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Posts posted by CarolinaNoir

  1. It was a sultry full page photo of Veronica Lake in a photo book of classic Hollywood starlets in my Jr. HS library that infected me with the classic film bug.  I have only seen her four films with Alan Ladd and enjoy all of them.  I agree that her acting range was limited and that she is often stiff, but the chemistry with Ladd in these films is undeniable.

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  2. Do you remember week one, part one?  Entering Noir Country!  This opening is a sterling example of how to do it. 


    The aerial shots gives us the point-of-view of fate, loitering over noir city searching for its next victim.  We follow Fate, to the accompaniment of a great score, as it dives down into the darkened parking lot where we see two lovers, caught in the high key lighting of headlights, trapped in the narrow space between two parked cars, planning something very naughty, the perfect heist. 


    The woman, a sensual dark haired beauty, the stuff dreams are made of.  The guy, nothing like we expected, dressed pedestrianly, even square like.  The doll exclaims, "After it's all over.  It'll be just you and me.  The way it should of been all along from the start" 


    Fate and we, the noir audience chuckle.  This is the dark city baby and if we've learned anything it the past few weeks it's that fate has just singled you out and It's not all over, nor just you and him, nor going to be the way it was from the start.


    We cut to the club and our third victim, the controlling husband, dressed to the nines and in charge upset because his wife has gone AWOL completes our triangle of tragedy.  This not just a heist of money but a heist of something far more valuable the girl. Fate smiles, they won't get the money and they won't get the woman. Pretty, isn't it? 





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  3. We've touched on the use of music several times over the past few weeks and its effect on the viewer within the context of films noir.  Here I feel the Dassin chose the Wagner to piece for two reasons. 

    First, to further the Nazi overtones of the entire scene. 


    Post-war audiences would have been very familiar with Nazi propaganda films and news clips which used Wagner's music extensively.  In fact, immediately following the point where the Captain turns up the music Dassin cuts to two very fascist-like shots; the drapes hanging like swastika and the up low-angle shot of the Hitleresque photo of the Captain could have been ripped from a nazi propaganda film.


    Second, the score is used throughout the scene to heighten the audiences sense of dread and fear.  Not only by drawing on their shared experiences of the recent horrors of the Nazi regime but also by manipulating the psyche.  He alternates between Wagner's score and the diegetic sound of the interrogation.  Notice when he cuts to the other guards it's the diegetic sound we hear, like us, no making us empathize with the helpless guards as if we were actually there.  This is followed by a return to the office where the Captain turns up the volume.  This increase in volume is an intentional trick to hook the viewers consciousness on the dread and fear of the scene.


    This is one of the best doses ever. 




  4. Doesn't it seem like it's overused sometimes, for marketing purposes? As in to sell films to audiences who enjoy film noir, when these films are mostly just psychological dramas?


    I think that is exactly how it is most often overused.  I believe Mr. Muller alludes to this in a commentary he did for on of the SoD films though I can't recall which one.  I think TCM took quite a license with the term in selecting their SoD films.  The last two I watched this weekend A Woman's Secret (1949) and Walk East on Beacon (1952) really don't cut it for me.  At least A Woman's Secret has good noir pedigree (Nicholas Ray director and Gloria Grahame)

  5. In last weeks lecture Dr. Edwards spoke of censorship limiting how filmmakers could depict violence on screen.  He said, "the off-screen violence of in the films of this period can be much more harrowing and much more brutal than some of the most realistic computer-generated imagery in our current films."  I think we can consider this Example A.


    This is an epic beat down, superbly staged, filmed and acted.  The viewer can help but empathize with the victim.  This is the second time I've watched this and it still grabs me especially the shot from the victim's pov of Raymond Burr (awesome in this film) moves toward him with the broken bottle. 


    This is the gritty dark intimidating film noir we all love!

