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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Woah, I cant wait to see this! Thankfully it's on youtube so I can watch it from here (Berlin)!  I never thought I would say this, but how handsome Mitchum looks here!  I guess I have only really seen him in movies where he is older...  

I really like the back and forth between him and Greer..  

"I'll never wear them" (the earrings)

"Nor I"

And the blowing the cigarette smoke right at him.  How she toys with him.  Playing hard to get, yet as she leaves she suggests another bar and says

"I sometimes go there".. Beautiful!

To me this is connection..the chemistry.. between the two leads is so important.. It is what makes or breaks it for me.

Love the colours in this one, the shadows and the darkness still comes out - even through the daylight.  Love that he is the lone dark figure.  Yet the lighting shines on him like he is in a faint spotlight..  A sort of aura.

Someone mentioned earlier how you can almost feel the coolness in the bar.  So true!

 

But then I wonder why is she there?  Is she on the run? Why is he following her and who wants him to?  

Can't wait to see the rest!

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As others have stated, the voice that is used to fil the watcher in, is a noir trademark and also lets you know that jeff is acting like a PI trying to track down Kathie.

 

As for the film of Kathie's entrance, It is dream like - the shape coming in from the light and slowly comes into focus in the darkness, makes you wonder if Kathie will turn out to be good or bad and makes you want to watch the rest of the film to find out.

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Now we're talking. Jacques Tourneur is one of the best unsung visual stylists from this period. He's pretty well beloved, but I think he gets overshadowed in the minds of many fans by his partnership with Val Lewton. But clearly, as evidenced here and in Curse/Night of the Demon, and many of his other films, they were equal partners in terms of talent.

 

I love Tourneur's tendency to put people or objects in the foreground, or sometimes just deep shadows, while keeping the main action in the middle distance. He puts frames around all of his shots, which you can see here. In almost every shot there is a frame existing behind and around the characters. The doorway Jane Greer enters through, then when Robert Mitchum stands from his table he's framed by the archway and wall behind him, and he promptly breaks the frame giving his figure more weight and import in the scene. Again after the guide leaves(though he was also framed by the doorway, perfectly balanced between Greer and Mitchum), both characters have their own frame which they often move out of. Jane Greer is framed by an archway running parallel to the camera's eye, and Mitchum is framed by the partial archway we can see intersecting the other wall. There are so many parallel and reflective lines in these shots, that give stylistic echoes of the body positions of the characters. And most of this was not accidental; Tourneur loved to put all of this stuff into his shots to give more energy to the picture.

 

And off topic here; when Kirk Douglas shows up as the mob boss, it feels like a cameo from an important, big-time star. Until you realize that this was only his second movie! His second movie, and already he commands the screen in such a way that he makes Robert Mitchum seem small! This film is amazing, it really does have everything.

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Probably one of my favorites... because of this long flashback in Mexico.

 

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

Shadows are very important here, especially when Jane Greer comes in (besides, she's wearing white clothes, like Lana Turner the first time we see her in The Postman Always Rings Twice, a year before - there's definitely something about femme fatales wearing white clothes). Stares create tension - when Jane Greer ignores 'Jose Rodriguez', it also creates tension, because the guide clearly intrudes on their conversation. Jane Greer smokes and smoke is one of the distinctive features of film noir. It almost replaces darkness here.

 

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

Kathie is guarded. She doesn't talk much but when she does, her answers can be very curt ('I don't want a guide'). She exudes self-confidence: later in the movie, Jeff says she knew he would go to the place she mentions at the end of this scene and wait for her. She's already playing with him.

This scene is a turning point for Jeff: he followed Kathie because he was hired by someone who wanted her back, but he soon forgets why he came to Acapulco when he sees her.

 

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

The voice over, the flashback, the femme fatale are film noir characteristics. But what I prefer here - and in the rest of the movie - is the hero who slowly realizes he's not as strong or not as indifferent as he thought he was.

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This film uses some contrasts to help set up the mood and tension of the scene. As with most noir there is less of a focus on having something happen as there is on a focus the dialogue and formalism.  The white dress and black suit. The hot sun and cool cantina. Then the dialogue that is short and terse makes us wonder what will happen next.

 

The two characters don't give us much through there interaction verbally but we see that they are both smart in not playing too many cards of the bat. Kathie has the femme fatale complex down completely and we see after she totally shuts Jeff down that she points him to another locale and leaves it open that she goes there sometimes. Pulling Jeff along as though she's innocent and unaware but you can tell she is hiding something and smarter than she's letting on.  Jeff plays well to act natural and not the predator he is hunting prey . He is patient and aware of his surroundings.

 

This movie brings to noir many classic expectations. Lots of symbolism with the contrasting styles I mentioned earlier and the use of color to set the tone. The witty banter between two characters trying to decipher what the other wants and lots of sensual tension between the beautiful femme fatale and her male counterpart. 

