Dr. Rich Edwards

June 5 TCM Film Noir Discussions for #NoirSummer for All 13 Films

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Hi #NoirSummer Students:

 

This is the main, pinned topic for all discussions related to the 13 films being aired on TCM on June 5, 2015. Please use this topic to discuss the following films so that all of our thoughts are in one place:

 

European Precursors to Noir

6:00am M

8:00am La Bete Humaine

 

Early Films Noir in the United States

9:45am The Letter

11:30am Stranger on the Third Floor

12:45pm High Sierra

2:30pm The Maltese Falcon

4:15pm Journey into Fear

5:45pm Johnny Eager

 

San Francisco Noir (Hosted by Eddie Muller)

8:00pm Nora Prentiss

10:15pm Woman on the Run

11:45pm Dark Passage

1:45am Born to Kill

 

Neo-Noir

3:30am L.A. Confidential

 

Happy Movie Viewing! Let's discuss some great film noirs!! And don't forget to check out the Summer of Darkness Viewing Guide I put together at the Canvas Course as part of the "Getting Started" Module. Lots of fun information and things to think about as you are watching these films!

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I am well acquainted with Nora Prentiss, but not so much Woman on the Run, so I am looking forward to that one

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IN DARK PASSAGE I BELIEVE THE USE OF THE FIRST PERSON POV SUCCESSFULLY ADDED TENSION TO THE SCENE BECAUSE IT PUTS YOU IN THE FILM. I KEPT WONDERING WHAT WAS IN THE DRIVER'S MIND, WHY THE QUESTIONS, WHY DOES HE KEEP LOOKING AT ME. THE FOCUS IS PLACED ON THE DRIVER. WE SEE A MIRROR EFFECT - WE DO NOT KNOW WHO THE HITCHHICKER IS BUT WE GET TO SEE WHAT THE DRIVER SEES THROUGH HIS REACTION AFTER THE RADIO'S ANNOUNCEMENT.

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Just some impressions while watching M, it's filled with high and low angle shots, and stark contrasts i.e. shots filled with life opposed to those that are devoid of it. This adds to the unease of the subect matter and the general unease.

 

It's got great interesting vignettes of various characters. It even has a shot with a policeman searching a men's room that shows a toilet, illustrating that even in 1931 German cinema was much more mature and true to life, than the Hollywood product. If I remember right a shot of a toilet didn't show up in American cinema until the late 50's

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I have taken a previous movie course in college and remember M as a favorite.  I thought it decades before its time in its subject matter.  The story of a child murderer would not be done in the U.S. or at least not in this way.  Johnny Cash was once asked about the most famous line in his song, "Folsom Prison Blues" and how he came up with lyric "I shot a man in Reno just to watch him Die".  He said it was the worst thing he could think of for a person to do.  Similarly, Fritz Lange could think of nothing worse than a child murderer and his "Man in Black" is first represented in a childs macabre song, then a shadow, then a whistled tune called "Hall of the Mountain KIng".  I researched the tune because it sounded very familiar.  Years ago, on my first viewing, there was no internet and I had no idea what the song was.  I was amazed to find out that I knew "Hall of the Mountain KIng" from an episode of Mad Men of the same title in which a young child plays it on the piano as part of his lesson and says he likes it because it is creepy, not unlike the children in the courtyard in M who also like creepy songs.  Overall, the tihing that struck me most is the lack of sound in M.  There is no film score highlighting suspenseful moments or sad moments and manipulating our emotions.  Instead there is the song of the chidlren, the whistled tune of the murderer, the cukoo clock and school bells marking time, etc.  I liked the silence in between and that I was not prompted to think by constant music but it allowed to see myself where the truth would lie. 

 

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I don't have as much time today buy I am recording a bunch of them today and will spend the next few days watching as many as I can, especially the beginning Film Noir in America

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Great ending too, the capture of M the vigilante court trial with excellent acting to the finale, 

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Just so yall know how serious I am about this class I'm giving up Friday soap opera clifhangers to watch every movie on TCM Summer of Darkness programming today.

