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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When two characters who seem out of place in an interesting setting cross paths -- with one literally walking out of the light and into darkness -- the intrigue rises to a heightened level. It is obvious that there is more to come from these two (romance? misdeed? betrayal?) than just witty dialogue and cheap earrings. For viewers, following them down their now-shared path is an irresistible journey.     

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Although this clip from Out of the Past is shot in the daylight, it contains classic film noir elements such as unique camera perspectives, carnival-annoying-type background music, chiaroscuro lighting (mainly Mitchum), quick-dry dialogue, a femme fatale, and first person character narration. We also can't help but feel there will be a flashback scene in this movie.

The white dress and hat on Kathie against the daylight behind her is very skillfully created by the cinematographer and works to show that he is a master of understanding value. He had to create the slightest differences in value in order to get enough contrast to define her and her surroundings without them getting lost in the light. It is very much like how difficult it was to create contours within the multitude of dark values in most films noir, to keep objects from blending all in together. This subtlety in light values here in the clip also works to illustrate that Kathie is comfortable in her environment, while Mitchum is shown in a greater range of values, hinting that he does not fit in well here.

Her dialogue states that she doesn't want any man and she certainly won't wear those earrings. She is letting us know she is independent, in charge and won't be decorated by such things. We know that Mitchum's character is observant (he passes on the jewelry she responds to negatively and picks the first one she simply tires of answering), we know he's a private eye successfully deducing exactly her location, and he states his annoyance at being hounded by so many people there (furthering our perceptions that he is uncomfortable here). Still, all she has to do is hint at their next meeting place and he jumps. She again is in charge because it is her that leaves first, and it is her that *sets up* their next meeting. 

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I was struck by how bright the scene was even inside the cantina. Laura's dress and hat, the table clothes, the waiter and peddler's attire were all bright white--even the wall!. But instead of making the scene FEEL bright, it served as a high contrast canvas for the shadows of Laura's hat, on her face and the wall behind her. It made Robert Mitchum's drak suit and features standout all the more as well. One receives the impression that things have been white washed here, that beneath exteriors there are blemishes and darkness ready to break forth. I look forward to watching the film to see if I'm right. 

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A common element in many noir's that is accentuated by the proverbial venetian blinds is the idea of coming out of the light into the symbolic darkness. You could make a philosophical connection to Plato's Allegory of the Cave in which idealized shadow shapes are suddenly redefined and mean something different in the light, therefore not twisted and misconstrued in the shadows. The devils den, the Widow's web, a world lit mostly by fire like a Renaissance painting by Caravaggio done in the "tenebroso" manner or a Rembrandt in chiaroscuro. However the staging is more like a northern, later Renaissance style like that of Vermeer in which there are foreground constructions in silhouette, and a defined (but still in focus) middle ground and background. As we have learned from the reading, this is most likely due to the use of a wide angle lens or allowing a greater aperture. Most likely the lens in the shot of Kathie entering the cantina. Nothing is out of focus so we get a clear picture of the world of this particular scene in the film. We have been invited in to this moment that is very, very separate from the rest of the world. 

Greer is dressed all in white, perhaps a symbol that she is hiding under a veil of innocence. She doesn't say much, is mildly amused but speculative about Jeff, and this joint is no place for her to pursue her speculations. It isn't dark enough actually. She has to be careful. 

While there is so much more to why Jeff (Mitchum) could care less about 40 grand once he sees the girl, you can tell that he's not only done sitting in a cantina waiting, but kind of desperate, so Kathie's character is confused about how to read a guy she is sure came looking for her specifically.  So she invites him to meet her somewhere else in so many words. To me it is interesting that films noir typically make use of character archetypes, meaning universal symbols, and the cantina is like Plato's cave where we think we understand the characters as they appear in the cave (cantina) but there is far greater substance and complexity to their form and motives when the characters move into different contexts. There is a wonderful element of existentialist writing in a visual form in films noir that really could be elaborated on.  Writers like Camus, and Kafka that are the written form of the psychological elements that bring our morality into question, in parallel with the surrealist painters that brought subconscious thought into a still frame form, finally the film makers who placed that subconscious into motion.  Like the sharp contrast line between the sunlight outdoors and the darkness of the cantina, moral vs. immoral, Kathie and Jeff are walking on that edge between good and evil. 