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Could someone put a link up for todays Daily Dose 6/22? I didn't get the email. Thanks!

The emailing of the Daily Doses has been discontinued, due to technical issues. Go to the course and click on the link to today's daily dose.

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There are a few things that I love about this scene.

 

1) I love the sense of momentum (of what will be a fatal trajectory) and "fate" in this scene. Everything seems to be going his way: we know that he wants to go and talk to her. But then what happens? His coin rolls over to her table. An excuse to go in that direction. Then the salesman insists that he sits at her table, avoiding the need for a pick-up line. Lastly, he is literally handed a romantic gesture (buying jewelry). It's too good to be true--it's like fate is giving him exactly what he wants. And we know that it is too good to be true. He's going to pay for this, and we know it even if he doesn't. The fact that at each of these moments (the coin, the salesman, the not-so-subtle invitation to the club) he looks like he thinks he's gotten lucky is just a twist of the knife. Real luck would have been her throwing her drink in his face and never wanting to see him again.

 

2) There is almost a cruel degree of foreshadowing when he says that he hasn't met someone in 10 days who isn't trying to sell him something. Kathy is going to sell him something, all right--the promise of an impossible life together. I love the look on her face when he says this.

 

3) I really like the light banter around the earrings ("I'll never wear them." "Nor will I."), and the fact that Kathy ultimately refuses them. She is not going to be in his debt, and she's not yet going to permit him the intimacy of such a gift, even to be polite. There's the irritating game (still played in bars today) where the guy buys you a drink and it's a trap for any polite woman: if you say no, you're being rude; if you say yes but don't want to talk to the guy, you're self-entitled and stuck-up. I like that Kathy doesn't budge, and I actually think it speaks highly of his character that he doesn't guilt trip her or press the point and takes her rejection with a sense of humor ("I'll wear my earrings").

 

4) I'm going to say something that sounds really silly, but bear with me. If you watch America's Next Top Model (I know, I know--I said bear with me!), there's something they talk about called "making your own wind". It's the ability to move your body and present that look of being in a sexy breeze when there is no breeze. It's all about creating something that isn't there. In this scene, I feel like the noir characters are making their own shadows. In the sunniest, hottest climate, they still manage to find darkness and shadow, as if they are creating their own nighttime landscape despite the blazing sun and the heat. There are several references in this short clip to darkness, sleeping, and closing eyes. As if there's this other, dreamlike world where these characters exist (or maybe another world that they are seeking).

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This film uses some contrasts to help set up the mood and tension of the scene. As with most noir there is less of a focus on having something happen as there is on a focus the dialogue and formalism.  The white dress and black suit. The hot sun and cool cantina. Then the dialogue that is short and terse makes us wonder what will happen next.

 

The two characters don't give us much through there interaction verbally but we see that they are both smart in not playing too many cards of the bat. Kathie has the femme fatale complex down completely and we see after she totally shuts Jeff down that she points him to another locale and leaves it open that she goes there sometimes. Pulling Jeff along as though she's innocent and unaware but you can tell she is hiding something and smarter than she's letting on.  Jeff plays well to act natural and not the predator he is hunting prey . He is patient and aware of his surroundings.

 

This movie brings to noir many classic expectations. Lots of symbolism with the contrasting styles I mentioned earlier and the use of color to set the tone. The witty banter between two characters trying to decipher what the other wants and lots of sensual tension between the beautiful femme fatale and her male counterpart. 

Another contrast that strikes me is the happy music in the background vs. the tense conversation and situation.

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Ok, who is Jane Greer?  Why don’t I know about her?  Robert Mitchum, I know.  I have always viewed Mitchum as kind of a slimy character, but here he looks so young and fresh.  The cinematography with its interplay of sun and shadow is absolutely breathtaking.  I am totally intrigued.  I have no idea what this movie is about other than what’s going on between the two protagonists we see here.  I will definitely be watching “Out of the Past” on Friday at 1:00 p.m.  This is such fun!  :) 

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Kathie seems to walk out of the shadows and into real life even though she comes into the scene from the bright sunshine. She seems to appear like a ghost, chats briefly with the living, and then disappears into oblivion. She says little but her posture tells us she is worldly and wise...even for a ghost. Jeff is the simpleton who sees this vision and, thinking he can use his usual charms on her, is brushed aside. Although her parting words give him hope of another encounter, it is vague and full of questions. Who is she? Will he really see her again? How often will he have to go to the described place before he sees her again? And when he does see her, will she vanish again just as quickly? Jeff is intrigued but will this encounter lead to something? The darkness of his mood and the brightness of her presence make him want to find out.

