Dr. Rich Edwards

Daily Dose of Darkness #13: Out of the Sun and Into the Shadows (A Scene from Out of the Past)

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Week Four's Daily Doses are revolve around the theme of "Film Noir and the Studios." We will feature different clips from Hollywood studios this week, including RKO, Warner Bros, and MGM. Pay attention to the difference between the clips as they were made at different studios. As will be addressed in this week's lecture, each Hollywood studio had their own "house style" or stylistic tendencies specific to that studio and its filmmaking practices. 

 

First up is a clip from Out of the Past (1947). This clip will be available Monday morning, June 22, in Canvas through the link on the main page of Canvas. Click here for the Canvas Main Page

 

FYI, the old system of email delivery is no longer working, and you now will have to visit Canvas to watch each Daily Dose. We apologize in advance that we can no longer email the Daily Doses, but we tried every possible fix and/or solution. But all previous Daily Doses are still available at Canvas. Please visit Canvas every day Monday through Thursday for a new Daily Dose.

 

Thanks for understanding. 

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Exquisite black and white photography that I would describe as "velvet". It is obvious that each frame was carefully chosen for maximum lighting and composition. Backgrounds melt into impressionistic paintings within the shallow depth of field as the camera focuses on our main characters who are sharp and in contrast with various tones and shades of grey. The narration and dialogue propelled the story but all of my attention was engulfed in the beauty of the imagery and the vision of a master of his craft.

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"Velvet" ... good word to describe it. Not angled and shadowy, but rather horizontal and vertical, and evenly lit. The sequence starts with anonymous, panoramic travelogue shots illustrating Jeff's trip south in search of Kathy. In Acapulco, where he knows he'll find her, we move to street level. The street and cantina scenes are all framed with walls and doorways, leading up to the shot where she walks in through the arched doorway. The compositon draws our eye to her entrance from the bright sun into the interior. The play of light on her figure as she enters is striking.

 

No deep focus is used here. Narrow focus and precise composition keeps our eyes on the characters in the busy cantina interior.

 

From their brief conversation we gather that neither is here as a tourist, that Jeff was smitten the second he saw Kathy walk in, and that she, for her part, is intrigued but something else is pulling at her. Their scene together has the feeling of something big about to develop between them (as it does - in the movie this is part of a flashback, and chronologically early in the story).

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The opening scene from Out of the Past starts off in true noir style with voice over narration by Jeff (Robert Mitchum) explaining his modus operandi while trailing Kathie (Jane Greer) to Acapulco.  In spite of the brightly lit buildings and streets outside our narrator's location, Nicholas Musuraca's camera is positioned to capitalize on the stark contrast from inside the cantina, still moving characters from hot light, to silhouettes, to heavy shadows then to flat/even lighting. Kathie's entrance from the sun lit street, dressed in all white and topped with a large hat catching the light as if a spotlight were on her.  Beautiful!  And now we too know why Whit didn't care about the missing money.   The moment Jeff lays eyes on Kathie he's hooked and starts to fall fast.  He plays it cool and devises a lonely "tourist" cover story.  Kathie is posed, cautious and yet still intrigued.  Eventually the camera moves to Kathie's table as we are seated opposite the couple in a medium shot and again in true noir style, the audience is made part of the action.  A major contribution Out of the Past has contributed to the development of film noir was to liberate location and time of day considerations.  No longer would a noir film be confined to the claustrophobic big city streets and alleys.  Likewise noir characters were not restricted to be filmed in the darkened shadows of night.  Femme fatales and hardened gum shoes could be just as threatening or doomed in daylight as well. 

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You can tell right away this was a big budget hollywood studio picture! if they filmed in Mexico (?) they had the budget My guess is Mitchum was $$ so they had to budget for him also. Then the more you view the clip the more you get involved with the story...also i might add our Teacher Richard, spoke a lot about this film on the first week in his readings (using photos) to get us really involved with the class.

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I've been looking forward to this one, probably my favorite Film Noir of all time. 

 

Can I say she smokes? Seriously, she smokes.

 

Considering that every element in a scene has a purpose, why does she light a cigarette? Is she nervous, or just the opposite, at ease and in control? She makes no effort to exhale away from him. A sign she has no interest? Intimidation? Wants to share the experience? 

 

Interesting choice for the music as well. Sounds like a Mexican folk tune, quite up and festive. It juxtaposes nicely with the melancholy mood that seems prevalent at the table. The music doesn't reach them, doesn't lift their spirits. (How would the scene feel if it had a different piece of music attached, say a sad, lonely piano piece in a minor key?)

