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Jeff Netto

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Everything posted by Jeff Netto

  1. Both Hitchhiker and Kiss Me Deadly open with the sudden interruption of nighttime drives, and both put a similar spin on the automobile-at-night motif. At night on dark deserted roads, the car seems like a safely enclosing space, a place where travelers are sheltered against whatever might be lurking out in the inky blackness on the other side of the glass. Inside the car: the lights from the dashboard reveal the recognizable features of human faces. Outside the car: the abyss mocks the feeble presumption of our headlights. As long as we stay inside the car and as long as the darkness stays o
  2. When Brigid O'Shaunessy played her best damsel-in-distress for Sam Spade, she laid it on a bit too thick. Spade didn't buy it, but he let her run through her act anyway. He sat back and assumed the role of an appreciative audience, applauding her acting talents at the end of her scene: "You're good. You're very good." The opening of Kiss Me Deadly parallels that scene in The Maltese Falcon. Hammer doesn't say much to Christina after she gets into the car. He just listens to Christina's very provocative pants, gasps, and wimpers -- and then turns on the radio to give her a sultry jazz accom
  3. It's the smile that makes the entrance (and exit) of Harry Lime so much fun. He seems so in control over his visibility and invisibility, a master of shadows and secret passages, but someone who can sometimes summon the lime light as well. Even if it's only to mock those who try to capture him in their glance.
  4. The charred burger is hilarious. After that duel of smoldering glances ends with Cora's apparent surrender (she steps forward to retrieve her lipstick), she turns up the sex appeal even more with her seductive saunter. Garfield is left smoldering so hard he begins to sizzle. His goose is cooked.
  5. I love the way Lorre and Greenstreet are so cavalier and almost graceful as they wave guns and have guns waved at them. They effortlessly exude a heavy dose of European charm, even as they engage in a deadly game of cat & mouse. They seem like they are worlds away from the gritty, hardboiled streets where Sam Spade and Phillip Marlowe prowl in the night. The collision of these two worlds is usually a bit humorous, especially when a hardboiled detective like Spade gives these dapper gents a puzzled smirk. But the lighting, low-angle camerawork, and ominous score usually invite us to look be
  6. The scene in the cantina looks sort of like a photographic negative of Nighthawks. Here, there's an oppressive light outside and the figures huddle together in the dim twilight of the cantina. Jeff Bailey (our detective) feels more at ease in the shadowy cantina, listening to the movie soundtrack coming from the cinema next door (where it's also dark). Like Bailey, Kathy Moffat (our femme fatale) is a creature of darkness. As Professor Edwards points out in his intro to the clip, the two figures are both most themselves, most legibly visible in the frame, in this dim half-light of the cantina.
  7. At first glance, Bogart's Marlowe and his Spade seem to have very similar characters. But by going back to the novels, the difference between Hammett's Spade and Chandler's Marlowe is easier to see. And it also becomes a little easier to see how Bogart picks up on a distinctive trait of each detective's character and elaborates on that trait when he steps into the corresponding gumshoes of each man. When he plays Spade, Bogart seems more like a powder keg that might blow at any moment. He is fairly self-hating, and he's constantly reminded of his own flaws and shortcomings when he sees them r
  8. It took me a little by surprise when the tone shifted so completely over the course of the voice-over prologue. We move so quickly from an upbeat expository introduction to the lay of the land and the hard working people who bring food to our tables. From that opening gesture we cut abruptly to a particular "case" of violence and corruption about to unfold in this upbeat setting. The documentary elements of this exposition (overhead aerial pans over the landscape and the journalistic voice-over) situate us very concretely in the real world of Californian agriculture. But as the sequence moves
  9. For me, it's the handling of lighting in Hopper's painting that gives it the creepy feel. It seems as if the people in the diner are huddled together in the light, perhaps seeking shelter from whatever terrors lurk in the night outside. This scene from The Killers uses light similarly to depict anxiety. But the scene in the diner is followed by the shot of the Swede, who is markedly not anxious. He's resigned, lying in a pool of shadows and already for the most part swallowed up by the darkness that's winging its way toward him outside in the night.
