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rrrick

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About rrrick

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  1. FOLLOW ME QUIETLY If you're looking for a Noir with high production values, atmospheric cinematography, and credible performances, this is definitely not it. Excluding the climax it's obvious this film was produced on a real tight budget, also exemplified by it's under 60 minutes running time. But what a lovely, sinister story, and maybe one that showcases the discussed 'existentialism' at its creepiest. Detective Grant is looking for a psychopathic serial killer. Based on witnesses' descriptions he knows something about the killer's appearance. And that's where the weirdness and fun begins. The description: Medium hight, blue suit, tie and a hat. Nothing more. Grant decides to have a dummy produced, resembling the description. This is the result. Th dummy sits in a chair in Grant's office. Nobody seems to question the fact that everyone walking into this office - even Grant's colleagues - basically fits the description. It could be any guy. But what and who is 'any guy'? Is 'any guy' a potential serial killer?
  2. I agree with the ending being 'Hollywood' all's well that end's well, but at the same time it's kind of a bitter coda to your observation about the boy's imagination being cut off. If I'm not mistaken his final remark is something like: 'I promise I'll never make up stories again'. There's something sad in this... The film really had an impact on me, so two additional observations. I absolutely loved the opening sequence, in which the audience is set up to believe something that isn't true. But also the opening credits in which Bobby Driscol is introduced 'by courtesey of Walt Disney' - the studio for which he worked. The mentioning of Disney, the king of imagination and fairytales, sort of adds to the thematic layers of the film. And I've been thinking of the neighborhood and especially the house that the family lives in. The fantastic location shots make clear that this is a poor, rundown neighborhood. And it turns out his home - which should be the safest place for anyone - is in fact a condemned building. The parallels are obvious....
  3. THE WINDOW The great thing about a course and series like this is the unexpected hidden gems along the way. Sure I like watching and rewatching the MALTESE FALCONs, OUT OF THE PASTs, and LADY FROM SHANGHAIs, but it's a movie like THE WINDOW which makes it really worthwhile. This is an exceptional movie in every way conceivable. It has a great, thrilling and truly suspenseful story. It has great acting performances, truly stunning and spectacular cinematography, and a wonderful score. But the true brilliance is the underlying psychological themes and how the film succeeds in addressing these. A murder is committed. There is an unseen witness. The witness is 10-year old Tommy. The killers are his neighbors in the apartment upstairs, just 'regular' people. The problem is nobody believes him. That irrational fear that most of us probably at one time had as a child - the fear of the darkness upstairs, something evil lurking there - has become reality. In Tommy's case 'the monsters in the dark in the attic' do exist. And the biggest trauma of all. His parents don't believe him, and even worse, they scold and punish him for making things up. His father locks Tommy up in his room, nailing the windows shut to make sure Tommy can't leave the room. Due to circumstances Tommy is then left alone at home, in mortal fear for his upstairs killer neighbors. It all leads to a truly nailbiting and chilling climax.... The beauty is this is a story about regular people in just a downtrodden neighborhood in the big city. It's obvious the parents have to work hard to make ends meet and try their best to lead a normal life and raise their boy in the best possible way. The use of real location shooting ads genuine authenticity to the story, making it even more relatable. In the end we don't know who was murdered, or why he was murdered, and it's not even clear if the killer is even captured or what. But that's not really the point. This is a film about a playful kid and youthful innocence facing the hardest and most traumatic confrontation possible: A dangerous world where anybody can be a murderer and you are completely on your own in having to deal with it. Noir as noir can be.
  4. But the constraints you mention were valid for Welles too. He had to deal with the production code as well, limited budgets, studios meddling, interfering and even cutting up his movies. I love the PSYCHO shower scene as much as anyone, but I can't relate this to Welles being 'graphic' in his films. By the way, I don't want to make this into a competition between Welles and Hitchcock, or any other director. As far as I'm concerned both were directors looking to perfect the art of movie making, pushing the envelope, and if not always succeeding, at least helped in taking film to the next level as an art form.