 

The guide is refused. She's not here for the holidays, she's here for what? Business, on the run, secrets?

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My thought regarding "Out of the Past" in relation to previous films noir in our discussion is the contrast between individuals "hiding from" or burying themselves in cities amongst tall buildings and the anonymity of crowds as opposed to here, in the heat and white, bleached burning sun of Mexico. Of course, getting to this different environment required the same running, search for escape, or desire to hide in the identity of a different culture or language. Even there, the protagonists refer to a local cantina that reminds them of home, NYC- the same crowded landscape from which they ran.

 

In our discussion of influences on films noir from other art forms, we reviewed a lot of high brow stuff: German expressionism, surrealism, etc., but I have been jarred to remembering the stuff I loved at the same time I was loving these films for the first time. I suspect other geeks like me probably loved the same stuff: old-time radio programs ("Lights Out" by Arch Obler), the old EC horror comics. This stuff was closely related to the pulp magazines. Radio in particular was great about firing the imagination, as is reading. We create our own images. When images are fed to us, as in film, we have to have an avenue for our imaginations within the images the filmmakers provide. This is why I think film noir works so well, delving into the psychological issues we keep hidden within us, but nonetheless share. And I think this is why the movie-going experience was so powerful: sitting in the dark with people we didn't know and realizing we all share the same fears and dark thoughts. We share and relish our humanity. 

 

Well, time for me to get to work....another shared reality.

 

Looking forward to others' thoughts.

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Week Four's Daily Doses are revolve around the theme of "Film Noir and the Studios." We will feature different clips from Hollywood studios this week, including RKO, Warner Bros, and MGM. Pay attention to the difference between the clips as they were made at different studios. As will be addressed in this week's lecture, each Hollywood studio had their own "house style" or stylistic tendencies specific to that studio and its filmmaking practices. 

 

First up is a clip from Out of the Past (1947). This clip will be available Monday morning, June 22, in Canvas through the link on the main page of Canvas.

 

FYI, the old system of email delivery is no longer working, and you now will have to visit Canvas to watch each Daily Dose. We apologize in advance that we can no longer email the Daily Doses, but we tried every possible fix and/or solution. But all previous Daily Doses are still available at Canvas. Please visit Canvas every day Monday through Thursday for a new Daily Dose.

 

Thanks for understanding. 

I am in Canvas and I can not find #13.

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The use of lighting in this scene is film noir-ish (a new term - you like?) without being obviously so.  Jeff is sitting at a table, in a well-lit square-shaped scene, framed by a dark, hazy doorway.  Kathie enters from the bright sunlight in her light dress and hat - yet we see her very well, partially due to a well-placed shadow that sweeps across her as she walks into the building.  Is this shadow a clue to our femme fatale?

Jeff is quiet, lonely, and willing to take a chance to meet the girl.  He accidentally drops a coin, and as it rolls by Kathie's table, Jeff stoops to pick it up, glancing at her as if he'd like to speak.  When the Mexican approaches, Jeff sees an opportunity and doesn't hesitate to sit at Kathie's table and pretend that they're together.  It gives him an in with her.

 

Kathie is also quiet, but more complex.  She effectively shuts down all of Jeff's forays with answers that would stop a Mack truck.  Jeff doesn't give up easily, however.  Finally, it seems that Kathie has had enough, and she rises to leave.  Yet she turns back and gives him a glimmer of hope by telling him that sometimes she is in a certain place at a certain time.  Maybe there's hope for Jeff yet ....

 

 

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For those who, like me, could not find this Daily Dose this AM, here's where I finally located it.  Go to the Canvas Home page for the course.  Look for the blue "Daily Dose of Darkness" link and click on it.  All the Daily Doses are listed there.  (The link is right below the first pic, and right above the red words telling us that there will be no more email of DDs.)  Don't know why, but this particular DD (#13) is not posted in the Announcements section.  Hope this helps some of my fellow film noir-ologists.  ;)

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Out of the Past gives us true noir in the voice over narration, with Jeff describing how he has followed Kathie around Mexico and is now in Acapulco.  Having been to Acapulco I know how hot and bright the sun is there.

 

That brightness gives us further noir style in how Jeff moves from an alley that is dark into the sun, then into the shade of the cantina and the cool darkness in the cantina.  Remember how nice that was when I was there.  Then how Kathie is lighted in silhouette as she comes into the cantina.

 

Kathie seems to be uninterested in what is going on around her, in her attitude towards the man trying to be a guide to them, and in not wanting the earrings.  Jeff is interested in her, and it seems it is more than just as someone who was to follow her.

