the part of people on the street, John Payne exiting his van, the armored car guards or Foster. Despite this there is an extreme tension built by Foster's concentration, the dramatic quiet music and the pressure of time. We see the bank clock, we see Foster start his stop watch, we see the bank clock we see the stop watch end at one minute we see Foster slowly cross the room and add what appears to be the last of 16 or 20 check marks against four items. It looks like we've seen the last step in a carefully planned sequence. -- What are the film noir elements (style or substance) that you notice in the opening of this film? The use of extreme closeups and on-location shooting. An air of tension and threat. Everyone's wary. -- Why is a heist a good subject for a film noir to tackle? Put another way, how or why might a film that involves a heist affect or change what we think about criminals and/or criminal behavior on screen? A heist involves a group and the interactions among the group, their strengths, weaknesses and conflicts provide a lot of material for dramatic development. The heist is a particularly good plot for a Post-War male audience. It's the dark side of the WWII squad movie. During WWII a group of men with varying talents and dispositions are thrown together and learn to act as a cohesive team to survive and triumph. The war's over and now the squad gets together to commit a crime. They employ their talents in the only way now available to them. We can be sympathetic to their criminal activity. In fact I imagine many men sitting in the audience watching this movie in it's first theatrical release would be VERY sympathetic with their brothers on the screen.
  7. We open up as spectators at the fight. The world surrounding the boxers is complete darkness. We're below the action, it would be ringside seats but we're even closer to the action than that. Medium closeups as the fighters exchange blows. Ernie's eye gets cut? A dirty trick by sailor? That's never revealed. Having to protect the eye throws Ernie off and he's knocked to the ropes. We get an extreme closeup of our man on the ropes. That's where we find him as we transition from spectators at the fight to Ernies apartment where he's watching a replay of the fight on television. The fight on television is in slow motion. Is it because we are savoring the violence? Is it because Ernie is in a dream-state reliving the moment that changed his life? Cut to a medium shot of the room. It's a small space; maybe a two room apartment. Ernie wife is screen left seated at the dining room table in semi-darkness. They're in the same room but completely separate. The exchange between Ernie and Pauline is contrition and cruelty. Pauline is dissatisfied with the life Ernie's able to give her and has no faith in his future. She thinks she could have been a star. Ernie thinks he could have been "the champ" now his dream is to own a gas station. Pauline's criticism and cruelty is unrestrained. This is rough stuff. Failure, rancor, disappointment and despair. Ernie is emasculated. Pauline has all the energy and it's expressed in resentment. She doesn't have time to deal with him or his pipe-dreams. She has to go to work. -- Compare and contrast how director Karlson shoots and stages the boxing scene as a contrast of styles between cinema and television. The curator's notes quoted the TCM database saying Karlson was contrasting the speed of cinema with the small slow television. Maybe that's what was meant. I thought instead we were seeing the difference between being at the fight and reviewing the fight on TV. More to the point I think the slow motion indicated Ernies dream-like state as he reviewed his mistake in his mind asking himself where he went wrong. - Discuss the scene's social commentary in the interactions between Ernie (John Payne) and Pauline (Peggie Castle). Oh man. Ugly. He failed. A man's not supposed to do that. What kind of man, what kind of American is he? Their lives are mean and cramped. He has a dream, limited as it may be, and Pauline excoriates him even for that. She has to go to work and wear cheap jewelry instead of the real stuff a successful man would give her. Depressed defeated man, resentful woman. Bad stuff. Could lead to poor decision making. -- What are some of the noir elements in this scene, either in terms of style or substance? Stylistically the film makes use of close-ups, extreme close-ups and low angle shooting during the fight. The ropes act as foreground obstructions. The fighters fight against a sea of darkness. During the apartment scene Ernie is in foreground right, highlighted. Pauline is in darkness and the apartment is oppressive. ​In substance we have a story unfolding in what looks to be an urban setting. Maybe a small city. There's a man who has been defeated, is trapped and has no legitimate means of getting out of his situation. Setting the foundation for bad things to happen.