  10. There's something almost apocalyptic about this strip tease number. Gilda is more than willing to degrade and even destroy herself if she can hurt Johnny as much as has hurt her. She'll smilingly submit herself to the fumbling hands of nightclub revelers who fight for the chance to unzip her body-hugging gown. She appears to embrace her shame, knowing Johnny is writhing in it every bit as much as she writhes in her seductive song and dance.
  11. Up till this point, I think Mildred has kept herself from seeing Veda clearly. Why? Because there's something in Mildred herself that Mildred doesn't want to see -- a murderous rage she would like to unleash on her daughter. It's been there all along, brewing. But Mildred can't allow herself to acknowledge it, so she allows Veda to express her contempt for her mother. When Veda slaps Mildred, Mildred's mask of repression is knocked off for a moment and we see her for the first time -- just as she sees herself for the first time. She is indeed ready to kill Veda. At least a part of her is read
  12. The pendulum seems unusually big, giving the clock an ominous, Edgar Allan Poe sense. Reminds me of the set design in a creepy Sternberg film. One of the things that Lang and Sternberg brought to Hollywood with them is an expressionist idea that we can glimpse the occult forces at work behind the everyday surface of things by assuming the perspective of people on the fringes of modern society: madmen, criminals, believers in old-world folklore and superstitions. From such a perspective, the terrifying dimensions of time's passage might be glimpsed in the mechanism of an ordinary clock or the
  13. This scene recalls some of the scenes in The Maltese Falcon where Sam Spade was pretty rough with the women in the film (Effie, Ida, and Brigid). These new detectives seem instinctively hostile towards women, as if they are afraid of their own susceptibility to feminine charms and need to defend themselves from their own desires. This roughness with women, I think, pertains more to Hammett's fiction than to Chandler's. But it helps to toughen up Dick Powell here. He seems a little on the polished and gentle side to pull off the role of a hardboiled gumshoe.
  14. I get a sense that the deceased woman served, and still continues to serve as a femme fatale -- an agent of darkness, an embodiment of evil. Oddly enough, she seems to function in this role after her death, as a sort of disembodied embodiment of evil. It seems as if Lydecker is somewhat feminine (and not just gay). It's as if he, too, if fatale-ishly feminized. These are just impressions I get from the clip. I haven't seen this movie in a long time. I'm looking forward to refreshing my memory of it on Friday.
  15. The POV in the opening sequence is a pretty cool way to establish a properly noir-ish perspective. By way of this character, we're going to look at San Francisco from a different angle and in a different light. We're going to see things that ordinary people tend to gloss over because theses things are too dark and disturbing. From this noir perspective, the police seem threatening and the good Samaritan who picks up hitch-hikers seems a little too aggressively inquisitive. These darker and more disturbing aspects of police officers and good Samaritans are suddenly visible when we look through
  16. Calm, poised, and inscrutable, Bette Davis fires shot after shot into the body of a man who staggers to get away from her. As we try to read what's going on behind those famous eyes, a cloud passes over the moon, flooding the scene with shadows. The cloud passes and for a moment, Davis herself seems surprised by the sudden return of light and visibility. But the mask of calm, poised, inscrutability snaps back into place almost immediately. What was it that might have been there to read in that moment of cloud-shrouded darkness? We almost caught a glimpse of something, of some motive or emotio
  17. I like the way that Lorre's shadow arrives at the scene or our reading just after we do. It's like the belated arrival of my own shadow on the surface of the 'Wanted" poster that I'm reading as the little girl bounces the ball. This reminds me of the scene in Psycho where Norman Bates is peeping-in on Janet Leigh as she undresses. Just as Hitchcock made me feel as creepy as Bates, so too does Lang make me feel creepy for standing next to Elsie.
  18. Who knew that operating a locomotive was so complicated and so physically demanding? I enjoyed watching these men drive the train, and I wonder if an irony isn't in the works here. I haven't seen this film yet, but I've read quite a few of these posts so I have some idea where it's heading. I'm wondering if the film won't go on to compare the way Gabin's character is similarly "driven" by dark compulsions (shades of M). Is there a mechanical destiny-machine that will drive him -- independently of his own best interests -- toward his doom? Is he in some sense being "railroaded" by fate?
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