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4) I'm going to say something that sounds really silly, but bear with me. If you watch America's Next Top Model (I know, I know--I said bear with me!), there's something they talk about called "making your own wind". It's the ability to move your body and present that look of being in a sexy breeze when there is no breeze. It's all about creating something that isn't there. In this scene, I feel like the noir characters are making their own shadows. In the sunniest, hottest climate, they still manage to find darkness and shadow, as if they are creating their own nighttime landscape despite the blazing sun and the heat. There are several references in this short clip to darkness, sleeping, and closing eyes. As if there's this other, dreamlike world where these characters exist (or maybe another world that they are seeking).

 

Hey, do you want to be my best friend?

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Now we're talking. Jacques Tourneur is one of the best unsung visual stylists from this period. He's pretty well beloved, but I think he gets overshadowed in the minds of many fans by his partnership with Val Lewton. But clearly, as evidenced here and in Curse/Night of the Demon, and many of his other films, they were equal partners in terms of talent.

 

I love Tourneur's tendency to put people or objects in the foreground, or sometimes just deep shadows, while keeping the main action in the middle distance. He puts frames around all of his shots, which you can see here. In almost every shot there is a frame existing behind and around the characters. The doorway Jane Greer enters through, then when Robert Mitchum stands from his table he's framed by the archway and wall behind him, and he promptly breaks the frame giving his figure more weight and import in the scene. Again after the guide leaves(though he was also framed by the doorway, perfectly balanced between Greer and Mitchum), both characters have their own frame which they often move out of. Jane Greer is framed by an archway running parallel to the camera's eye, and Mitchum is framed by the partial archway we can see intersecting the other wall. There are so many parallel and reflective lines in these shots, that give stylistic echoes of the body positions of the characters. And most of this was not accidental; Tourneur loved to put all of this stuff into his shots to give more energy to the picture.

 

And off topic here; when Kirk Douglas shows up as the mob boss, it feels like a cameo from an important, big-time star. Until you realize that this was only his second movie! His second movie, and already he commands the screen in such a way that he makes Robert Mitchum seem small! This film is amazing, it really does have everything.

I like your observations about the framing used by Tourneur! Very perceptive. But we will have to agree to disagree about Kirk Douglas making Robert Mitchum look small, ha ha. Interestingly, Kirk Douglas was paid a lot more for his time on the screen here than Robert Mitchum was. RKO had to pay through the nose to get Paramount to loan them Kirk, and he was not in nearly as much of the movie as was the under-paid Robert Mitchum.

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Man nobody knows how to smolder like Robert Mitchum. The big film noir element that stuck out to me was how we still see plenty of high contrast and deep shadow throughout the scene evin in the daylight. Particularly when Kathie walks in.

 

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I like your observations about the framing used by Tourneur! Very perceptive. But we will have to agree to disagree about Kirk Douglas making Robert Mitchum look small, ha ha. Interestingly, Kirk Douglas was paid a lot more for his time on the screen here than Robert Mitchum was. RKO had to pay through the nose to get Paramount to loan them Kirk, and he was not in nearly as much of the movie as was the under-paid Robert Mitchum.

 

Yeah, maybe he doesn't quite make Mitchum look small, but he still commands the screen in a way that I find amazing for someone so new to movies. He feels like a big star already, and you can at least believe that he'd be able to threaten Robert Mitchum, which is no small feat.

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There are a few things that I love about this scene.

 

1) I love the sense of momentum (of what will be a fatal trajectory) and "fate" in this scene. Everything seems to be going his way: we know that he wants to go and talk to her. But then what happens? His coin rolls over to her table. An excuse to go in that direction. Then the salesman insists that he sits at her table, avoiding the need for a pick-up line. Lastly, he is literally handed a romantic gesture (buying jewelry). It's too good to be true--it's like fate is giving him exactly what he wants. And we know that it is too good to be true. He's going to pay for this, and we know it even if he doesn't. The fact that at each of these moments (the coin, the salesman, the not-so-subtle invitation to the club) he looks like he thinks he's gotten lucky is just a twist of the knife. Real luck would have been her throwing her drink in his face and never wanting to see him again.

 

2) There is almost a cruel degree of foreshadowing when he says that he hasn't met someone in 10 days who isn't trying to sell him something. Kathy is going to sell him something, all right--the promise of an impossible life together. I love the look on her face when he says this.

 

3) I really like the light banter around the earrings ("I'll never wear them." "Nor will I."), and the fact that Kathy ultimately refuses them. She is not going to be in his debt, and she's not yet going to permit him the intimacy of such a gift, even to be polite. There's the irritating game (still played in bars today) where the guy buys you a drink and it's a trap for any polite woman: if you say no, you're being rude; if you say yes but don't want to talk to the guy, you're self-entitled and stuck-up. I like that Kathy doesn't budge, and I actually think it speaks highly of his character that he doesn't guilt trip her or press the point and takes her rejection with a sense of humor ("I'll wear my earrings").