A wonderful noir example from a cinematography standpoint that has all the quintessential elements of an classic noir.

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This scene from Out of the Past begins with the classic voiceover, as often used in a film noir. The main character, Jeff has gone on a search for a woman, i.e. the Femme Fatale, another prime element of this genre, and a missing $40,000. Both the woman and the missing money are possibly, if not assuredly connected. Thus, Jeff is somewhat being used as an unofficial detective. While this scene is shot in the daylight, darkness can always loom. A perfect example is just before Jeff enters a cafe named "La Mar Azul." Tourneur gives us a quick shot from Jeff's POV, and the cafe's entrance is shrouded in darkness, which presents a foreboding mood. This sinister feel potentially foreshadows Jeff's fate, as we all know the "hero" of a film noir often suffers the worst type of punishment.

 

Jeff seems to embody a type of nostalgia and longing. He states, "Nothing is any good in the world unless you can share it." I must state here I do wonder if Jeff is honestly showing his real, true self, or if he's delicately crafting a facade. He might have an inkling of who he's up against in this scene. Then again, I can definitely nullify this previous comment and say Jeff doesn't realize the deadliness of Kathie, as I'm sure he'll fall prey in the web she's most likely already woven.

 

Kathie is the typical Femme Fatale; alluring, aloof, and calculating. She does engage in conversation with Jeff, but he does most of the talking. Kathie listens, but is formulating a plan. She knew she had him when she walked into he cafe. And upon her exit, Kathie slyly slips in she visits a certain part of town. Of course Jeff will follow to meet her later on in the film.

 

Out of the Past has highlighted how daylight can provide an even more nefarious feel to a film noir. Tourneur makes intricate use of the light to capture those dark, fearful shadows. He chooses to shoot inside a dimly lit cafe as the two leads engage in conversation. This takes us back to darkness, as Tourneur sets the atmosphere. And going into the dark, out of the light is always dangerous in a film noir.

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


 


Photography is a wonderful thing.  Strictly stating it:  Photo means light; graphy means writing.  Photography is writing with light.  The photographer can't control bright sunlight....no need to do that....but the archway entrance to the bar and the inside of the bar itself.  Here the photographer can control the light and it is such a lovely scene....in every sense of  any description offered.  


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


Robert Mitchum's voice over from the opening does it all....another fine art form for noir!!!


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


Well, Jeff, is looking for Kathie and he finds her.  She doesn't know that he's looking for her and once found she invites him to another club nearby.  That's the perfect set-up....all NOIR is about to break loose!!!


 


THIS IS ONE OF MY MOST FAVORITE FILM NOIR, I LOVE ROBERT MITCHUM AND JANE GREER.....AWESOME PAIRING!!!


 


#NOIRSUMMER


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I suppose it could be said that Out of the Past brought noir out of the dark and into the light.  This set of shots beautifully uses actual daylight to tell a noir tale.  Daylight here, as the voiceover explains, is just a part of the scenery.  Acapulco is a sunny, hot place.  Pristinely dressed, Jane Greer is stunningly mysterious in matching white - matching the sun, matching Acapulco.  She is a woman on the run hiding out in plain sight.  

 

The most noir aspect of this clip that jumped out at me was the clipped, smart dialogue.  Greer's character surreptitiously keeps Robert Mitchum's character hot on the trail in suspense and anticipation for things to come with one single line: "I go there sometimes."  Very nicely done.

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Looking at some of the aspects of genre discussed in the reading, I found it interesting to see the copying going on in other genres as well such as Westerns.  The Man from Laramie starring Jimmy Stewart and directed by Anthony Mann, took the idea of ruining the gun hand of the hero from Coroner’s Creek with Randoph Scott, both films having Wallace Ford also, and coming from Columbia.

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We learn that Kathie is on the run from someone named Whit , and Jeff has been sent to retrieve her, supposedly because Kathie has taken $40,000. However Jeff takes one look at Kathie and knows that the money is not the reason Whit wants Kathie back.

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Normally, Film Noir calls to mind dark city streets, chiaroscuro lighting, and shooting at night. The very name of the style means "Dark Film," or "Black Film." This scene from Out of the Past, however, is set in broad daylight. This harkens back to another core concept of Noir: Contrast. The way the scene plays out, with voiceover, snappy dialogue, and cynical overtones, is distinctly Noir, and the fact that the visual style is so bright just makes the rest seem darker by comparison.

