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Liz VK

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  1. -- Discuss how the opening of this film exemplifies the noir style and substance. We start with a city in the dark – classic noir. Passion, and sudden bright light on a closeup of the lovers. The score crashes and marches forward relentlessly, until the lovers appear. A long, diagonal shot of the parking lot as the camera closes in is unsettling. We don’t really know where we are or where we are going. The dialog suggests a crime is about to be committed and both lovers are involved. Once we see the husband, we know we have been looking at another femme fatale! -- Now that you have seen all 32 Daily Doses, what did you take away from the Daily Doses assignment? Did it contribute to your learning about film noir? I loved the Daily Doses assignments! They kept me going, looking forward to the next one. They made it easy to think about and enjoy film noir everyday.
  2. I agree - I love that film! And the character played by Gene Tierney is definitely an evil woman - but very different from the ones we have seen in the films this summer.
  3. -- What role does music (especially the record playing Wagner) play in the intensity of this scene? The music is building to a climax as the beating approaches – just before the worst of the beating, the Hume Cronyn character turns up the music, presumably to cover some of the sounds that others are hearing, outside the room. The music seems like an essential part of the scene. -- Based on what you've learned in this class, how does this scene fit in with your understanding of early postwar film noir (films released in 1946 and 1947) and the development of the noir style and substance? Wagner’s music was admired by the Nazis, so his music brings back the war, as does the police captain’s behavior – he is acting the part of a Fascist in his total control and brutality – there is clearly no escape for Louis.
  4. -- Describe how this scene uses cinematography to accentuate the brutal beating of Steve Randall (Steve Brodie). The use of light and shadow is ominous, even before the beating. That first punch feels like a punch to the gut for the audience – its speed and viciousness is unexpected, even though we know what’s coming and all you can see is the fist at the end of that shot. When Brodie gets up and starts to walk out, the speed and force of the punch that sends him back down is, again, surprising. The swinging light, and the complete darkness outside of the light, forces us to look even harder for what is happening. -- How do Mann and Diskant utilize different points of view to heighten the tension in this scene? Raymond Burr is very menacing as he stands over Steve Brodie. Brodie is as flat as he can get while still sitting and he squints up at the strong light behind Burr. The camera moving in for a closer shot of Burr as the others are beating Brodie is chilling. The fact that the beating can be heard, but not seen at this point, just heightens the tension. Then, after the beating stops, and Brodie is down, but still refuses to take the rap, makes us wonder what worse can happen – then it does, with the threat to Brodie’s wife. The broken bottle coming right at the camera is terrifying.
  5. -- Discuss how this film depicts and utilizes this "unnamed city." The scene with a number of pillars and a train in the background has tracks that end, and so go nowhere. Additionally, why do you think the film is entitled "The Asphalt Jungle?" The shots are of a tough part of a city, especially the street with broken asphalt that looks like it was bombed, and a lone figure walking through it. The wires overhead remind you of vines in a jungle. A jungle is a place where new dangers may lurk, and that’s how this clip feels. The score at the beginning of the clip makes you feel like the man is being tracked by something or someone powerful and dangerous. -- Describe the film noir characteristics, in both style and substance, of these opening scenes. Some shots are diagonal – upsetting our sense of where we are; we see corners of buildings instead of facing them head-on. There appear to be tracks leading nowhere, a destination for many of our film noir protagonists, and the setting is deserted. The score, with its low, repeating chord, suggests there is a reason to fear. A man is alone on the streets – not running yet, but it feels like he should. Darkness on the streets is classic film noir. And the prominent clock in the café is also part of the noir style – as is the gun in the cash register. -- Why are these opening scenes an interesting choice for a "heist film?" What are we learning about one of its major characters (Dix) that might be important for later in the film (and I'm not asking for any spoilers, just character insight)? We start out with the protagonist walking – not running – through the streets. If he was involved in the holdup, why isn’t he trying to hide? Then he is arrested and taken to the police station for something we assume he didn’t do, since the witness says it wasn’t him. He never seems too upset – a very steady character. And the café owner seemed to be making things as difficult as possible for the police, including turning up the music so it was hard to communicate.