  8. It's strange seeing Kirk Douglas in a situation where he's not the alpha male. That said I heard John Wayne criticized him for his portrayal of the weak struggling VanGogh. We open on Sam and Walter getting reacquainted after over a decade has passed. The scene is smoothly lighted without shadowy expressiveness. Walter, on the right dominates the scene. He's larger and taller than Sam although not by much. We learn Sam has spent their time apart as a gambler and, by inference living an adventurous life. Walter has pursued a more conventional path and it's gotten him to be District Attorney. He's a success (by conventional standards) The scene shifts and the two men share the screen evenly as Sam asks Walter to get a woman out of a jam for probation violation. Walter says it's a tough rap to beat. Although they're even Sam's inference that Walter should help out for "old time's sake" gives the impression he has something on Walter. There's a buzz and and a cut to Walter answering his intercom. He's on the left and dramatically diminished in the frame. It's his wife, Martha. Following her entrance he remains diminished throughout the remainder of the scene in relation to Sam and Martha. It becomes clear he's dependent on Martha for his current and future success. Sounds like he won Martha from Sam, but Sam is clearly the more dominant man in this snippet. He's relaxed, glib, confident. Walter for all his success (and a great looking suit) is small, wary, anxious and jealous. Jealous to the point he accepts Sam's compliment to Martha on behalf of "my wife." If a guy has to establish his position this way we know he's in trouble. Sam's appearance is random and disruptive and a threat to the "sure thing." Martha and Walter have built. We've seen other small towns in The Killers, Mildred Pierce, Out of the Past, and The Postman Always Rings Twice. In Caged the glance at "fireside" shows a small town Main Street and a prominent church spire. I don't think I've ever seen a prison so close to a church. In D.O.A. Frank wants to escape his small town and chase women in San Francisco. I think it's implied the guys in Hitch Hiker are from a small town. These latter two show vestiges of conventional morality since shortly after the men express sexual interest they get into life threatening (and in one case life ending) situations.
  9. We open on a dark car driving on a winding road. It's shot day for night so we see more of the environment and that we're within sight of city lights. The dark car pulls off the road next to an up-thrusting obelisk telling us we're 3.5 miles from somewhere. Cut to a close up of the car. There's a man at the wheel and his face is obscured by a window mounted searchlight is in the foreground. Is this guy a cop? He checks his Gruen. It's 8:30. Cut to a light colored top-down convertible coming down the road. A medium closeup shows a man driving and a woman in the passenger seat. Alan and Janie. Her face is fixed and stony. The man mentions she's being quiet. We learn (as she speaks with a voice polished with two packs of Chesterfields a day) she doesn't want to go to the party. The host is an okay guy, but his wife is dripping with diamonds and looks down on her like someone in a big house looks down on Hollywood. This hints at Post-War male anxiety as it speaks to her frustrations as well as Alan's failure to be an ice-maker. Janie tries to take matters into her own hands by pulling the key from the steering column. The car swerves but Alan rights it and reluctantly agrees to turn around. She's taken charge and gotten her way. Even before it's Too Late for Tears it's too late to turn as the driver of the dark car, now on the road, throws something in the back seat of Janie and Alan's car. They stop to look. It's a leather case. Alan looks confused. Janie urges him to open the case. Alan opens the case we see it's full of money. Alan looks confused. Janie looks alive. Cut to a shot of another car coming down the road. Alan looks confused. Janie takes charge urging him to get in the car as she floors it. He's not in the passenger seat he's in back where the children sit. Janie drives like a maniac. Smiling all the while. She's LOVING it. Driving at high speeds, suitcase full of money. She may not even know she's driving. She's watching her dreams come true in the theater of her mind. They lose the pursuer and Alan says he'll take over driving when she slows down. I don't think Alan's going to get to do too much more of Janie's driving. -- Compare the opening of this film with other Daily Doses that began with a similar set-up on a deserted highway at night. How does this film's fateful twist differ from other film scenes we have investigated? Like Too Late for Tears, Kiss Me... and Hitch Hiker both start off at night on an open road. Those two are night for night. Tears is day for night. In Kiss Me...fate takes the form of an imperiled woman helped by a powerful man. In Hitch-Hiker two men are