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Sadly at work then taking a friend fishing so my noir Friday will not begin until tomorrow lol.  I hope you all enjoy these wonderful films.  ;)

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This was the first time I've ever seen Fritz Lang's "M"! I was impressed by the multilayered script, and many, many characters! Lorre's performance as the murderer was brilliant and the best I've ever seen of his! There weren't major actors, but an ensemble cast of many. I love the whole phone conversation between the Commisioner and the politician. There conversation flows with images that tell the story of the investigation. I thought that was brilliant and Lang's use of editing and sound was effective as well! Like the meeting session of the criminals vs. the police. Both sides of the law trying to solve the case! Ironic twist on Lang's part. I was surprised by the many wide shots for important scenes like the mock trial of the crimnals or the cops hitting the streets to sweep the cafes. One final thing: the unique faces of the actors some were pretty, ugly, strange, and funny! They looked like everyday people, whose faces and clothes tell their own story. It's like Sergio Leone said of his film's characters that..."faces are like landscapes." These faces would never be shown in American films, we like beauty too much!

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I am going to try to view 1 or 2 films a day starting this evening. And I'll be commenting/Revewing in this MB for each of the films I view

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Looking forward to watching those movies that I haven't seen before. I will watch them on Watch TCM. Now watching "Bete Humaine" after reading the TCM article. Renoir wanted Simone Simon because her face was innocent looking, and that was the scariest image that he wanted to portray - seemingly innocent - but really not. I am really liking Josef Kosma's soundtrack - he is a unknown composer here in the states, but his signature tune is very popular - "Autumn Leaves". Hearing and seeing the opening credits made the opening of the film that much more interesting - the opening credits and the music set the scene very well for the opening.

 

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Just watched M. I always liked PL and he didn't disappoint me in this movie. The way he interacted with the children and his ending soliloquy made Freddy from the nightmare movies look like a guidance counselor. To me this seemed to be a much darker subject matter than most thrillers of the day.

 

Other things I noticed that made it stand out and showed the roots of film noir were: obstructed faces , high shots looking down onto the street, long moments of silence, and of course shadows. All this lead to an eerie mood and tension. To me it seems thede are all staples of film noir.

 

I was struck by the ineffective work of the police department especially the constant raids. Then, in the end, the people they were persecuting were the ones who caught the criminal.I wonder if that wasn't a comment on the lack of trust in the government given the time, 1931 when the Nazi Party was the second largest party. It also makes me wonder if the final comment about watching the children was not only a cautionary comment about predators but dictators as well. Film-noir became the vehicle for filmmakers to explore the darker side of humanity. Was Lange doing that here with not only child predators but the rise of the Nazi Patry. Aftrer all, a few years later he and PL left Getmany because of the Nazis. Or am I reading too much into this?

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There are some parts of M, both in form and in content, that can only be explained by the time and place of its production. A child murdered would not fit easily as a subject not even in  contemporary films (cannibals seem to be okay nowadays, but child murderers are not so prominent). 
Early 30s was a time of disillusionment for Germany which lived the last days of the Weimar republic just before the ascend of the nazis to power a couple of years later. The main theme of the film is not the specific target of the murderer (Lang only needed something atrocious) but the general feeling of insecurity, criminality, disorder, and state failure. In this, Lang and his wife Harbow (at the time a nazi sympathizer, later a member of the party) follow the same general rhetoric which was so much exploited by the law-and-order obsessed nazis.
So the state in the film has its hands tied and cannot do its job in time (ie before the killer strikes again) because of red tape and those in high places who are incompetent, a major trope of police procedurals ever since. The vacuum caused by this incompetency must be filled: that's where the syndicate of beggars comes in -- and it should be noted that it does a great job as an alternative state apparatus, a strange and unexpected fiction (beggars conducting police work and orderly trials?) which is nevertheless believable, since that's exactly what happened 2 years later.  
The grim and dark subject, the oblique, unexpected, unnatural corners of the camera, the strong contrast, all of them inherited by classical american noir, are all children of an oblique, unnatural, dysfunctional society, Weimar Germany.  And it would be interesting to try to understand why such  dark themes, both in content (murder, fate, the inability of the main character to transcend his/her vicious nature) and in form (dark, contrasted, low key etc) would resonate with audiences living in post war societies.  
Or, if one considers the subject of super-villains in superhero films as the inheritors of the almost all-powerful  beggar syndicate, with audiences today.