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  6. The Dark City, Noir City, Urban Jungle, Asphalt Jungle all common vernacular for the urban landscape which conjure the image of the seedy, dark ally, industrial rundown side of urban society, which is the quintessential setting associated with films noir.  These unnamed cities were as rich in the landscape noir filmmakers like Houston and Mann needed to set the grimy, claustrophobic, maze like environment the protagonist and supporting cast inhabited and often mirrored in their performances and the noir narrative. 


    I think it is telling that one of the other great film movements of this era was the western and how it utilized the wide open expanses of monument valley or the rocky mountains as its landscape.  I think both movements portray America's fear of urbanization.  The urban setting of so many great films noir reflects America's direct fear while the western its longing for the open spaces urban living leaves behind.  In Drew Casper's Post War Hollywood from last week he speaks of the growing suburbs in post-war America, he writes "suburbia approximated the serenity, spaciousness, and greenness of country life". A western out the back door and the dark city out the front.


    In this opening scene Sterling Hayden reminds me of a rat trapped in the urban maze scuttling about looking for safety. I don't see the low-key or high contrast lighting nor the dutch angles.  Instead he builds a maze of square columns and overhead wires while the patrol car prowls about, before pouncing on our rat.


    Notice Sterling Hayden never proclaims he's innocent.  That immediately tells us he's guilty.  Everyone knows he's guilty. The line-up is a joke Hayden is 1/2 a head taller than the other two men and is apparently the only one wearing the correct clothes.  Yet he' successfully intimidated the victim and isn't fingered. Houston has identified our protagonist to us in a few short minutes of film and leaves us waiting to learn more.

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  7. I had a wonderful evening at the theater in Cary, NC last night enjoying my first ever viewing of Double Indemnity on the big screen.  It was outstanding.  We didn't have the technical problems others mentioned, and there were at least 30 people in the audience. 


    I was astounded by how much blacker the blacks were and grayer the grays than in the TCM and DVD viewings I've enjoyed of this film.  It made the movie even better.  In my opinion there is no substitution for seeing a film on the screen it immerses you deeper into the film. 


    Audience reaction too the 30K house seems to be universal.


    Thanks TCM for giving us the opportunity to enjoy these wonderful films as they're supposed to be seen.

  8. Phil Karlson stages a great fight scene here.  Low angles, close-ups and use of the ropes and fighters as they slug it out gives the viewer an intimate view of the violence of the fight.  The cut to John Payne's face a close-up matching the fight scene and showing us the scarred cut to his eye lets us know, along with the dialogue, the noir narrative here is failed dreams. 


    The humorous contrast the curator refers to is also demonstrated by how close John Payne is scene sitting to the TV as we watch him watch himself over his shoulder.  That's followed by another dig at TV when he flips the camera to show the view of this wide room with the little screen TV in the foreground.  It kind of looks like he's showing a theater from the POV of the screen.

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  9. The past coming back to haunt is a common noir narrative device, most famously portrayed in Out of the Past where we have a Douglas/Mitchum/Greer triangle.  Here we have Douglas/VanHeflin/Stanwcyk.  The director Byron Haskin's uses camera angle depth of field and blocking to frame each shot to reflect the changes in dominance of the three characters as they move through the scene.  Douglas, though seated has the upper hand early in the scene, then when he and Van Heflin share a drink they're on equal footing, two men sharing a drink.  When the intercom first rings, Douglas doesn't automatically invite Martha in to see her old friend.  He waits, you can tell, he wants to see if Van Heflin's still interested.  Then when they hug, he goes straight to the bar for another drink, to cool the jealousy.


    This is Douglas' scene and he nails it.  

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  10. I love the noir narrative that begins with ordinary everyday people getting sling-shot into the noir world.  However, I can't think of one which I've seen as a daily dose or otherwise which begins with a noir Santa Clause doing a flyby to deliver Jane a package full of cabbage, not 2 minutes after she complaining about some haughty rich dame. Talk about wish-fulfillment of course in the noir you better be careful what you wish for.