dis-empowered by a fateful encounter with psychotic man. In Tears fate empowers an ambitious woman. -- Why do you think unexpected incidents involving innocent people (such as today's couple) was such a popular postwar theme? What was changing in society and history that made this a popular film story for audiences at the time? By 1948 American's had experienced a number of life changing incidents beyond their control. The Depression, WWII and The Bomb pretty clearly demonstrated that, do what you will, events can arise where you're completely undone. On the other had randomness and illogical destructive fate weren't exactly new so it's hard for me to imagine it was such a revelation to the Post War generation. Maybe it was just the willingness of the studios to take the lid off denial Maybe I can give a better answer when I've done the assigned reading. -- Discuss this scene in terms of the style and substance of film noir. What do you see in this opening scene that confirms Eddie Muller's observation that this film is "'the best unknown American film noir of the classic era." We have wonderful use of night and expressive lighting in this scene. We have Freudian hints of potency and impotence. Up to now our Femme Fatales used manipulation to get their way. In these three minutes our Femme Fatale grabbed the power and put herself in the drivers seat. This is the most unambiguous vision of male anxiety I've seen. Someone with Eddie Muller's knowledge is more qualified to say this is the best unknown American noir of the classic era. Its unknowness was unknown to me.
  10. i should proof read these things. I meant "cut back and forth between spectators and brogues"
  11. We open on a medium shot of the train station arched entry. I only knew it was a train station because of the film title. I assume this would have been more recognizable to filmgoers of the time. The arch is brightly illuminated while the interior is shadowy. Our POV is the shadowy interior so we're already in the darker world. A cab pulls into the station a porter enters frame from the left and opens the Diamond cab company door. Out comes a leather suitcase followed by a pair of lace up patent leather cap toed spectators that starting walking left. Quick cut to a cab at the moment of curb arrival a porter enters the screen from the right. Out come two tennis rackets and suitcase followed by a pair of lace up conservative wing-tipped brogues. Brogues walk left to right. A fancy guy and a regular guy. The pace of walking and music quickens as we cut back and forth between spectators and captoes. We already have a set of screen left activity associated with spectators indicating bad guy stuff and screen right activities with brogues indicating good guy stuff. Cut to low angle (come to think of it we've been low angle this entire time) shot of first spectators then brogues going through the train station turnstile. We're watching from being and going with them. Quick cut to a medium close up of the railroad tracks running from top to bottom of screen. We, as the viewers are on the journey with brogues and captoes. On the train car brogues and captoes find seats, across from each other. Their shoes touch and our view comes up. I can't remember who we see first now (I think it's brogues, Farley Granger). Through this accidental contact Bruno (captoes) decides too introduce himself and then, again moving right to left moves over to Farley's side of the table. Too close for such a casual meeting. Bruno says he admires people who do things (a gentlemen or leisure or someone who makes money by not working). He tells Farley to go ahead and read as he won't talk much but shows a disconcerting interest in what's being read. -- How is Hitchcock's rhythm and purposes different in this opening sequence, from other films noir such as Kiss Me Deadly or The Hitch-Hiker?. First I think they're the same in they all start with chance encounters. That said, while Kiss and Hitch-Hiker begin with an air of desperation and danger, Strangers begins casually, nonchalantly even a little humorously. So I think Hitchcock's story is telling us that the encounter with trouble can start off in a light and non-threatening way. -- What are the noir elements that you notice in the opening of this film? Either in terms of style or substance? From a style standpoint the lighting of the train station entry reminded me of Jane Greer's entrance in Out of the Past. The use of clothing to indicate character. The use of low angle shooting and the creation of enclosed space throughout the sequence. The chance encounter. -- Do you agree or disagree that Alfred Hitchcock should be considered a "special case" in discussion of film noir? Why or why not? I have to say he is a special case, but not because of this sequence. If I didn't already know Hitchcock so well I don't know that I'd see him as a special case. I knew who Alfred Hitchcock was when I was 10. He had a TV show. What other Director did?