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"Out of the Past" is such a great movie because of the particular realistic shots. Even though most of the scene is shot in the daylight it does contributes to the noir perfectly. First off Mitchum's voice over the shot automatically set the noir tone. It foreshadows the film, which gives the spectator the notion that this film is not going to have a happy ending. The daylight shot also gives it that documentary noir style which directors as we have learned were influenced by the German Expression movement. That scene adds depth and realness to the plot of the film. What I also love about this scene is that it also manipulates the light and dark especially when Kathie walks into the cafe. Kathie's face is very visible until she walks into the cafe. The cinematography was amazing in this scene. It was such a beautiful shadow cast over her body and face. It also foreshadows her part as the femme fatale in this film, which contributes a lot to the film noir style. The attraction between Kathie and Jeff is visible (especially with Jeff's voice over giving you that notion that he was quite smitten with her). Mitchum has the strange but beautiful stance and he coyly flirts with her. You can tell she feels it to but tries to down play the attraction.

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Out of the Past and Its Wayward Cousin, Body Heat

It’s one of classic noir’s most intriguing entrances, and I’ve seen it countless times, but thanks to this excellent course, when I viewed the clip of Out of the Past, I didn’t focus on Kathie (Jane Greer). Instead, as she steps from blazing sunlight into the darkened cantina, I noticed how cinematographer Nicholas Musuraca skillfully made the transition, backlighting Kathie and turning her to a deeply shadowed silhouette—and portent of things to come from this enigmatic femme fatale.

 

Our POV is that of the as-yet-unseen Jeff (Robert Mitchum), seated and waiting—waiting  and watching. As Kathie languidly approaches, it becomes all about body language. And her language says plenty. Even before he sees her face, Jeff knows he’s in over his head. We can feel it too. And unlike many films noir, the transitions of light and shadow that occur around them are seamless and augment rather than upstage the actors. Neither do the other cinematic elements—camera angles, staging, props, etc. Everything feels fully integrated, allowing for heightened dramatic effect and freedom from distraction.

  

Not to get ahead of ourselves, but I couldn't help noticing the resemblance of Kathie’s entrance to director Lawrence Kasdan’s treatment of another screen siren's riveting entrance: Matty Walker (Kathleen Turner) in Body Heat, the steamy 1981 neo-noir film. While Body Heat owes its bones to the noir classic, Double Indemnity,  Matty’s entrance almost certainly is Kasdan’s homage to Out of the Past. Instead of opting for a silhouette, Body Heat cinematographer Richard H. Kline showcases Matty at night, in soft ambient light to allow our hapless ambulance-chaser Ned Racine (William Hurt) the opportunity to appreciate the power of a "simple skirt and blouse." As with Jeff, Ned's POV is ours. And Matty, like Kathie, is also backlit—this time by a brightly illuminated band shell in the background that seems to arch around her, but this is assuredly no halo. 

 

The obsessive atmosphere of these two films and their high-octane chemistry take them, in my view, several notches beyond anything seen in Double indemnity. Finally, there is that immediate, dangerous affinity between Jeff and Kathie, Ned and Matty. There's no small talk, just flirty verbal jousting as they circle each other warily like wolves. Jeff buys Kathie earrings; Ned buys Matty a cherry snow cone. Mexico or Florida, what does it matter? That heat is going to drive all of them ten kinds of crazy. 

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Normally, Film Noir calls to mind dark city streets, chiaroscuro lighting, and shooting at night. The very name of the style means "Dark Film," or "Black Film." This scene from Out of the Past, however, is set in broad daylight. This harkens back to another core concept of Noir: Contrast. The way the scene plays out, with voiceover, snappy dialogue, and cynical overtones, is distinctly Noir, and the fact that the visual style is so bright just makes the rest seem darker by comparison.

The clip begins in sunshine, then moves into a cafe out of the sun.  Jane Greer moves from the sunlit exterior and briefly into shadow before becoming visible again.  I think it is this dark moment that signals her femme fatality.  She is literally and figuratively coming 'out of the past' not fully known to Robert Mitchum.  This movie is considered by most scholars to be one of the quintessentially noir movies.  The contrast I believe is the rural life that Mitchum is living when the movie starts and his morally dark past.  Nature good, cities bad.