  6. -- In what ways does Miles Davis' score (improvised while watching scenes from the movie) work with and contribute additional layers of meaning to Louis Malle's visual design? The smooth, suggestive, sexy score fits perfectly with the closeups and the love-making over the phone – it gives a new layer of intimacy. It’s even more effective after the lack of a score in the beginning of the clip – we only hear whispered lines and sighs. -- Going back to our original discussions of jazz on the film noir style, what is it about the "idioms of jazz" that resonate so well with the style and substance of film noir? Jazz is the ultimate unpredictability within a framework. In many of these films, we were traveling somewhere, but we didn’t know where we would end up, which is somewhat true of improvisation in jazz. Jazz is also the ultimate sexy music, and these films almost always had a strong element of sex: temptation, submitting, troubles, always troubles. Also, this score has a cool, smooth, almost detached feeling – that’s a good description of many of the detectives and femmes fatale we’ve seen in these films, especially in the scripts by Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler .
  7. -- Describe the noir elements, in terms of style and substance, in this opening sequence. We home in on a character through a window – and one with a black mark on it that is not identifiable – it looks like it is on his face - this creates an uncomfortable feeling about his future. He tries to remove the blot, but is only partly successful. The shadows in the house, even though it is broad daylight outside are classic noir. And the fact that the woman who hired him does not respond to his calling out her name sets us on edge. We see the protagonist only as a reflection in the mirror as he opens the closet to get his coat. The score, as well as his hand on the door, alert us to his discovery of the body. The trains and railroad tracks are also noir elements, as is the loneliness of the figure running across the railroad tracks. -- What do you make of the film opening with the Salvation Army band playing and the prominent Salvation Army sign in that first shot? The protagonist seems like he may have gotten this work he is doing through the Salvation Army. His demeanor suggests he may have had a difficult past and a hard time finding work. -- Even though it is set in 1918, how does this scene reveal some of the typical noir themes of the 1950s? A situation involving murder and an innocent man who assumes he will be blamed. Because of his presence in the house and his low status, he will be a suspect, so he has no control in the situation. We feel, as he runs across the tracks, that there will be no escape.
  8. - Do you see evidence, even in the film's opening scenes, for Foster Hirsch's assessment that the dialogue in this film sounds like a "parody of the hard-boiled school" or that "noir conventions are being burlesqued"? Both passengers in the taxi poked their heads in the window in the same way – it looked a little silly - and were using the clipped speech of the noir style. One of the men dusting off the front of the other after lighting his cigar – again, it’s amusing in this context and I don't think we would have seen that in earlier noir films. The way the woman is mentioned seems to be a joke – “Sixty cent special, cheap, flashy, strictly poison under the gravy…” It’s an exaggeration of how the femme fatale was described in other noir films. -- What are some of the major noir elements in this film's opening, and do they seem to be variations on similar elements we have encountered in other noir films from the mid to late 1940s? Darkness, the sound of the screeching train, quick, clipped speech. The train coming at the audience in a menacing way, as if it will crash into us, feels like it’s trying to grab us and shake us up from the start. And the two detectives are a familiar part of film noir.
  9. -- Discuss the role of time and timing in this scene. Time and timing is everything, since the protagonist is planning a robbery and must watch his victim every day and keep notes to get the time when events happen just right. -- What are the film noir elements (style or substance) that you notice in the opening of this film? The score during the introduction is very aggressive with its loud volume and marching rhythm blasting the listener with brass – reminds me of the beginning of D.O.A. when the protagonist is marching down endless hallways to report a murder. The substance of the notes that scroll up suggest that all of this is real – realism is part of the style of film noir. The shadows crossing the image of the notes are definitely part of the film noir style. And the action is in a Midwestern city, as we have learned is an often-used location for film noir. -- Why is a heist a good subject for a film noir to tackle? Put another way, how or why might a film that involves a heist affect or change what we think about criminals and/or criminal behavior on screen? This opening scene shows the would-be criminal is very attentive to detail and very careful in his planning – not just a fly-by-night small-time crook. So we are paying more attention to this subject, due to its treatment in film noir. And the notes in the beginning suggest that we should have respect for a man who “conceived and executed a ‘perfect crime.” As Shannon Clute mentioned in the “Hitch-hiker” podcast, we may be expected to identify with the criminal, rather than his victim.