  12. Thanks for raising this point. I think there was an essay by Roger Ebert where he says that action screen left or moving screen left generally indicates something bad going on.
  13. We start at the top of the Los Angeles City Hall. A building that's probably been in more films noir than Elisha Cook Jr. It's night so we know we're not there for a zoning appeal. Panning down we find ourselves sharing the point of view of a lone man, left of screen, momentarily stopped & staring at the building. We here purposeful dramatic music as the man moves to center screen and walks forward in a one point perspective shot of a shadowy hallway. He is the only person in the hallway. We see a sign for Police Department. Entering these doors the man stops and asks directions. Another walk down an empty corridor with our man at the center. Arriving at the door marked Homicide Division he enters and asks to see the "man in charge." He's ushered into the Captain's office takes a seat and says he wants to report a murder. The captain asked who's and following a long searing pause the man says "mine." The Captain, showing no surprise, pulls a sheet from a stack of papers and asks the man if he's Frank Bigelow. "That's right" answers Bigelow who then asks imploringly if the Captain wants to hear his story. As viewers we're first confronted with confusion. Why is the man there? Where is he going? What is his purpose. In our more philosophical moments we may find ourselves asking ourselves these same questions. When we finally learn where he is and why he's there the situation becomes absurd. A living man reporting his own murder? How is that possible. To our amazement "the man in charge" shows no surprise. He already knows who the man is. The man in charge already knows everything. Maybe he's more like the "Man" in charge. Still Frank wants to tell his story. And so we move on to hear how the end began. Our Daily Doses this week begin in confusion and images of a journey. There's no immediately understood destination. We're dropped in and already traveling. Our protagonists are on their journeys due to circumstances that aren't clear to us. What is clear is a sense of tension, danger or desperation. The travelers either lack power immediately or have it taken from them and end up in the grip of impersonal cruel forces. The fate that awaits them, or the fate that brought them to this point is unknown to us, but will be revealed. The revelation will likely not bring a comforting resolution. As an aside, and I may be wrong in this, I think Hammett's "Flitcraft" story beat Camus to the existential absurdity punch by about 20 years.
  14. It's always great to see the Warner Brothers logo. It's the Superman of studios. We're disoriented during the initial run of titles and theme music although we can see from the crispness of the title "Caged" we're watching an A film. As we progress it becomes clear we're in a dark place, moving, looking through chicken wire, going somewhere by force. Cut to the wagon doors opening and a medium shot of an attractive frightened woman seated at the front of the van. "Pile out your tramps. End of the line" A powerful opening and the cruel description contrasts sharply with the well groomed frightened woman. The contradiction continues as the women pile out. They aren't high society, but they are well dressed middle class looking women. Back to a close up of the protagonist's face. She looks to be on the verge of tears. Medium close up of stone walls and barred windows. Medium close-up of "Women's State Prison" sign. Okay. We have a definite place. You have to be convicted of something serious to be here. Still contradictory with the appearance of the protagonist. She's the last one to leave the van. Maybe clinging to the hope she won't have to get out. Maybe not facing it's really happening. No matter. The guard pulls her out and flings her into the pack. She's in experienced company though. One of the women says "Take a last look at free-world." She speaks with the voice of experience. This heightens the feeling of threat vis-a vis the protagonist. We end on her turning and facing imprisonment and it's unknown dangers. Warner Brothers gangster films were always sympathetic with the gangster. They were generally people trapped in impoverished circumstances with crime their only path to freedom. Temporary as that freedom may be. While this film is sympathetic with the woman going to prison we as an audience don't know why she's there. We're starting at the downfall. Did she do something criminal? She looks as fearful as a child. What fate has led her to this cage?

New Members:

Register Here

Learn more about the new message boards:

FAQ

Having problems?

Contact Us