    We get a warning about just who psycho Jane is when she tries to turn off a moving car, but when Allen opens that bag of dough the lights go out and we're off to the races careening down the road deeper into the darkness of the noir landscape.


    A great quick opening which puts the viewer right where the director wanted him.  I haven't seen this film yet so I'm holding on tightly to see where Jane and Allan take me!!

  11. The opening isn't overtly noir.  There is no dramatic low-key lighting, back lighting or dutch angle camera shots.  The noirness in the narrative two strangers fatefully meeting.


    The credits roll over a view from a coolly lit tunnel into the bright sun (like a train looking out a tunnel).  With out the title a viewer may well have drawn the conclusion a train was going to be the setting of the film.  The low-angle shot introduces our protagonists but keeps them as estranged from us as they are from each other.  Our only clue to who they are, their shoes.  They allow us to begin profiling them and this engages us in the movie immediately. Both are men's shoes, one pair an expensive brand so a well to do man, the other ordinary, so an ordinary man.  It's not until they finally meet via a fateful kick that we get to see there face.


    The shot of the train leaving the station also fits the noir style.  Discordant tracks criss cross the screen building suspense in the viewer since he has no idea where he's going.


    Alfred Hitchcock is a special case in the pantheon of great directors be it noir or any other style of film.  His art stands out above them all.  While he certainly uses the many characteristics we've discussed as facets of noir film in many of his films' I feel he uses them because they're they best way to tell his story and keep his viewers involved in the story.  So while he certainly has films which belong in the noir cycle I think Alfred was trying to something holistically different with his movies than say Lange, Wells, Mann or any of the other great noir directors.  So yeah, that makes him special.

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  12. Like all the daily doses this week we're presented with protagonists whow have had the noir world thrust upon them. To a certain extent, the private ****, gangsters, femme fatales and other archetype back alley miscreants know the cards fate has delta them. However, this week it's the unknowing citizen suddenly thrust into the dark little world of noir's turn. I think k these movies resonate with we, the viewers more, because it's easier for us to accept the verisimilitude of the protagonists plight. It could be us.

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  13. I didn't think you could beat out of the past until I watched Hollow Triumph.  Paul Henried has a cigarette in nearly every frame!  I also loved the part in Nora Prentiss when Ann Sheridan comes to in the Dr. Office and asks for, receives and smokes a cigarette.  Lol! I don't smoke but I'm totally going to try that at my next physical lol

  14. One comment on Lana Turner's famous entrance. When Garfield picks up the dropped make-up, he doesn't return it, he leans back cool and confident trying to establishing dominance. Watch Lana as she vamps an annoyed look, she's unimpressed, she knows she's the spider. She walks over takes it and then struts away, the camera following her the entire way as she snares Garfield, and everyother male in the theater.

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  15. Hollow Triumph


    I've been focusing my viewing time on watching films I don't have in my personal collection.  Hollow Triumph is one, and after watching this wonderful film I will be adding it.  I've seen several films lensed by John Alton and this is one of the best.  It seemed like every scene was draped in chiaroscuro lighting.  I've always liked Paul Henried's films and this performance is no acceptation.  However, it's Joan Bennett that steals this film for me I loved her performance and she had some great lines.


    I think Eduard Franz's roll as the searching brother is interesting.  In many noir films there is a character which represents the good side of society and that character tries to pull the noir protagonist out from the noir world.  I usually think of this character and many films nor usually represent this character as a woman.  However, in this film that character is represented by a man. 

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  16. The documentary style in noir is a bait-and-switch.  It seduces the viewer with the assumption of normality, of an everyday routine similar to the viewers own, it then rips that assumption from the viewer creating disequilibrium in the viewers mind.


    It also invades the viewers psyche.  The real world is something he or she is familiar with and like most people they fill their lives with hope and happiness, there is security in the documentary like life we all try to live.  However, the documentary style noir reminds them that the world outside the Paramount Theater is a cruel world where more often than not darkness can find them.

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