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ShadowingUncleCharlie

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  1. Shadowy figure at the Sternwood's front door. Disembodied finger ringing the doorbell. A voice announcing his identity and reason for his visit. Humphrey Bogart's Philip Marlowe is given a graduated entrance in The Big Sleep, slowly moving into the viewer's consciousness through strategic visual and auditory cues. The detective's hat casting a shadow across the Sternwood nameplate on the door--perhaps in a homage to an opening frame in Fritz Lang's M where Beckert's shadow moves across his "Wanted" poster--establishes Marlowe as a mysterious figure. It is a coincidence that hat's shadow pe
  2. Gilda and the jazzy strains of "Put the Blame on Mame" are perfectly in synch and out of synch at the same time. While the score's tone and lyrics seem to offer Gilda up as a femme fatale with nothing to hide, her seductive dance moves aren't in time with the music. This could signify that, along with being intoxicated, she isn't your standard-issue femme fatale. Noticeably, the music swells during her close-ups -- especially when she plays with her hair. The diegetic sound allows the viewer to be completely immersed in the nightclub world and be seduced by Gilda with everyone else.
  3. While Veda exhibits the prerequisite beauty, duplicity, and deadly force expected of her archetype, who knew that a femme fatale could have mother issues (or even a mother, for that matter)? Having Veda on screen alongside her mother signals a new direction for the femme fatale. Giving her a backstory and a horrified parent who sees firsthand who she is becoming renders her less mysterious in some respects; however, it also adds dimension by showing what--and whom--has shaped her into the young woman she is. In the film noir clips we have screened so far, scenes between female characters a
  4. Don't even try to play a player, "Miss Alice from the Post" . . . or is it Miss Grayle? Philip Marlowe embodies Nino Frank's "new kind of detective" in film noir, insofar as he is portrayed as a morally ambiguous, unorthodox, and dialogue-driven protagonist with anti-heroic tendancies. He has no compunction about locking the pseudo-journalist in his office and roughing her up -- both physically and verbally. Unlike some of his hard boiled detective counterparts, Marlowe (at least in this scene) is onto the femme fatale from their first meeting. Neither her words nor her disguise (don't all
  5. Waldo Lydecker is one slippery character. "Another of those detectives came to see me" highlights not only his disdain for the investigators working on Laura's case, but also that Lydecker has suffered through their tedious line of questioning before. For a writer/wordsmith/Laura-expert/dandy such as himself, sparring with some predictable gumshoe is sport -- something of an intellectual exercise. The viewer senses that Lydecker derives a perverse enjoyment from manipulating (yet another) detective type arriving to question him. Telling McPherson to enter the bathroom while he is havin
  6. Daves' first person POV opening sequence is a master class in characterization, insofar as the viewer not only empathizes with the fugitive without having seen his face, but also roots for him to "start taking chances" and to get away. Daves ensures that viewers are at one with this questionable protagonist when he puts us inside his head. Knowing that there is only 10, no 15 minutes before the police close in, we quickly identify with the man on the run as our protagonist. That he sounds like Bogie doesn't hurt, either. Our emotional investment/manipulation becomes even more apparent
  7. They don't call them Bette Davis Eyes for nothing. William Wyler leaves the viewer wide-eyed after this shocking opening sequence. The dominance of the plantation owner's wife (Davis) is foreshadowed by the full moon, a classic symbol of womanhood. However, in the film noir universe, the dark side of womanhood is embodied by the femme fatale, for which Davis' character--and Davis herself--is the prototype (it's all in the look -- see Kim Carnes' "Bette Davis Eyes"). Focused, unblinking (literally), stoic, and seemingly sociopathic, Wyler's femme fatale takes out her victim by shooting him
  8. Jean Renoir's locomotive is no gentleman. La Bete Humaine's opening sequence serves as fair warning: while this industrialized beast may be a modern wonder, there is nothing civilized about him. The director's mise-en-scene and sound design characterize the locomotive as fiery, insatiably hungry (needs constant feedings), loud (always cries out his presence), sexually aggressive (plunges in and out of those tunnels), and fast (hurtles towards his stops). Here we find the grittier precursor to Alfred Hitchcock's train-through-tunnel motif in the closing sequence of North by Northwest.
  9. Right from the fade in, Lang ensures that the viewer is unsettled by the neighborhood depicted in M. The vulnerability of the children is captured by the bird's-eye-view shot. Singing innocently about a child killer, they form a circle that roughly resembles a clock. Only time will tell which of them is the next one taken out of the game. Lang continues this symbolism with the cuckoo clock chiming 12 noon in Mrs. Brennerman's apartment. Just like the children's song, it is a jarring announcement. The medium close-ups on her domestic activities and her kind face suggest that she is a loving
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