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-- How does this scene employ elements of the noir style while most of the scene is shot during daylight? The voice over and the shadows.


-- What do we learn about the characters of Kathie (Jane Greer) and Jeff (Robert Mitchum) in this sequence? We know that Jeff is looking for her. I have not seen the movie and the only thing I learned from this clip was 1) she doesn't wear earrings 2) she was not interested in being "picked up" and 3) she sometimes goes to that other bar.


-- In what ways do you think this scene from Out of the Past contributed to the development of film noir? Again, the voice over, the witty exchange between the "femme fatale" and the PI, the shadows, the background music.


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The scene gives off a mysterious feel, it appears that something is about to happen. Even if it is daytime it doesn't mean someone can't die. Kathie is quite and doesn't seem to care for company that much. Jeff is in want of a companion particularity Kathie to travel and share things with. 

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For those who, like me, could not find this Daily Dose this AM, here's where I finally located it.  Go to the Canvas Home page for the course.  Look for the blue "Daily Dose of Darkness" link and click on it.  All the Daily Doses are listed there.  (The link is right below the first pic, and right above the red words telling us that there will be no more email of DDs.)  Don't know why, but this particular DD (#13) is not posted in the Announcements section.  Hope this helps some of my fellow film noir-ologists.   ;)

Thanks so much for posting this tip. It was a big help to moi!

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Since I have seen this film many times and it is one of my favorites, it is hard for me to separate this one scene from what preceded it and what follows. 

 

In this scene Kathie makes her entrance out of the bright sunlight into the darker coolness of the cantina.  Kathie casts a shadow on the wall as she is seated. Both Kathie and Jeff are distinct but the background is blurred.

 

Both characters fence with each other.  You surmise Jeff is looking for her and she seems to know who he is and why he is there.  When she tells him about another club she frequents she seems almost resolved to the situation.  Jeff finds her attractive and interesting.  You sense that this is just the beginning for the two of them.

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You can definitely see the Val Lewton /RKO influence in this clip. Even though he was not directly involved in this picture you can see the influence he had on Musuraca and Tourneur. As Kathie/Greer enters we can just make her out. But instead of seeing her more clearly as she approaches she becomes a silhouette - almost like a walking shadow. Lewton, in my opinion, was the master of keeping the visual just out of reach to build suspense. This gives the mind a chance to play with what it is seeing or or in some cases what it thought it was seeing. For example in the Cat People Lewton never showed us the "cat" instead it was a shadow that our eye couldn't quite see and our mind couldn't quite touch. The way Kathie is slowly revealed in this clip reminds me of that. Or maybe it's just because I'm a real nerdy and Val Lewton fan. :)

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Hi #NoirSummer Students:

 

We are working on getting out a mass email to explain the problem with the Daily Doses and email delivery. But long story short, the Announcements tool is no longer working in Canvas due to technical difficulties, so we have had to create an alternate way to deliver the Daily Doses each day. 

 

Since there won't be an email notification, you will have to visit Canvas every Monday through Friday to get your new Daily Dose. New Daily Doses will be available on those days starting at 7am EDT. 

 

To make it very easy, we have a blue link at the top of the Canvas Main Page and when you click on that link, it will bring you to a new page that has all the Daily Doses organized by weekly theme.

 

FYI, the new Daily Doses will no longer be published under the "Announcements" link, we have created a new page that contains all the Daily Doses. Every Monday through Thursday morning, a new link will appear on that page containing the latest Daily Dose of Darkness!

 

You can get to the Canvas Main page here: https://learn.canvas.net/courses/748

 

Here is a link directly to the Daily Doses Page for your convenience: https://learn.canvas.net/courses/748/pages/daily-doses-of-darkness-main-page

 

We apologize for the inconvenience. Our team worked very hard behind the scenes to get the Announcements system to work, but an email reminder is no longer possible.

 

But rest assured, all the Daily Doses will still be posted every Monday through Thursday.

 

Thanks for your understanding!

 

Best, Prof. Edwards 

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Out of the Past is one of the All-Time Great Noir films.  Top everything...story, director, cast and crew.  

 

The past in noir is often as if not more important than the present...it defines characters, situations and creates predicaments, narrows choices, limits options, and generally commands the action.   That's especially true of films like Gilda, The Killers and Out of the Past.   As Jake Gittes tells Katherine Mulwray in the sequel to Chinatown, The Two Jakes, [in noir], the past never goes away

 

It certainly doesn't for Kathie or Jeff.   The cantina scene is the first time Jeff sees the woman he's been sent to find, and it's less that he doesn't realize the looming danger he's walking into as he simply doesn't care.  

