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About Bogiefan1958

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  1. Likely most of us are aware the first four films discussed in the 'Summer of Darkness: Investing Film Noir' class are scheduled to play on TCM tomorrow. DVR's everyone! The first film starts early at 6AM EST. While the intro's we are viewing are great for discussion, what better way to compare and contrast Noir styles than to watch these films in their 'entirety.'
  2. Opening scene… The slow panning of the camera belies what comes next; night-time, tropical locale, nothing stirring. Then, as if to reduce our intrigue, our vantage opens further to the entry way to the main plantation home. We are able to relax just a bit as if we are soon to be privy to an after-dinner conversation. Thankfully, nothing that boring l is in the offing. Rather a man staggers out of the entry way followed by Bette Davis who has obviously shot the man and now continues to do so. Bette Davis doesn’t simply shoot her assailant then run off in some school girl tizzy. No she’s committed to his demise, her eyes fiery in near derangement. She’s ticked!! And once he’s down our tortured temptress continues shooting her lover in near execution style. After a bit of composure, Davis defiantly places herself as victim daring anyone to consider the circumstances otherwise. As an aside, I think this particular projection from Bette Davis is the main gear in her acting wheel-house and speculate this persona is a reflection of her real fiery self. Essentially, I view this as her trademark. Of course, the film would not be noir if there weren’t a twist or two and this film certainly has its share. Unlike ‘La Bete Humaine’ this intro moves smoothly to the opening shooting scene, whereas, the former built viewer imbalance through a juxtaposing of scene intensity; near frenetic versus the ordinary. Interesting to note is the climax of each; the shooting versus the train arriving at the station. The latter is anti-climactic relatively and I think this may be the take away from the week’s selection. Noir isn’t a formula for directors to follow, but as with many situations if life, a guideline or reference with which to play. Not all Noir is the same as a vehicle just as not all cars look alike. Yet, all noir, seemingly, affords us mystery, intrigue, desire, and even morality, at times. While these are perhaps the banal elements of Noir we are fortunate to enjoy the Noir canvas (no pun intended) on which many paintings have been made… and thankfully so. This begs a larger question though. Where has film Noir gone? Did our collective interests as movie goers change? Did technology change eroding a Noir fundamental? Did the typical age of movie goers change such that Noir no longer held its calling card? Likely, in post-war America all the above had apart along with a few other considerations. In all I hope the answer is more complex than ‘simply the influence of Walt Disney.’
  3. Opening scene… The train in motion pulls the viewer into the scene and, thereby, the movie. I’m sure this is done purposefully much like the opening in the first Indiana Jones movie with the rolling boulder. I certainly remember seeing the IJ intro for the first time and thinking it was the best movie intro I had ever seen and, at once, realized I had literally moved forward towards the edge of my seat. But this seems to be the intent of action introductions; that being the immediate enthrallment into a movie and, hopefully, an escape for a time from the doldrums of ordinary life; entertainment, in other words. To our film clip, there is a near frenetic pace switching back and forth between the exterior train views and that of the interactions of the two train engineers. I feel much can be read into this. Most certainly this was an editing choice which puts the viewer directly on the train and in a moment or two… in a pitch black tunnel. The tunnel scene, which solidifies our personal involvement (no one looked away did they?) in the intro, adds uncertainty to what might lie ahead; pitch black representing the unknown. Only after a second or two are we able to focus on the faint light of the approaching tunnel exit. If we stretch a bit, (or maybe not) one could interpret the exterior shots where the engineers look ahead as a scuttle attempt towards getting the viewer to anticipate what is coming; the unknown or what is uncertain. For me, it was the dichotomy of the two scenes with respect to there pace. The interior scene was more calm or everyday while the exterior scenes were more uneasy; the wobbly train, the quick wind made apparent by the train smoke, and the bleakness of the surrounds. This imbalance suggests something uncertain or less than serene is about to unfold. This scenario is, of course, played out as the film progresses through the storyline of deceit and murder. All of these visual cues, including the requisite gritty B & W film perspective, portend coming mystery and intrigue creating what could be a great introduction for almost any mystery movie, but especially for one that depicts mans lesser qualities; a film noir fundamental. While a coal burning train is dirty by nature it provides another scuttle cue towards the gritty drama to unfold. Yet, one doesn't need look past the title which translated means “The Human Beast” to see where this story is likely heading. From this it is easy to see why this film genre was aptly named when considering most of these 'black film portrayals of societal ills' have as a storyline mans lesser qualities. Sprinkle that with some quick dry humor and/or bravado, and present it with the ubiquitous ‘in your face’ gritty quality indigenous to B & W film styling’s and you have what I feel are the hallmarks of the film noir genre. As for the opening, I can see how this would be a captivating and memorable scene for those who have seen the movie, especially in its day, just as the Indiana Jones rolling boulder intro has been for me.
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