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

 

Even though this scene from Out of the Past takes place during daytime hours, characterized by the hot, direct sun of Mexico, the noir style is brought out by the low-key lighting used in the cool, dark, shadowy places where people gather to avoid the sun.  The establishing shots for the trip south from Mexico City through Taxco to Acapulco are shot in full sunlight with Jeff Markham’s voiceover that emphasizes the heat:  “It was hot in Taxco.  You say to yourself, ‘How hot can it get?’  And then in Acapulco, you find out.”  The travel by bus is emphasized by the unusual shot along the right side of the bus.  The shiny side of the bus is used to provide a distorted mirror image of some of the passing streetscape of Taxco.  I assume this was done with rear projection, but the effect seems quite realistic.  The establishing shot as Jeff approaches the Café La Mar Azul emphasizes the strong contrast between the blazing sun on the street in front of the café and the deep shadow of the side street Jeff uses to approach.  Here street vendors sit in the shadow waiting for customers and reading their newspapers.  Jeff emerges from the shadow to cross the street in bright sunlight and enter the café.  As Jeff’s voiceover first mentions the Café La Mar Azul, we see the name on the building above the door and the character we will soon meet as José Rodriguez already standing at the door as Jeff crosses the street and enters.  This frame is shot from what appears to be the inside of a shop across the street from the café (presumably the Cantina La Guerreo).  Here men are reading and working in the shadows, avoiding the harsh sun outside.  Up until now the camera has observed Jeff’s approach to the café from behind.  Now the camera observes Jeff’s entrance from inside the café.  He appears in shadow, backlit by the sunlight outside.  José Rodriguez is standing in the doorway, providing continuity with the previous shots and confirming that Jeff is entering La Mar Azul.  Across the street we can see the Cine Pico, which fits with Jeff’s description that La Mar Azul is next to a movie house.  As Jeff passes José and enters the café, Jeff’s figure passes through even deeper shadow and briefly becomes a silhouette.  The next shot shows Jeff sitting by himself on the right side of the frame with other activity in the café (customers and waiters) behind him shown with sufficient depth of field so that Jeff becomes a part of the overall frame.  His voiceover emphasizes the darkness (“I used to sit there half-asleep with a beer and the darkness . . .”) just before Kathie Moffat enters the café (“And then I saw her coming out of the sun . . .”).  Her entrance, as Jeff’s did, goes through a backlit phase and then, as she passes beneath the archway, a phase of dark silhouette before she takes a seat underneath the light above her table.  The lighting and cutting for Jeff’s and Kathie’s conversation at the café table seems more conventional to me, but the scene overall has what I think would qualify as many examples of “antitraditional’ lighting and camerawork.

 

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

 

Jeff says he is lonely for someone to enjoy life with.  Kathie, who never even provides her name in this scene, reveals that she has a familiarity with New York City through her comment about the “little place on 56th Street.”

 

I have to comment as an aside that Jane Greer’s appearance reminds me of the white outfit Ingrid Bergman wore as Ilsa Lund when she was out and about in Casablanca.

 

https://playitagaindan.files.wordpress.com/2015/06/casablanca-06.jpg

 

casablanca-06.jpg

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- How does the scene employ noir style in daylight shooting?

 

The beginning of the scene puts us on the plane with Jeff in a fly over into Mexico City.  The shots mimic a beautiful painting: brushstrokes contrasting the white buildings against black tar roads and driving circles.  The camera is moving - veering left and right - as if the pilot can't steer or control the plane.  Something perhaps amiss as we begin our descent into Noir!
 

- What do we learn about Kathie and Jeff?

 

The relationship will be hot and heavy.   Classic Noir line:  "I followed that 90 lbs. of excess baggage to Mexico City." Jeff follows Kathie, having not yet met her.  Yet he instinctively knows that he will be under the weight and influence of this femme fatal.   Jeff's comment on Kathie then immediately turns to his comment on the weather: "It was hot in Tosco.  How hot can it get? In Acapulco you find out."
In Acapulco, as seen later in the film, is when Kathie and Jeff indulge in that heat. 

