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About Paulette

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  • Gender
  • Location
    Austin, Texas
  • Interests
    Noir, noir and still more noir!
  1. What a memorable summer experience this has been! Thanks to TCM, Canvas, Ball State U, Prof. Edwards, and Eddie Muller for creating this fabulous film course. The old adage, 'The best things in life are free' certainly rings true here, where we learned about the elements of film noir, interacted with our peers and got to watch some pretty amazing noir films. I truly don't think I'll see another noir in the same way again, and I look forward to taking part in a another TCM-sponsored film studies course. I'll keep a weather eye on the horizon - and on my TCM channel - for a new adventure! Thanks again! Paulette
  2. John Huston’s iconic masterpiece, The Asphalt Jungle, in many ways can be considered a “bookend” mate to his classic The Maltese Falcon, released in 1941. The crooks in the former film have become more desperate and daring, and the snappy smart-talk of the latter film is missing, since there’s not much call for humor in 1950 NoirLand. The brilliant opening - short and sweet - of the monotone police radio call, announcing the usual, “be on the lookout for...”, coupled with Dix dodging past train tracks and ducking around corner posts, alerts us to his eventual pick-up, which happens in a common noir place of solace - the diner. It’s pretty clear by line-up Perp Time that he’s a familiar face in the ‘hood, and he gives the witness just a hint of a smile, cluing us that he knows how to work the system, too. Sterlling Hayden would go on to ‘name names’ during the HUAC Hollywood trials, an act he later revealed was his life-long regret. But he shines so brightly that we can - for now - overlook his transgression.
  3. Wow - the swaying light-bulb during Steve’s beating reminds me of a swinging noose, or the movement of the pendulum in Vincent Price’s horror classic. This one repetitive movement, broken by patches of light upon their faces, serves to increase our discomfort as the thugs watch dispassionately.
  4. OOOH, closing the curtains and pumping up the classical music, while the shadows and smacking sounds compete with each other in a rough ballet of violence. The choice of Wagner - a Nazi favorite - and the Hilterite photo of the captain draws a straight parallel to the tenor and tone of the post-war era. But then again, the title Brute Force says it all.
  5. I was immediately struck, not by the parking lot tryst, but by Yvonne De Carlo in satin and furs, contrasted by dapper Dan Duryea in a crisp white jacket... She’s sizzling with a muted passion that is a perfect foil for Duryea’s sharp suspicious interrogation. And then, of course, there’s Burt Lancaster in a heavily-patterned geometic jacket of his own - patterns are a favorite noir element. Fashion statements like these highlight one reason I love to ‘look at’ a noir film, because I always come away so completely satisified by the visual feast. Each Daily Dose perfectly encapsulated another facet of noir - whether it was the cinematography, costuming, sound, or music - that served to draw us into the action, quick - fast - and in a hurry!
  6. I love heist films because it brings together a diverse set of personalities that invariably begin to clash as the ‘perfect timing’ breaks down. The added intensity of the opening paragraph plays off the urgent tone of the musical score. Bad guy Preston Foster looks pretty smug about his little bank schedule, but it’s only a matter of time - and crime - before his smile turns sour in Kansas City Confidential.
  7. A pretty average day in a pretty average small town promises to be anything but average by the time Robert Ryan arrives on the scene. Ryan, working as a handyman, discovers his employer’s body and suddenly we’re on the lamb with him, frantically rushing through a busy railroad yard. As he hops a freight car, staring out into the distance in anguish, we realize this is an all-too familiar pattern for him. Ryan’s edgy moodiness is a perfect foil in this scene, as his secure world becomes unraveled during the opening. Yet, his sudden flight - leaving a dead body with the water running, hints that all hell is about to break loose, probably for his next victim, - who’s probably in another pretty average town.
  8. Ah, Jeanne Moreau’s lovely face, running the range of emotions as she professes her love to Julien, reels us into her happy moment. But the camera pulls back and we can see her body language is anything but happy, and the same can be said for her lover, Julien, as well. His face matches her uncertain movements as he hangs up the phone, and we can infer that this affair is about to get a bit more complicated. The lazy tempo of Miles Davis’ horn lulls us into thinking that we may just be seeing a typical love story, set in a French city, on a beautiful day. But this film isn’t called Elevators to the Gallows for nothing...
  9. Charles McGraw’s dour countenance contrasts with his partner’s satisfied grin as they make snappy patter about - what else? - “a cheap dame”. The two men get off a train, rushing to make an appointment with our noir diva in under an hour. All the standard elements are here in Narrow Margin to make us feel comfortable - a smoking train with screeching wheels, lots of textured lighting, and terse dialogue from our pessimistic hero. Where’s the popcorn?
