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About cinephage

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  1. I like how the objects are used in this introduction... Masks and Mirrors, precious objects, statues and, of course, a portrait... We see Mc Pherson examine inquisitively Lydecker's belongings, but there's also some kind of envy. He seems admirative of the latter's good taste and rich furnishings. In a way, his opening the glass showcase to take Lydecker's glass vial into his hands could be a warning of things to come, like an introduction to the ulterior stakes of the movie. In this light, maybe Lydecker's most beautiful piece of art could be Laura herself, in which case, McPherson might be tempted, as we just saw him do in the introduction, to take her into his hands, and Lydecker would speak (or act) to protect his « valuable property ». Hints to this interpretation could come from the voice over signalling to us how the clock McPherson was initially staring at is associated to Laura, just before he opens the glass door. "I noted that his attention was fixed upon my clock. There was only one other in existence, and that was in Laura's apartment, in the very room where she was murdered." Another interesting point is how, thanks to the « voice over » effect, Lydecker seems to be all-knowing. After all, we are in his story... So when he speaks to Mc Pherson, we are not really surprised (the voice just explained how he could see Mc Pherson in his living room from the bathroom). However, the door to the bathroom is half-closed, and it’s quite unlikely Lydecker could really watch the detective from his bathtub. Also, his voice was not dimmed, as it should have if coming from a distance or behind doors... So either we accept the implicit « fantastic » suggestion (the portrait of Laura will add to this side of the story), that Lydecker could watch Mc Pherson and speak to him as an omnipresent character, or we could think that he had to run to his bathtub (the first exposition shot by Preminger is not cut, so it reveals the distance from the door to the tub), to make an impression.
  2. The movie insists on Ann's discoveries of her husband's secret life, but, as the movie proceeds, she leaves many hints at what led to their distancing from one another... At various occasions, she explains how she tried to get him to try to make a living out of his painting, to which he responded very negatively. His doubts and self-consciousness certainly made him a difficult person to live with. I wouldn't say the blame is on either of them, but instead we are led to see how many disputes led to a situation where there was no need for arguments anymore... Edit : Sorry, Working Dead, but it seems I deleted your name as a source when I tried to partially quote your text...
  3. Some additional context to this opening sequence can be found in the TCM page of the movie, which may interest those who loved it : Many thanks to Andrea Passafiume for this precious additional information on how this sequence was filmed.
  4. Being familiar with La bete humaine, I'd never really considered it as a film noir reference (but changing perspective on certain movies is one of the reasons I'm following this course, so I guess this starts here). This sequence reminds me a lot of earlier sequences from Abel Gance's La roue (but Gance was a silent picture, so there's a big difference between the two films). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kwGRg4Lw8aM I would say La bete humaine has touches of noir in the following aspects : - Inherited from La roue, the theme of fate, here symbolized by the railroad is a theme one usually finds in film noir. - Renoir's approach is almost documentary-like. We see Gabin and Carette actually work for a few minutes. Their gestures are precise, truthful. Many film noirs have such a documentary-style (especially Mark Hellinger's films, usually shot on location instead of studios). - As in M, this opening sequence doesn't have any music, which creates an expectancy, a foreboding mood amplified by the shrill sounds of the train and its whistles. Unlike Gance's rythmic approach, Renoir here lets the images play a little longer than necessary. The arrival to Le Havre, with the addition of music, almost comes as a relief to the viewer. - Also La bete humaine tells us the story of common, striving people. They know their trade, and do not need words to perform their duties on the train. They work hard and are not rich, they belong to the working class (in 1937 France, cheminots were almost the symbol of the working class). Zola was a famous writer of the working class in his own time. But I don't feel the lighting is particularly noirish, and feel Renoir's sense of the collective doesn't really make La bete humaine a true film noir either. I appreciate how its realistic approach and its dark themes make it a distant cousin of the genre, though...
  5. I love how the children warn us (and themselves) against the passing of time, as they sing, in a few minutes, he'll be there. "Just you wait, it won't be long. The man in black will soon be here." But at the same time, their own game reproduces the movement of a clock, thus illustrating visually the passage of time, suggesting how the time when "he will be there" is coming right up, in a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy... This first shot almost begins a countdown in the viewer's minds, which makes all the following come quite naturally, as it was announced, and the viewer then expects it, in a way (it's not diegetic, of course the killer does not come because the girls call him, but he appears in the movie right after his coming was announced, both verbally and visually). Another aspect of noir in this sequence is how its urban setting exerts some pressure on the people who live in it : we see the children play in a close courtyard, then an empty, lifeless, staircase... A few seconds after that, we see how the city is dangerous to a child, reckless cars threatening any kid who would play outside a courtyard. Thus, when the monster appears, it's almost as if his shadow came out of the poster itself. The city has, in a way, summoned its killer. One last thing that comes to mind is the social aspect of this setting : the children are obviously from modest families, their mothers work hard, carrying heavy loads of laundry... That's why little Elsie has to walk home alone in a dangerous environment. Poverty and lack of money are themes one often runs into with film noir.
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