  5. KEY LARGO Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Lionel Barrymore, Edward G. Robinson... Talk about an ensemble of stellar actors. And for those who have seen the previous Noirs in this series, also and particularly Claire Trevor who as far as I'm concerned is fantastic as the down and out alcoholic singer Gaye Dawn. A movie which for approximately 80% of its run time takes places in one room, with at times up to 10 characters in it. It therefore looks more like a theatrical stage play setting. This could have resulted in a pretty static presentation. But it doesn't feel that way, because of the dynamic direction of John Huston, and especially the understated yet very effective camera work of Karl Freund. Huston has a perfect eye for positioning key and support characters in the room in such a way that they occupy spaces on screen in a meaningful way. Even if they don't do anything, their presence is palbable and either brings balance or distorts it, depending on what the narrative needs at each particular moment. But most of the time the characters move about, like a pefectly choreographed ballet, circling each other or walking from one end to the other, drawing attention to either themselves or other characters in the room. I was actually surprised how restrained Karl Freund's camera work seemed to be. Freund's work on movies like METROPOLIS, THE LAST LAUGH and DRACULA is legendary. In KEY LARGO he seems to hold back on the low and skewed angles, and doesn't even make that much use of shadows and light as someone else might have done given the material. But when paying closer attention, it's obvious that like the actors, his camera is also moving around and changing positions constantly. In fact he makes the difference between KEY LARGO being a 'static' play or becoming a movie, in which the viewer is immersed in the tense and lethal conflicts between the characters.
  6. THEY LIVE BY NIGHT Three observations. The opening sequence. Most people refer to this as the aerial shot following the escaped convicts' car through the fields - and it is spectacular. But the film actually opens with the close-up introduction of the two protagonists. Two young kids - 'This boy.... and this girl..." - are presented in close up, light coming from the fireplace. They seem to be in a world of their own. The scene ends with them looking up like they are interrupted or caught. The scene then abruptly shifts to the car chase. So, this sequence was edited in such a way that the car chase (the beginning of their story) is what ended their romantic, dreamlike state. Nice touch! The song in the bar/nightclub. Beautiful naturalistic performance by Marie Bryant. The ending. The understated emotion on Keechie's face, embellished by the floating camera and beautiful lighting. Heartbreaking.
  7. No flack, but it's interesting to think about if and how external factors have an effect on the appreciation of a film, like in this case the supposed character traits of the director who made it. I'm also curious why you think constraints are necessary for true genius. And what kind of constraints would that be?
  8. But what if Anders was instructed to play it like that - which I think he was. Then he perfectly perfomed the way Welles intended. Every performance in this film was basically a stylized exaggeration. And about the script. Usually the script is the core of a movie. In a way the film as an end product is a means to materialize the script and the story line. But what if you reverse those roles? What if you have cinematic ideas and the script is no longer the foundation, but becomes one of the various means to express those ideas. I'm not saying one approach is better than the other, but it is at the very least a test of then conventional ideas of what film is, and trying to find out what happens if you mess around with things a bit.
  9. Here's a few great frames from THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI This first one is a shot of Elsa reflected in the glass of Grisby's binoculars. This second frame is from the scene at the aquarium. Like most of the fish in the tanks in the background this eel is obviously enlarged. The backlight effect of the aquarium blacks out Elsa's face completely. Thinking of O'Hara's mononlogue about the sharks, what to make of this image? We hear Elsa, but we see the ferocious eel. I'm guessing Welles is trying to say something about Elsa's true nature... And this third one is just one of the many references to smoking in the film. Remember that when O'Hara offers Elsa a cigarette in the beginning of the film, she replies: "I don't smoke". Well, she picked up the habit pretty quickly, not letting a sign in court stop her.
  10. THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI. "When I start out to make a fool of myself, there's very little can stop me" These are the opening lines of the film, spoken in voice-over by Orson Welles. Just let them sink in for a moment. Who is saying this? Is it the character Welles is playing, is it Welles himself? Is it a metaphysical introduction to what is about to unfold? In the lectures Prof. Edwards discussed formalism, and he also added - and I paraphrase - 'every element in a movie is a deliberate choice'. It is there for a reason. So I'm going out on a limb here and state that this movie is a complete exercise in formalism, testing and challenging the limits and constraints, but above all the possibilities of cinema as an art form, So far fin this course formalism has mostly been addressed concerning the visuals in film, and then even limited to the static elements - mise-en-scene, lighting, camera work. But what if we extend this formalism and apply it to all elements in a film, and include sound (music, sound effects and yes, voice), narrative, story and plot, acting, and in this case even genre? THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI uses all these elements to try and create a surreal and absurdist piece of cinematic art - with the artist present. One example. Why is Hayworth's hair dyed platina blonde? It plays both with the vamp-like Noir persona of the femme fatale, but I believe it also plays with the audience's perception of a movie star, in this case Rita Hayworth. Her hairstyle deliberately gives Hayworth an unrealistic, surreal appearance, and is used as a formal means to actively involve the audience and notice, and even question what is shown on screen. I'm pretty sure the same can be said for Welles' voice acting. Like mentioned earlier, Welles was an acting powerhouse. There is no way he'd use this weird accent as a 'realistic' element in a 'realistic' story. The accent is comparable to a skewed camera angle, or low-key lighting; it's a theatrical/cinematic element to - in this case - enhance the absurdity of the story. This articficiality also applies to the other characters, the settings (Café Walhalla), the procedures (the entire court sequence is farcical with absurd questioning by Barrister (which means 'lawyer' in UK english)), and the dialogue. "Suicide is against the law. This is gonna be murder. And it's going to be legal" "- Are you ill. - I got some lead in me where it hurts" "Either me, or the rest of the world is absolutely insane" And my favorite, when Elsa says to O'Hara: "My beloved, .... my beloved fool". The moment and way she says it make it 'work'. Also mentioned earlier this film is a visual feast, Early in the movie there's an amazing shot of Elsa reflected in the glass of binoculars held by Grisby, and of course the 'crazy park' mirror house scene. There's so much more, but I'll leave it at this for now....