  10. The rhythm of the opening sequence helps define the two main characters of Strangers on a Train. This noir begins with an unusual lightness of being, as the footwork between Bruno and Guy play against eachother’s purpose with a playful musical score. We’re introduced to these two oil-and-water types by their: Bruno’s two-toned flamboyant footwear contrasts with Guy’s solid, no-nonsense dark shoes. We’re not quite sure that we’ve read the programming guide correctly - this is a noir film, right? As they settle into their seats in a friendly face-off, the camera abruptly switches to the train veering off onto another track. In an homage to noir classic La Bete Humaine, director Alfred Hitchcock signals that things are about to get pretty dicey on board. Hitchcock’s approach to directing film noir is a seamless production, where cinematography gently coaxes us into a world where the killer fish swim in the murky depths, just beyond our view. Always a master of the cinematic thriller, Hitchcock melds the standard noir elements of light and shadow, mood and madness into an A-list noir, leaving us to marvel until we wake up with the closing credits. It’s hard to argue that Alfred Hitchcock is a ‘special case’ - after all, he had the best that money and studio support can give to a production. A-list films don’t have that assembly-line feeling, and Hitchcock’s noirs never felt gritty, dark or constrained. It’s the difference between a garden party at Martha’s Vineyard and a backyard BBQ in Chicago. Hitchcock’s earlier British films had more in common with a B noir, but then he didn’t have all the Hollywood movie industry luxuries at his command.
  11. A car sitting on the side of the road, with the driver obviously waiting for someone to come along - but for what purpose? We’re hooked within the first minute, as the ensuing domestic argument and sudden drop-off promises that there’s more thrills to come. A sullen Lizabeth Scott turns into a passionate heat wave, fearlessly ignoring the bleating screams of her passive-agressive spouse, Arthur Kennedy. WOW. The postwar themes of sexual identity crisis and middle-class longings perfectly highlight the essay from Drew Casper’s Postwar Hollywood. As suburban couple Jane and Allen drive to a swanky party in the hills, her refusal to play a passive role marks a sharp change from a pre-WWII heroine. It’s clear that her husband is smitten by how the upper class lives, as their car moves closer to the promise of conspicious consumer nirvana, leaving their constricted world far behind them.
  12. You can’t go home again. Not only is this an old saying, but it’s origins spring from the book with the same name by Thomas Wolfe. While the book featured similar post-war themes of change, angst and confusion, it’s societal focus was on the 1920s and the rise of fascism. Two human reactions to global upheaval and the change it brings are to adjust to the realities or romanticize about “the good old days”. The theme of second chances is driven home in my favorite noir film of all time, The Strange Love of Martha Ivers. A trio of childhood friends (played by Barbara Stanwyck (Martha), Van Heflin (Sam), Lizabeth Scott (Toni) and in his screen debut, Kirk Douglas (Walter) are bound together by one fateful action carried out in the dead of night, causing Van Heflin to skip town. Almost two decades later, he’s forced back to Iverson by the turn of Fate’s wheel, as his car refuses to budge after a minor accident. Further complications - in the form of noir doll Toni, a controlling Martha desperate to re-establish old ties and alcoholic Walter, seething with impotent rage - conspire to bring down our hero. Sam sees life as a gamble, and on one level appears to go with the flow with a zen smile. But he learns a few things about himself as he fights his impulse to cut and run when things get tough.
  13. I was struck by the interplay between Ernie and Pauline mirror the fight scene on the TV, but in reverse: As the camera pulls back from the tight close-up of the fight to reveal that it occurred in the past, the camera steadily zooms in on the domestic fight happening in the present. A feeling of constraint, whether it’s from the fights in a roped-off ring or in a cramped room with four wall, increases the feeling of being caught, with no way out. Each fight - one with words and the other with fists - generates the same level of anxiety and stress, and Ernie loses both bouts. But Ernie lives for another dream, in much the same way as Warren did in MGM’s 1949 noir thriller Tension, and like the hapless pharamacist, he’s stuck with a chilly noir fish wife, ex-showgirl Pauline.
  14. D.O.A. made a huge impact on me when I was a teenager, growing up in the 1950s. I recall clinging to the frail hope that Frank Bigelow would somehow be cured, that he - and I - would enjoy a happy ending after his long walk through noir purgatory. But of course, I didn’t know anything about the genre then - after all, I was just a kid - and kids aways believe in miracles. Frank’s purposeful walk and the strong musical opening fooled me into thinking that he was going to find a solution - after all, isn’t that what men do? The masterful opening leads us down a long passage where the hero doesn't find peace, only behaviors and motives that confuse more than clear up his situation. So the corridor doubles as a maze, where the journey to the end tests a person’s character and choices along the way, and the final conclusions may not solve anything - at all.
  15. Poor Marie, embalmed in a transport wagon, traveling towards a premature burial in the State Prison for a crime she didn’t commit. If the terrified look of confusion at the fate that has brought her to this stone-walled cemetery isn’t proof enough, just look at the other women’s faces, as hard and unyielding as the building itself. The Warner Bros. house style is so characteristic of the noir period that we don’t even need to see their logo. Our recognization can be immediately read on Eleanor Parker’s strained face, suffocating in time to the shrieking siren as we peer through the tiny window with her - disoriented, afraid - and trapped. Noir’s constricting view of life fits well inside a prison, where personal choices are made by others who hold the key to your freedom. Women are used to being caged by society’s expectations, so most of these dames may not see any difference. All they have to do is play by the rules just long enough to get out, if only to begin the cycle all over again. Life through a noir lens - bleak, hopeless, and dog-eat-dog - might be a salvation to a meek woman like Marie. After all, empowerment isn’t the same for all women, is it?
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