  10. Compare and contrast how director Karlson shoots and stages the boxing scene as a contrast of styles between cinema and television. Closeups in the beginning, indicating what cinema can do; as soon as the knockdown happens, the pain shows on Ernie’s face. The slow motion as the camera pulls out and shows the scene on TV makes the shot even more painful. As spectators, we are pulled out from the reality of the match, but at the same time, we identify with Ernie and his pain, as we see him watching himself on TV. As the commentator mentions that the referee is examining Ernie’s right eye, he touches the eye and then it twitches, seemingly in response to what is happening on the TV screen. -- Discuss the scene's social commentary in the interactions between Ernie (John Payne) and Pauline (Peggie Castle). Pauline seems to feel as if Ernie’s need to watch himself lose this match is somehow aimed at her and she is offended. She is not concerned about his feelings, suggesting the more powerful position women were beginning to be in after the war. She appears to be trying to emasculate him, making him feel guilty for not succeeding in the boxing ring. The tension is building and it feels like violence is in the air toward the end of the scene. -- What are some of the noir elements in this scene, either in terms of style or substance? Many closeups during the boxing scene; the impotence men are feeling after the end of the war comes out in Pauline’s treatment of Ernie and the fact that he submits to it. The feeling that “you can’t win,” coming out of the war and Existentialism. We are seeing sort of a flashback in the historical replaying of the fight. Shadows on the walls of the apartment suggest that things are not good in this scene, and in the marriage.
  11. -- Discuss the scene in terms of its acting and staging. In this brief scene, what do you see as the interpersonal relationships between Sam (Heflin), Walter (Douglas), and Martha (Stanwyck)? If you have seen the entire film, avoid larger points about the plot, and focus simply on what you are seeing just in this scene. Walter seems to be the one with the least power in this situation, even though he is the one with the most power in the community. Earlier, during the conversation between Walter and Sam, Sam says life is a gamble and that some lose, some don’t. Oddly, Walter responds, somewhat acidly, that “you needn’t have bothered to make that point.” Odd, because he appears to think Sam, the gambler, has been a winner in life and he, the district attorney, has been a loser. Most likely this refers to the relationship of each with Martha. Once Martha recognizes Sam, she and Sam stay physically close to each other, leaving Walter out of the picture – but Walter and Martha are never close, for the whole scene, even though they are the married couple. The fact that Walter wanted to keep her out of the room when Sam was there foretells what is to come. -- From this early scene, what are some of the noir themes that you expect will play out in this film? Noir themes are sexual tension and an unloving marriage leading to crime, maybe murder. Sam’s return to Iverstown echoes the return of military after WWII to a changed world. Corruption of those in power is shown when Sam expects that Walter will release his girlfriend from prison, even though she has violated probation.
  12. -- Compare the opening of this film with other Daily Doses that began with a similar set-up on a deserted highway at night. How does this film's fateful twist differ from other film scenes we have investigated? In this film, we also have the darkness of a deserted highway. We know the car that stops at the 3.5 mile marker is there to complete some transaction with another person, as he looks at his watch to check the time of the meeting. The score is menacing, suggesting something bad is coming. We saw a deserted highway in Kiss Me Deadly and the Hitch-hiker and in both cases there was a sense of dread that came from the darkness and the loneliness of the highway. In Kiss Me Deadly and in this film, there is the stress and shock of a near accident, in Kiss Me Deadly with the woman almost hit and in this film, with the wife throwing the car out of control by grabbing the wheel, and the two cars almost colliding. In this opening, there is also darkness and loneliness, and the first unexpected event that throws the situation out of control is Lizabeth Scott’s character grabbing the wheel of the car. The next unexpected event happens when the other car almost hits theirs and the suitcase is thrown into the backseat of their car. In the other films, we thought we knew what was happening fairly quickly, but here, the suitcase is unknown until, at the end of the clip, it is opened – now we know the contents, but the reason for its existence is still unknown – reminds me a little of The Maltese Falcon and some of the comments in the reading about the role of the bird as the Holy Grail. -- Why do you think unexpected incidents involving innocent people (such as today's couple) was such a popular postwar theme? What was changing in society and history that made this a popular film story for audiences at the time? As mentioned in your intro and in the readings, World War II was a time that separated people from their moorings and turned their world upside down, as happens in the opening of this film – a normal situation between a husband and wife turns in an unexpected and unknown direction with the wife grabbing the wheel and trying to take control (women gained much more of a sense of control of their lives during WWII), and the suitcase thrown in the back of the car. The Cold War only added to the fear and paranoia we see represented in the opening. -- Discuss this scene in terms of the style and substance of film noir. What do you see in this opening scene that confirms Eddie Muller's observation that this film is "'the best unknown American film noir of the classic era." The darkness and the emptiness of the road, where we aren’t sure where we are going, are both in the style of film noir. The narrative appears to be one of crime and unexpected twists and turns, which are characteristic of the substance of film noir.
