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Everything posted by Paulette

  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!
  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
  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 a
  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,
  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
  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 th
  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
  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),
  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 liv
  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 d
  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
  16. Sometimes it just doesn’t pay to be nice, as two buddies on a weekend trip quickly discover after they pick up a hitch-hiker with car trouble. Our first tip-off that something is not quite right is the dark forboding arm, with a thumb held up, coming out of the shadows. The two men’s faces seem open and kind, which is a stark contrast to the take-no-prisoners look on the hitch-hiker’s grim countenance. A single key light indicates this man is ready to kill at the drop of a dime, when he introduces Edmund O’Brien and Frank Lovejoy to his handgun. Later he tersely warns Edmund O’Brien about
  17. Bursting onto the screen in the dead of night with high-pitched music as her only friend, a woman runs frantically along a desolate highway - barefoot and breathing like a scared jackrabbit. The occasional relief of bright headlights, occasionally puncturing the ominous darkness, makes us wonder if this frightened innocent will find safety and solace in a chance pick-up. Luck’s riding with Christina Bailey, because her knight riding in his shining white Jaguar is none other than private detective Mike Hammer. Of course, she doesn’t know this, but with the opening credits running backwards
  18. Harry Lime of The Third Man fame literally pops out of the deep shadows, from a noir-drenched doorway and into our collective consciousness after more than half of this masterpiece is done. Few entrances are as simple, but the set-up of quick-canted angle shots, the rising zither music, and damp streets are juxtaposed against Joseph Cotton’s sloppy speech and staggered movements, fusing the realist-formalistic approach of this iconic scene. Orson Welles gives us one faintly cynical smile and dissolves back into the darkness. This classic moment could - and does - easily top any list of Favo
  19. The Postman Always Rings Twice noir hook of a voice-over narration by Frank (John Garfield), with a thread of tiredness running through his stree-wise narration, is seamlessly paired with the flash-back sequence. Frank is a drifter, an idealist who is always on the lookout for “new places, new people, and new ideas”. Frank is dropped off next to a “Man Wanted” sign, wearing a worn suit and carrying a suitcase that looks like its seen better days - and places. He seems eager to fit in, “maybe my future starts right now”, but his itchy feet always keep him moving along, from one town to an
  20. Lorre’s entrance is relaxed and casual, while Greenstreet’s arrival is tense and wary. He appears to have command of the situation, since he’s holding a gun, standing smack in the middle of Lorre’s room. But the the fruits of his frantic search - the helter-skelter of objects strewn everywhere, indicates he’s not such a cool cucumber after all. Their conversation may be light and sophisticated, but Greenstreet is rattled. We notice, too that the lens is masked to create a silhouette, forcing our eyes to focus on the two men and also to highlight the importance of their initial exchange. L
  21. It’s a delight to watch both Greer and Mitchum’s entrances into the cantina, where the cinematography employs the complete tonal greyscale. One can literally count the entire range from pure white to inky black, creating a lot of visual interest. Kathie plays everything close to the chest and it’s clear she has a hidden agenda, while Jeff is open and honest to a fault, with an attitude that hints he knows it will ultimately get him in trouble. I’m reminded of Body Heat and the verbal interplay between Kathleen Turner and John Hurt when they first meet - in a bar of course. (What great
  22. The opening shot of Dark Passage reveals two hands clutching the outer rim of a San Quentin garbage can. As it furiously rocks and then rolls wildly down the side of a road, we see the spinning container from the inside of the can, rather than outside. The escaped convict scrambles out, his mind taking in his surroundings and assessing just how much time he has before he’s caught. Hitching a bumpy ride with a rather inquistive motorist only serves to heighten his already jumpy nerves. Our nerves may not be holding up so well either, thanks to the steady clip of questions and the car b
  23. Will there be more to the course than posting our responses and viewing the films? It's beginning to feel a bit isolating, rather than as an inclusive educational experience.
  24. The camera displays a full moon, swelling silver in the tropical summer heat of night, as the workers on the rubber plantation toss in discomfort, and a series of shots ring out. We’re aware it’s a noir film, so expectation is low - after all, The Letter is looking to be just another well-made thriller. Until we see a woman relentlessly pulling the trigger - and that woman happens to be Ms. Bette Davis - cinema’s grand dame. No, The Letter is not your standard gritty film noir, but a classy mystery wrapped up in secrets that director William Wyler will uncover, all in good time.
  25. I found the silence of the two train conductors compelling, as they were lurched about, surrounded by the screeching of metal wheels. Their actions indicate a long-time working relationship. The ceremonial nature of the swelling music lets me know that - for some reason - this train entering this seaport town is going to be very important. What adventure awaits these two characters? Their cramped, dark quarters are juxtaposed against the bare whiteness of their expansive surroundings, and their movements almost mimic the jerking of the levers and knobs they operate. I have to say t
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