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Looking forward to watching those movies that I haven't seen before. I will watch them on Watch TCM. Now watching "Bete Humaine" after reading the TCM article. Renoir wanted Simone Simon because her face was innocent looking, and that was the scariest image that he wanted to portray - seemingly innocent - but really not. I am really liking Josef Kosma's soundtrack - he is a unknown composer here in the states, but his signature tune is very popular - "Autumn Leaves". Hearing and seeing the opening credits made the opening of the film that much more interesting - the opening credits and the music set the scene very well for the opening.

Yes innocent. She also had a Betty Boop vibe going for her.

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I am well acquainted with Nora Prentiss, but not so much Woman on the Run, so I am looking forward to that one

If you like Ann Sheridan, you'll love this one. I'm not saying a peep about it. Don't want to spoil it

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Watching the Letter now.  The genius of this film is it starts with the murder and goes from there.  Gale Sondergaard's performance is excellent. Her eyes tell it all. Also this film opens and closes like a bookend.

.

oh wait it's still on

no spoilers here

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"Too bad rubber won't grow in a civilised climate. " - what a great line to sum up the hypocrisy in The Letter. I've seen this movie before but never really noticed what an awful person Leslie was. Not only is she a murderess she is also selfish and conniving - or maybe that's a prerequisite for being a murderer. All the while she acts like she is more civilized than than others in the country where she lives. Despite her faults we are completely invested in the character making her the perfect anti-hero. And because we follow her it makes us examine our own darker side. What would we do for love and jealousy, I've decided I would not commit murder

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Enjoying a day of Film Noir, after reading all the post this week and gaining so much new insight with regards to the study of The Daily Doses of Darkness its fair to say I'm viewing these films from a totally different prespective than normal and to that I say Thank you to all for the thought provoking post through out this past week.

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My DVD recorder is set!

 

I'm so glad this is being offered! I love film noirs (films noir? See I don't even know the proper grammar for it!).

 

Kat

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My DVR is set too! Can't wait to see some of the films I've not seen before and enjoy re-watching my faves.

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Technical question: will the Film Noir series movies all be available on WatchTCM? I see that a few are available now, but will the rest of them be on the site after today?

 

I have to work today. So not right. Film Noir Fridays should be National Holidays!

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Just read the post on like/dislike voice over in film noir.

I greatly enjoy and appreciate voice over particularly in opening scenes of films noir.

Commercially: They save time, film, camera work and, mostly, money for the studio.

Story-wise: An opening sequence voice over (often during movement toward an undisclosed

destination) becomes a Prologue to the coming action. It can set the mood of the piece by

being a particular type of voice (languid, menacing, etc.) and best of all, it does away

with todays answer to an opening voice over -- the flash back, one of most confusing

devices in film making.

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It's a good thing I have Fridays off; a whole day of film noir. The only issue is the east coast scheduling. I missed out on watching M. :unsure:

 

Response to La Bete Humaine:

I felt that the plot was a bit convoluted but perhaps this could be due to the language difference. I had to do some outside research to get the gyst of the plot. Accurate subtitles make a huge difference. I really liked the character of Lumiere's co-engineer (Dabadie?). He provided a comedic element, and I felt he stole many of the scenes.

Simone Simon was stunningly beautiful. Her character seemed to teeter between damsel in distress and a femme fatale. This combination works well as women can't be pigeon-holed to be one or the other. We sometimes have a bit of innocence and mixed with vamp behavior.

As for its noir elements: great screen shots (particularly with Lumiere in the train's corridor as he sees Severine), Lumiere's internal conflict, camera angles.

 

Response to The Letter

That moon seemed like the watchful eye of God. Notice how the clouds seem to project an image of an eye with the moon as its iris. Every time Bette Davis's character looks up, she looks away with tremendous guilt. Loved the contrasts throughout the film. The light/dark contrast, the Davis/Sondergaard contrast.

 

 

(Post Script)

Currently watching Stranger on the Third Floor. I LOVED the scene where Mike Ward is sitting in jail and his attorney arrives (nightmare sequence). A simple screen shot with a bed and a chair, but its placement in a large white room contrasted with the angled shadows was just awesome. By the way, doesn't the female character look a bit like Tina Fey?

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