  13. -- How is Hitchcock's rhythm and purposes different in this opening sequence, from other films noir such as Kiss Me Deadly or The Hitch-Hiker? In Kiss Me Deadly and The Hitch-Hiker, we also saw only feet or legs at the beginning, but with much more of a feeling of dread. In both of those cases, the first person we saw was desperate in some way, and the sound track added to that feeling, but the feeling in this clip is much lighter because of the music – and the story so far. The music emphasizes the deliberate way the protagonists approach their goal, much like we see in D.O.A. but, again, much more light-hearted. -- What are the noir elements that you notice in the opening of this film? Either in terms of style or substance? Use of light and dark - the car comes out of the light into a darker space – like “Out of the Past.” The angle of the shots of the railroad lines criss-crossing echo the theme and make us feel like we are on the train, at the beginning of a journey. The shadow of the train feels like it will overcome the entire shot. The music changes as they board the train – not deliberate anymore, but more confused and suggestive of something evil to come. The blinds behind one of the protagonists on the train are a much-used noir element – they often signify bars and suggest a future that is closing in.
  14. -- Compare the opening of this film with the other three Daily Doses this week? Do you see parallels in the opening scenes of these films? The opening scene begins in the dark, with the protagonist moving alone toward a goal – the extensive hallway brings to mind the highway in the Hitchhiker and Kiss Me Deadly, where other protagonists are alone, moving toward an unknown future, along an endless highway, suggesting hopelessness – we also felt hopelessness in the opening scene of Caged. All of the protagonists move in and out of the light, setting up a situation where they seem to make progress, only to move backward. -- What are some of the noir themes and motifs that are being explored in this film's opening scene? This is also a good film through which to discuss Robert Porfirio's article on Existential motifs, since he references the film D.O.A. several times in his essay. Loneliness, pessimism, darkness, loss of control, crime, death. The cold-blooded response of the detective when Frank says he was murdered – all business – no emotion. The men standing behind Frank as he tells his story feel more like a menace to him than support for him, the victim, emphasizing alienation – we can see that, as Profirio mentions in his article, “the mise-en-scene…reinforced the vulnerability…” As the clip ends, we go into a flashback, a much-used noir motif. -- How does the style and substance of this film's opening reinforce a feeling of pessimism or hopelessness in the character of Frank Bigelow? The darkness of the beginning and the seemingly endless hallways Bigelow has to go through – He moves on and on, but doesn’t seem to make much progress. We only see his back for the first few minutes – seems like an odd camera angle for the protagonist. He stops to ask for directions and doesn’t get much help, just an offhand wave to send him on. The score at the beginning reflected Frank’s determination, emphasizing each step, but also is menacing and aggressive. As he gets closer to the end of his march, the music is more chaotic and seems like it can’t rest until he finally reaches the door of the Homicide Division. There, the feeling that nobody notices or cares about him continues, with the men at the table, hardly even looking up when he comes in.
  15. --Why is this opening appropriate for a film about females at a women's state prison? The image is constricted, down to a small square, as the view from a cell in a prison. --In what ways has the design of this scene made the audience as "caged" as these characters in this opening sequence? We can’t see much. Most around the little bit of view is unseeable and unknowable. The closeup of the first character shows she doesn’t seem to know why she is there – and neither do we. -- What about this opening reminds you of the Warner Bros. house style? And why is that appropriate for this subject matter? Starts with sound of siren, reminding us of the realism of Warner Bros. Treatment of the women is tough and the image of the city after “Grab your last look at freeside kid.” is the urban setting of Warner Bros’ style. -- Just based on this opening, how do you think film noir will influence this film's realism about life behind bars? In other words, why is the "substance of noir" appropriate for a story set inside a women's prison? The violence and fear of film noir, the loss of control and feeling of fate controlling the future would certainly be appropriate for a story about prison. The first character’s fear – her face shows she is overwhelmed with the situation and doesn’t seem to know why she is there – feels more real than the other women, who seem tougher and more accepting of their situation.
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