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There are many ways to interpret,"How do you learn about Jane Greer and Robert Mitchum?".  Because the introduction to this question deals with shadow and lighting, that's the direction I take this question.  Viewing this clip for the first time, shows the characters well lit.  It appears that they have multiple lights on them giving them many shadows, but carefully done, so the shadows don't darken any character in the scene.  After viewing the many film noir movies I have so far, This lighting approach seems different.  Shadows are very apparent, but the characters seem well lit and focused upon.

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I can't help being reminded of Al Stewart's song, The Year of the Cat.

 

"On a morning from a Bogart movie
In a country where they turn back time
You go strolling through the crowd like Peter Lorre
Contemplating a crime
She comes out of the sun in a silk dress running
Like a watercolor in the rain
Don't bother asking for explanations
She'll just tell you that she came
In the year of the cat."

 

Of course it's not raining, and it's Robert Mitchum, not Bogart, but I almost felt like I was drawn into the lyrics of the song in this scene.

 

Jane Greer is stunningly beautiful, yet we know she's evil and the "Eve" to Robert Mitchum's "Adam". They meet in the cool darkness of a cafe which lends an element of noir to what would otherwise be a hot sunny Mexican day. Mitchum's bad boy expressions make this an almost perfect scene.

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Out of the Past and Its Wayward Cousin, Body Heat

Not to get ahead of ourselves, but I couldn't help noticing the resemblance of Kathie’s entrance to director Lawrence Kasdan’s treatment of another screen siren's riveting entrance: Matty Walker (Kathleen Turner) in Body Heat, the steamy 1981 neo-noir film. While Body Heat owes its bones to the noir classic, Double Indemnity,  Matty’s entrance almost certainly is Kasdan’s homage to Out of the Past. Instead of opting for a silhouette, Body Heat cinematographer Richard H. Kline showcases Matty at night, in soft ambient light to allow our hapless ambulance-chaser Ned Racine (William Hurt) the opportunity to appreciate the power of a "simple skirt and blouse." As with Jeff, Ned's POV is ours. And Matty, like Kathie, is also backlit—this time by a brightly illuminated band shell in the background that seems to arch around her, but this is assuredly no halo. 

 

The obsessive atmosphere of these two films and their high-octane chemistry take them, in my view, several notches beyond anything seen in Double indemnity. Finally, there is that immediate, dangerous affinity between Jeff and Kathie, Ned and Matty. There's no small talk, just flirty verbal jousting as they circle each other warily like wolves. Jeff buys Kathie earrings; Ned buys Matty a cherry snow cone. Mexico or Florida, what does it matter? That heat is going to drive all of them ten kinds of crazy. 

Excellent comparison!   *Spoiler Alert if you have not watched the entire movie Out of the Past*  For me Matty & Kathie two of a kind in mode and method.  Wow, very hot.  I always felt that Ned was doomed from the start of Body Heat and we were just watching to see how it would play out. With Jeff, I was convinced he would somehow see it through,(Robert Mitchum) being the forward thinking tough guy he was up into the end, but never underestimate a femme  fatale like Jane Greer.

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Excellent comparison!   *Spoiler Alert if you have not watched the entire movie Out of the Past*  For me Matty & Kathie two of a kind in mode and method.  Wow, very hot.  I always felt that Ned was doomed from the start of Body Heat and we were just watching to see how it would play out. With Jeff, I was convinced he would somehow see it through,(Robert Mitchum) being the forward thinking tough guy he was up into the end, but never underestimate a femme  fatale like Jane Greer.

The first time I saw "Body Heat" I had the same nagging deja vu- I'm certain that Kasdan was "inspired" by "Out of the Past". Was it George Balanchine or Vince Van Patten who said, "It's ok to steal as long as you steal GOOD STUFF!"

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Wow! I do Love all of your observations and comparisons to the great painters, classic philosophers. And average folks thought that this was only a movie! Your post speaks for all of us who consider film a fine art into which we can never delve too deeply.

A common element in many noir's that is accentuated by the proverbial venetian blinds is the idea of coming out of the light into the symbolic darkness. You could make a philosophical connection to Plato's Allegory of the Cave in which idealized shadow shapes are suddenly redefined and mean something different in the light, therefore not twisted and misconstrued in the shadows. The devils den, the Widow's web, a world lit mostly by fire like a Renaissance painting by Caravaggio done in the "tenebroso" manner or a Rembrandt in chiaroscuro. However the staging is more like a northern, later Renaissance style like that of Vermeer in which there are foreground constructions in silhouette, and a defined (but still in focus) middle ground and background. As we have learned from the reading, this is most likely due to the use of a wide angle lens or allowing a greater aperture. Most likely the lens in the shot of Kathie entering the cantina. Nothing is out of focus so we get a clear picture of the world of this particular scene in the film. We have been invited in to this moment that is very, very separate from the rest of the world. 

