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bjanicas

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  1. I see a lot of similarities between today's and yesterday's daily dose films, specially in what concerns the depiction of violence. In this scene from Jules Dassin's Brute Force, Wagner's music in the soundtrack joins the parcial darkness in the image to go beyond the limits of figurability of violence: we see the beating being prepared like a ritual by the prison's chief of security, as if not only he did those same actions everyday but also took pleasure on it; first, he puts the classic music on (the tone of grandiosity and apotheosis contrasts with the brutality and lack of morality of his
  2. The swinging overhead light is the key motif and central device of the film noir cinematography developped by George Diskant in this violent scene from Anthony Mann's Desperate: it's its movement that determines what is shown and what is withheld, what's visible in the image and what happens only in the off-screen. Instead of diminishing the effect of violence, this lighting device emphasizes it and makes it's even more brutaly visual: darkness is the stuff our deepest fears are made of, and it's in the dark that the most violent actions take place; during the scene, we're constantly surprised
  3. The "unnamed city" were the action of this John Huston's film takes place has no name not because it doesn't exist but because it can be any industrialized American town from the post-war period. It isn't depicted as an imaginary dystopian scenario, through expressionist and formalist techniques (more present in other scenes of the film), but rather as a potentially real place, through a documentary-style realistic approach, at the same time evoking the visual motifs of the devastation of European cities during the WWII depicted by italian neo-realistim (that, we know, has largely influenced f
  4. Louis Malle's Elevator to the Gallows is one of my favourite pre-Nouvelle Vague French films. The film begins already plunged into drama: Jeanne Moreau's extreme close-up, the tears in her eyes, her voice whispered against the phone, talking to her lover, saying all those things that we don't usually say "in the real life". In fact, we understand they're talking about the plan to murder her husband without them even have to say it. In a noir inspired film, we know that that's the kind of action that will lead characters to damnation, and yet they keep saying that they will be more miserable
  5. It only took me these first three minutes of Harry Horner's Beware, My Lovely to understand that Robert Ryan's character is not a common man. Maybe his acting style is too much for the role, making us confound his circumstancial disturbance with a deeper kind of histeria, or maybe he actually is a mentally deranged person, a dangerous man who's even capable of killing. We can find this type of character - "an alienated man bordering on psychosis" - in a lot of films noir. Other noir elements, such as visual motifs belonging to the noir imagery, are the insistence of framing devices such as wi
  6. As other films noir, Richard Fleischer's The Narrow Margin begins already in movement, as we can see in the opening credits shown over shots of railway wagons. When the train arrives to the station, two men descend from the carriage: both men are detectives, but they have contrasting appearances, for one is a fat good-natured old man ("Nobody loves a fat man!", a pun two times repeated in the film) and the other is a grumpy hard-boiled detective, much more suited for the film noir style. However, as Foster Hirsch pointed out, it's in their dialogue itself that can be noticed the first eviden
  7. By calling attention to questions of time and timing in the staging and editing of this scene, Phil Karlson makes time the main subject of the opening of his film, Kansas City Confidential. We've been able to observe how in other noir films time is always a major player: no matter how mathematical we are when planning our lives, our actions, our moves, in the fatalistic universe ruled by randomness typical of film noir, it only takes one second to change the course of everything, to ruin the characters' lives, to put a common citizen in a extreme situation that can make him a whole different p
  8. Effectively, the meaning of the contrast between cinematic and television styles in the shooting and staging of the boxing scene is much more ambigous that it may seem. We watch to the scene two times, but each time we experience it differently: first, it is as if we were the characters fighting, we're inside the scene, we're them (low angles, rapid editing, extreme close-ups and POV shots make us feel the rush of the moment, the strenght of the pain and the impact of violence); then, when the same scene is re-played on the television screen, we're not longer living it but we watch to the char
  9. This scene from Lewis Milestone's The Loves of Martha Ivers is really symptomatic of how in a film noir the apparently most respectable citizen is potentially always the most criminal - you just have to give him a little motive, for that, such as a glimpse of jealousy and suspicion (usually something that the male character feels menacing to his masculinity and power). In this scene, this growing impression is particularly conveyed by the acting and the staging of the two male actors, Van Heflin and Kirk Douglas, and the way their longtime interpersonal relationship is exposed and developed:
  10. When Too Late for Tears was made, the American society was still dealing with the consequences that the war had brought to its population: little consequences that influenced the mentalities and the daily life of specially common and innocent people. Citizens had lost faith in society and institutions; only fate could bring any change, good or bad, to their lives. As we had the opportunity to investigate, films noir depict situations from the later type. While in other film scenes previously analysed, a fateful twist happens usually by pure chance and randomness, perturbing the balance of t
  11. Talking about Hitchcock as the master of suspense goes without saying. But what is also characteristic of this English filmmaker, but nevertheless frequently overlooked, is that his art of suspense matches with a very specific cinematic universe that emerges from the perfect control he exerts on the viewers' expectations concerning the movie's plot, spiced up with a unique combination of dark humour and noirish style. So, the kind of disturbance Hitchcok wants to inflict on his audience is different from the unsettling effect we may find in other films noir such as Kiss me Deadly and The Hitch
  12. In this opening sequence of Rudolph Mate's noir film D.O.A. we're a step back from the subjectivity device used in the opening of Caged, that we analysed in yesterday's daily dose: it isn't exactly a POV shot since we don't actually see what the character sees, but only follow his back as he walks through the cold, desert, dimly lit corridors. Since the begining of the film we're in movement, but this movement is not conveyed by a vehicle (as in The Hitch-Hiker and in Caged), but rather by the character who's walking on screen (as the woman running in Kiss Me Deadly) and the way he is filmed,
  13. The title of this John Cromwell's film noir says it all: "Caged" is immediately associated with other themes and ideas that we usually use to define "the substance of noir", such as the feeling of imprisonment, entrapment and claustrophobia, all of them present in this brief sequence. Add them the fact that the film's narrative is set in a women's prison, and we'll see how other questions and hidden meanings will emerge, giving a whole new resonance to this subject matter. Through the use of the POV shot inside the moving vehicle, saving the visibility of the female bodies to the off-screen
  14. Although both depicting a similar dramatic situation, the opening sequences of today's Ida Lupino's The Hitch-Hiker and yesterday's daily dose, Robert Aldrich's Kiss me Deadly, are very different in what concernes the stylistic treatment given to the scene. Kiss me Deadly opens with an explosion of madness and sexual contents that are overtly made obvious by the expressionist treatment given to the irrealistic respiration motif in the soundtrack and other formalistic elements such as the camerawork and the editing of the frantic running of the femme fatale. The Hitch-Hiker opens in a much
  15. From the very first moments of Kiss Me Deadly, Robert Aldrich is already playing with our expectations: at first, watching a woman running in panic towards the camera gives us the impression that she's being pursued by someone, that her life's in danger, instead of showing that she's actually running away from something (even if the first shot of the film only shows her legs running over the asphalt of the route, always moving forward; besides, the only moments when she looks back is when a car is passing by her and she failed stopping it). A couple of minutes later we'll be told by the polic
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