 

It's telling that both Jeff (Mitchum) and Kathie (Greer) are shown walking from bright sunlight into the shadow of the inside of the cantina...from light into darkness.    Interior shots can always manipulate light, and in a sense make it night regardless what time of the day it really is.   Kathie moves gracefully from sunlight into the silhouette of the archway into the fabricated light of the cantina.   She's comfortable, confident, takes a seat as if she's been there many times before. She's unfazed by the intrusion of the street hawker, and by Jeff sitting at her table.  She engages in some brief patter, but soon breaks it off, leaving her drink...and Jeff and his earrings...at the table; but holding out the possibility of his seeing her again like a carrot, to see if he'll show up at the nightclub she mentioned.   By the way his eyes followed her as she left the cantina, you know he'd follow her anywhere...which, of course, propels the rest of the story.      

 

Great scene.   Also worthy of note, I think, are the few shots that set up the change of location to Acapulco...the establishing aerial shots and street scenes which employ the same documentary realism style purpose here as they do in Border Incident or Naked City.    

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I was struck that "heat" was a sub-theme here, and one contribution to film noir might be that the Acapulco setting adds tropical climatic heat to the other kinds of Heat always operating in noir: the police, the weapons, the Hot Babe, the pressure cooker of entrapment. (Can't help but remember the way conversation about heat works in Body Heat / Double Indemnity also). So you get rid of the noir of night, but substitute instead a white light so blinding that it also erases details in the glare (in art, too much light might operate in the same way as not enough). The play of light and shadow works really well in the cantina, where it's permanently shadowy noir. As a person who doesn't manage heat well, I'm always impressed at the coolness of the femme fatales, she was white, crisp, clean, fresh, and, of course, icy in personality, in total control. The contrast is Mitchum there in his dark and heavy suit, a noir character dressed for the mean streets, and totally out of place in the heat. (His comment about always being sold something is another indicator that he sticks out.) The color symbolism has potential -- at this point the female seems pure and white while Mitchum is the shady character, but we suspect that moral shadings of black and white are never truly indicated by the colors of the film. At this point, what we get is contrast, and definite indications that there will be more back-and-forth between the light and dark.

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 -- How does this scene employ elements of the noir style while most of the scene is shot during daylight?


Notable to me: She is wearing white coming out of a sunny environment and filmed in shadow.


 


-- What do we learn about the characters of Kathie (Jane Greer) and Jeff (Robert Mitchum) in this sequence?


Well both Kathie and Jeff are nobody's fool. He's patient and persistant. Kathie plays the innocent role well. classic femme fatale, she like bridget o'shannusey


 


-- In what ways do you think this scene from Out of the Past contributed to the development of film noir


the private detective, the shadows, the femme fatale that is not obvious.


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i like the shadows in these scenes but it's also the contrast of black and white i find very telling.  Jeff is a dark suit, the only one in the film, she is in white.  The sunlight is the backdrop of the bar, you almost can feel the coolness of the bar.  Seeing the sun outside of the bar is brilliant shooting for effect.

 

We learn that Jeff and Kathie will be seeing more of each other for sure...lol.  We also learn that the buying of the earrings, he tries to learn more of her and she is not willing, but later...........

 

Of course one of the best noirs of all time, Out of the past, contributes to noir in the beauty of photography setting the scenes that capture you and you are hostage to a world outside your own.  Almost all of this photography is telling us a story which I believe RKO studios had the best film noir black and white imagery that any studio had.  You could freeze frame each scene and hang it on a wall today............almost.   The use of real imagery(mountains, beach, Mexico) with the filming of expert lighting is masterful.  

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Just from this scene, I could discern that Kathie is an independent woman.  For those times, she was travelling alone, entering a "cantina" alone, clearly she felt fine with her situation.  Yes, we know that she's on the lam...but still, she's venturing into a foreign country alone.  She has confidence, you can tell in the way she sashays into the place.

 

Jeff, of course, undresses her with those eyes.  They are sizing up each other.  Poor Jeff, he has no idea what's coming down the pike, straight for him!

 

Great movie.

 

I actually felt a little sorry for Kirk Douglas' character, too.  I think he genuinely loves Kathie, however, Kathie is a taker, a schemer, a climber...poor Kathy, must've had a terrible childhood.

 

It's hard to see Jeff settling for a small-town girl with a small-town life.  Too bad he never gets the chance to live either.

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