Greer is dressed all in white, perhaps a symbol that she is hiding under a veil of innocence. She doesn't say much, is mildly amused but speculative about Jeff, and this joint is no place for her to pursue her speculations. It isn't dark enough actually. She has to be careful. 

While there is so much more to why Jeff (Mitchum) could care less about 40 grand once he sees the girl, you can tell that he's not only done sitting in a cantina waiting, but kind of desperate, so Kathie's character is confused about how to read a guy she is sure came looking for her specifically.  So she invites him to meet her somewhere else in so many words. To me it is interesting that films noir typically make use of character archetypes, meaning universal symbols, and the cantina is like Plato's cave where we think we understand the characters as they appear in the cave (cantina) but there is far greater substance and complexity to their form and motives when the characters move into different contexts. There is a wonderful element of existentialist writing in a visual form in films noir that really could be elaborated on.  Writers like Camus, and Kafka that are the written form of the psychological elements that bring our morality into question, in parallel with the surrealist painters that brought subconscious thought into a still frame form, finally the film makers who placed that subconscious into motion.  Like the sharp contrast line between the sunlight outdoors and the darkness of the cantina, moral vs. immoral, Kathie and Jeff are walking on that edge between good and evil. 

A wonderful noir example from a cinematography standpoint that has all the quintessential elements of an classic noir.

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     If we assume that the noir” style” includes darkness and shadows this sequence includes those elements even though it is daytime. The street is a bright sun lit street while the interior of the bar, from our POV is dark. As she enters she passes under an overhead lamp which casts a strong shadow over her. Then she walks into darkness before entering into a pool of light that is fairly standard 40’s Hollywood studio lighting. This light comes from our right suggesting that it is the light around the bar. During this scene at the table Mitchum, sitting between her and the bar, occasionally moves into the light casting shadows over her. All of this is a very obvious and literal statement that despite her being pretty and chicly dressed she is a “shady” character.

            They drink and they smoke. In 1940’s Kansas they were understood to be “loose” characters. We know that he is tailing her; we know that she is fleeing. From this scene, and without seeing more of the film, we cannot know why.

            We also assume that because the pursuit is being made outside the parameters of law enforcement agencies, this is an example of film noir.

                 Thus far all of this reads as an exercise in second rate film making. Based on this short scene I                 am inclined not to want to see the much more of this.

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I think the film clip from “Out of the Past” proves an important point about noir. It really isn’t about shadows or the night, noir is about stark contrasts. In this case, the sun predominates and the shadows accent the scene. I think it’s also worth noting the costumes. Mitchum’s dark suit stands in contrast to Greer’s white dress and hat. Naturally, he wears a dark suit. He’s not from Mexico, and it’s likely the only suit he owns. She clearly was prepared for the trip south and certainly out-classes him. Of course in the land of noir, the wealthy sophisticates usually see a reversal of fortune.

Upon further reflection, there are many films noir that don’t take place in big cities (Gun Crazy and The Stranger come to mind) or even in the United States (such as Gilda).

Of course all of the other classic noir elements are in place in “Out of the Past”: the gravelly voice-over; the seedy watering hole populated with questionable characters; the quick retorts; etc. Any of these elements could be emphasized or eliminated but without question, the most important ingredient for noir is contrast.

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I can't help being reminded of Al Stewart's song, The Year of the Cat.

 

"On a morning from a Bogart movie

In a country where they turn back time

You go strolling through the crowd like Peter Lorre

Contemplating a crime

She comes out of the sun in a silk dress running

Like a watercolor in the rain

Don't bother asking for explanations

She'll just tell you that she came

In the year of the cat."

 

Of course it's not raining, and it's Robert Mitchum, not Bogart, but I almost felt like I was drawn into the lyrics of the song in this scene.

 

Jane Greer is stunningly beautiful, yet we know she's evil and the "Eve" to Robert Mitchum's "Adam". They meet in the cool darkness of a cafe which lends an element of noir to what would otherwise be a hot sunny Mexican day. Mitchum's bad boy expressions make this an almost perfect scene.