 

4) I'm going to say something that sounds really silly, but bear with me. If you watch America's Next Top Model (I know, I know--I said bear with me!), there's something they talk about called "making your own wind". It's the ability to move your body and present that look of being in a sexy breeze when there is no breeze. It's all about creating something that isn't there. In this scene, I feel like the noir characters are making their own shadows. In the sunniest, hottest climate, they still manage to find darkness and shadow, as if they are creating their own nighttime landscape despite the blazing sun and the heat. There are several references in this short clip to darkness, sleeping, and closing eyes. As if there's this other, dreamlike world where these characters exist (or maybe another world that they are seeking).

I like all four of the comments you made, but I particularly appreciate the explanation about the dropped coin rolling to Jane Greer's table. When Robert Mitchum dropped some coins on his table, I could hear that one fell off the table and rolled away, but I did not see where it went. I assume he would have gone to her table anyway, coin or no coin (btw, I did not see him bother to pick it up), but the coin gives him a reason to be there, other than just wanting to see her.

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This opening is classic Film Noir, with the voiceover narration, high-contrast lighting, and mysterious characters. 

 

From Mitchum's character, you get the impression that he is a lonely, brooding man. The woman seems very sophisticated, even somewhat friendly, but we don't know much about her. Is she a Femme Fatale or a good woman with a troubled past? I haven't seen this movie, so I can't answer that question. Yet I can't wait to find out, especially since Richard Edwards keeps talking about it.

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Yeah, maybe he doesn't quite make Mitchum look small, but he still commands the screen in a way that I find amazing for someone so new to movies. He feels like a big star already, and you can at least believe that he'd be able to threaten Robert Mitchum, which is no small feat.

Yes, we can definitely agree that Kirk Douglas commands the screen in his scenes.

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I'm not sure how long ago it's been since I saw Out of the Past, but it's one of the few movies I struggle to remember--and I don't remember this scene at all. I'll definitely be re-watching on Friday.

 

Off the bat, the voice over is immediately characteristic of noir. Plus, there's the use of shadow, the femme fatale--it's all there. Kathie is a mysterious character. She's not a woman of many words, and we're intrigued, wanting to know more--and she's got a lot to tell.

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I love this film, it is my year. It is casted perfectly.  All of the Noir elements are present.  I've seen this movie before, but not with educated eyes and an understanding of the Noir films. I've always loved them, but didn't know why.  I love this course.

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I like all four of the comments you made, but I particularly appreciate the explanation about the dropped coin rolling to Jane Greer's table. When Robert Mitchum dropped some coins on his table, I could hear that one fell off the table and rolled away, but I did not see where it went. I assume he would have gone to her table anyway, coin or no coin (btw, I did not see him bother to pick it up), but the coin gives him a reason to be there, other than just wanting to see her.

Wait. I just re-watched the clip, and I see now that Mitchum does pick up the coin! That escaped me the first time I watched it, perhaps because i did not realize that the coin rolled there, and so I did not understand (or pay any attention to) his movements when he approached the table. 

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I love this film, it is my year. It is casted perfectly.  All of the Noir elements are present.  I've seen this movie before, but not with educated eyes and an understanding of the Noir films. I've always loved them, but didn't know why.  I love this course.

I love this course too!

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Wait. I just re-watched the clip, and I see now that Mitchum does pick up the coin! That escaped me the first time I watched it, perhaps because i did not realize that the coin rolled there, and so I did not understand (or pay any attention to) his movements when he approached the table. 

 

I love the timing in this scene. You watch him gather his courage to go talk to her, and then the coin is the perfect excuse. I love that small awkward pause after he picks up the coin--if he's going to chicken out, it would be then. And just as it's at the point where he has to say something (or it's going to get really awkward), the salesman rolls in and demands that he sit at the table. It really is like a cruel kind of wish fulfillment--the universe basically plops him down at her table and gives him a conversation starter.

 

Hey, do you want to be my best friend?

 

Only if you continue to indulge me as I draw connections between hard-boiled detective movies and Tyra Banks smizing.

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Yes, we can definitely agree that Kirk Douglas commands the screen in his scenes.

 

Both Mitchum and Douglas were perfectly cast for their roles.    Mitchum the laid back guy, that doesn't say much (which is mentioned in that first scene with Douglas).    Douglas the lead hood, full of life and fire.    In that first scene Douglas does command the shot but that is because of the fine direction and filming.    This is saying to the audience one character is big and the other is under his command.

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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. 

Very perceptive! You wrote "A major contribution Out of the Past has contributed to the development of film noir was to liberate location and time of day considerations."

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