  11. THE BRIBE It has an MGM gloss all over it, as it does its best to make stars Robert Taylor and Ava Garder look beautiful. And let's acknowlegde that by saying Ava Gardner looks stupendous in that black dress. It's interesting to see how this production focuses on the romance between Taylor and Gardner and less on the criminal activities taking place. While some violence occurs it looks rather sanitized compared to the RKO and WB noirs. The final sequence, the shootout during the fireworks looks pretty spectacular and has some surreal qualities to it. Alledgedly this sequence was directed by Vincente Minelli.. Charles Laughton's charisma and talents are undeniable, even though he was clearly struggling with the accent his character was supposed to have.
  12. THE THREAT "This heat is murder" Brief, tight crime noir. And above all brutal and violent. It never ceases to amaze me how violence in these 'older' films has so much more impact than what is shown in theaters these days. And this one really brings it with Charles McGraw playing cold blooded killer Kluger for maximum effect. Direction was pretty effective too. The suspense in the confrontation between Kluger and Joe had me on the edge of my seat, and the way it played out was just.... brutal. A couple of real nice shots, with some nice low and high angle camera positions. But this one was maybe one of the coolest. it's nice to see a composite shot like this in what is probably a low-budget B-movie. And I never get tired of seeing a tv-broadcast in film. Particularly when you think of the effect of a shot like this shown on a big screen in a regular theater. (Very) small screen on the big screen. (Notice how the tv-set completely fills the frame)
  13. Or maybe both film noir and films like these share similar inspirations or even natural progressions? If we are expanding film noir to these types of films than what's keeping us from including films like A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN, I REMEMBER MAMA, ALL THE KING'S MEN and THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES into noir as well?
  14. Good point. If I'm not mistaken JOHNNY BELINDA is mostly mentioned as the first post-Production code movie to deal with rape. (But like you said, GWTW might beat this one to it). I'm glad you mention THE STORY OF TEMPLE DRAKE, which if you take a real good look, easily could be categorized as a film noir. Awesome film, highly recommended. Which brings me to thinking about pre-code films in general, and how they relate to film noir. The production code was enforced in 1934, resulting in many films from 1930-1934 being taking off the shelf by the distributors. Effectively these films disappeared from sight for decades. If I'm not mistaken it's only been the last 20 years or so that a revived interest for pre-code films has taken place. I wonder how these films were taken into consideration in defining film noir in the early stages.
  15. JOHNNY BELINDA "They leave the women to take care of the potatoes and the live stock" Prof. Edwards referred to it in the movie guideline on Canvas, and I'm firmly in the 'no, this is not a film noir' corner. It is an interesting film, and it does address some social, psychological issues. I loved the opening sequence with the voice over explaining the simple, frugal and diligent folks working for their livelihood. It sets up an atmosphere of this being a small, close-knit community working together in harmony. It turns out quickly that isn't quite the case. But this is the set up to a social drama, not a Noir. The biggest issue is the total lack of ambiguous characters. The opposing characters don't leave room for doubt, they're totally evil or completely good. The film has much more in common with early 30s social drama's made by the likes of King Vidor, than anything remotely Noir. HOWEVER. The scene at the 70 minute mark, with the storm coming in and the subsequent violent confrontation is truly spectacular, and does reflect Noir in a cinematic style. Fantastic composition, lighting and use of sound and music. But because this film and many Noir films use the same style and technique does not put them in the same playing field. This is not a film noir.
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