 

Excellent cross reference! I never really knew the words to that contagious Al Stewart song--just "la, la,la,la" along with it after the first few words, but the lyrics are very apt. "Jeff's Theme"! I love it.  

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     If we assume that the noir” style” includes darkness and shadows this sequence includes those elements even though it is daytime. The street is a bright sun lit street while the interior of the bar, from our POV is dark. As she enters she passes under an overhead lamp which casts a strong shadow over her. Then she walks into darkness before entering into a pool of light that is fairly standard 40’s Hollywood studio lighting. This light comes from our right suggesting that it is the light around the bar. During this scene at the table Mitchum, sitting between her and the bar, occasionally moves into the light casting shadows over her. All of this is a very obvious and literal statement that despite her being pretty and chicly dressed she is a “shady” character.

            They drink and they smoke. In 1940’s Kansas they were understood to be “loose” characters. We know that he is tailing her; we know that she is fleeing. From this scene, and without seeing more of the film, we cannot know why.

            We also assume that because the pursuit is being made outside the parameters of law enforcement agencies, this is an example of film noir.

                 Thus far all of this reads as an exercise in second rate film making. Based on this short scene I                 am inclined not to want to see the much more of this.

 

 

Please don't cheat yourself out of watching this film. There's nothing second-rate about it, and it is derivative only to the extent that it masterfully employs the juiciest aspects of film noir. Out of The Past stands alone as a classic, and it stands apart from anything run-of-the-mill. Give it a try. 

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Out of the Past may just be my favorite film noir. While I don't have a particular favorite scene, this one certainly stands out. Since I'm sure some people haven't seen this film, I think it's important to note that this is during an extended flashback section of the film--the past in which Jeff Markham/Bailey is trying to escape from. The flashback, as we've learned, occurs quite a bit in films noir, but attempting to run from your past is an important aspect to the style as well. And, unfortunately, Jeff isn't able to outrun his past (so, yes, Kathie does come back into his life).

 

So, with those two things in play, I think their meeting is a pretty special one since it gets Jeff's past into play and gets the whole shebang rolling. As many have pointed out, the chiaroscuro--the strong contrasts between light and dark--are definitely apparent in the scene. As Naremore states, Kathie (Greer) goes through three physical modes of appearance: the hot Acapulco sun, the shadowy archway, and the cool cantina. And, she is surprisingly easy to see in all three modes (which only lasts seconds, but still). What's different about this scene is that we don't start in the dark, but in the light. Of course, lots of light means shadows; however, with Kathie wearing her white dress and hat, in the blazing sunlight, it's almost as if she's a ghost: she's being sort of washed out in the light and slowly becomes a figure that Jeff instantly understands to be the woman he's looking for. Just like his memory is creeping back into his thoughts as he tells us this flashback, Kathie is coming back physically. Once we're in the cantina, though, we do get the more standard contrast. Even though nothing is washed out in either light or shadows, we do get that chiaroscuro that's present in this style. The clashing, though, remains with the decor and the peddler guy. So, we are getting the standard style, but also something a bit more interesting.

 

I've always kind of thought that Kathie knows she's going to be found; she may not necessarily know by whom, but that doesn't matter--she'll be found. And so, here, we find out that Jeff has located her, or, the money that she's carrying, I guess. Knowing that he's searching for the money, we can tell that he's certainly taken interest in Kathie; he even buys her a present, though she refuses. Kathie's disadvantage (or advantage?) is telling Jeff that she occasionally visits another cantina down the street. We see that they're flirting with each other, and that this might lead somewhere. It all hinges on whether or not she can decipher who Jeff is, which is why she only "sometimes" visits the other cantina. We learn a few things about these characters: their motives, their desires, their interests. There's a lot of information packed into three minutes.

 

Many, myself included, see Out of the Past as one of the prime examples, if not the prime example, of film noir, so I'd say that the film undoubtedly contributes to the style. We have a flashback, voice over, a femme fatale, a central character on the fringe of society, chiaroscuro, a complicated/convoluted plot, witty dialogue, prime locations. I honestly can't think of a better representation of the style. Though, there are still many more films to go in this course, so maybe another film will surprise me.

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