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Everything posted by edshimp

  1. If I were to list my favorite films noir, “Criss Cross” would certainly be on the list. This is a fine scene to wrap things up. I love noir bad guys and Dan Duryea is one of the best. Another film that would be on my list of great noirs would be “Kiss of Death” (1947). It was Richard Widmark’s first film, but his character, Tommy Udo may be one of the most evil characters in film history. It wasn’t discussed in this course, but it goes to show that we have probably only scratched the surface and there is a lot more noir to indulge in. Another thing that wasn’t discussed much during this cou
  2. I think Hume Cronyn is a brilliant actor and I think he did everything he could to make this scene work but I don’t think he’s very intimidating. I love the existential theme in this scene and I certainly see how it lends itself to the noir style. On the other hand, I don’t think this film shows particularly good craftsmanship let alone art. I think the fact that we’re not shown the violence directly is more a product of the Hays code than an artistic choice. If we had a swinging lamp in this scene, or shadows on the wall perhaps, it would have been clichéd but it would have shown some crafts
  3. There is no mistaking John Huston’s hand in this film. In addition to being a great director, he was a fine artist. Aesthetically, one can break down a painting into component parts, line, shape, space, form, value, texture, color, and movement. Huston has complete control of these elements. Look at the shot where Dix hides behind the column. Every frame is a perfectly balanced photo. The vertical columns are contrasted with the railroad tracks that emphasize the perspective. The lack of color emphasizes the amazing light and dark contrast. Then he does something amazing. Dix walks right to
  4. This film is typical of Louis Malle, which is odd because Louis Malle is often thought of as a brilliant misfit. He worked in many different styles and genres and did as much work in the United States as he did in France. He was sort of a French New Wave filmmaker but not really. Some people want to call him an auteur because he had a number of brilliant films, but he didn’t really have a signature style. So how could this be a typical film for him if he doesn’t have a signature style? I think it’s typical because it defies categorization. I suppose it’s like a noir film given the jazz music,
  5. This short scene is laughable in so many ways, to point them out may be a matter of stating the obvious. I suppose the opening shot of the Salvation Army is a way of telling us that it must be December in California and that there are people in need in this otherwise bucolic town. Even though it has already been established that it is December 1918, we see a calendar to reinforce the fact. We also see a “to do” list to help establish that he is a handyman (the length of the list mysteriously grows by the time he gets inside). He then, after supposedly cleaning the screens, lackadaisically scr
  6. At the beginning of this course the question was posed as to whether film noir is a genre, movement or a style. I think it’s clear that it was a movement before it was well-formed. When The Maltese Falcon was being made, it wasn’t intentionally done in the noir style because it hadn’t been defined yet. When The Narrow Margin was made in 1952, the noir style was well established and it seems to self-consciously revel in that style. I believe that’s what brought noir to an end; it ran its course. When it transitioned from a movement, that was simply done for art’s sake, to a self-conscio
  7. Kansas City Confidential as a mock “true crime” film succeeds as a noir film chiefly because it appeals to prurient desires of the audience. Noir is at its best when the audience feels like it’s peering through a window at desperate and private moments. Throughout the history of art and literature auteurs have tried to make their stories more “real.” The challenge is in how the term “real” is defined. Michelangelo’s figures were theoretically more realistic than Egyptian statues. On the other hand, Michelangelo’s David is a gorgeous, muscular, fourteen foot tall naked guy. You don’t see to
  8. I’m not familiar with this film, so I’ll have to put it on my watch list. I usually think of John Payne as a little bit of a lightweight nice guy. It’s great to see him in this role. I suppose this scene would be a little curious for anyone who came of age after the feminist movement. This clip certainly embraces noir’s reliance on desperate character’s, but once again we see a young (possibly suburban) couple in a desperate situation. This is not unusual in post-war films. So often men, who took time out to serve their country returned jobless and skill-less and facing competition from young
  9. Yeah, it seemed to take on larger meaning to me at first, but I think he was merely indicating, "two fingers." This is how a bartender measures whiskey. (Or at least it used to be; I don't drink.) On the other hand, perhaps the director did have other intentions.
  10. Very often noir succeeds not by showing you things, but by not showing you things. It is the things that are obscured, hidden in the shadows, or happening just off-screen that the viewer finds intriguing. This is also true of plot and dialogue. Knowledge is currency in the film noir world. The plot often moves forward based on a character trying to gain knowledge from another character, or by using the knowledge they have to get the better of someone else. The viewer is intrigued by either possessing knowledge that a character doesn’t have, or by trying to solve the puzzle right along with th
  11. I’ve not seen this film, but I like the set-up. Yep, a lonely road at night is always a great start for a noir film. I think that one of the biggest distinctions between pre-war and post-war films is the portrayal of the wealthy. In the 30’s you see a lot of people who either aspire to be wealthy or would at least like to work for the wealthy. In the early 40’s, the average guy, Sam Spade for example, became the hero. But the beginning of this film hints at what will be the 50’s suburban middle class. The central character now resents the wealthy and is willing to compromise his or her ethics
  12. While I’m not the biggest Hitchcock fan (I think he has little concern for a logical plot or plausible endings), I certainly think he is worthy of his name about the title. He had great control of the mise en scène. I may be wrong about this, but my understanding is that he storyboarded every shot and rarely wavered from his well-thought-out plan. He was the king of “showing” over “telling.” One can certainly see this in the opening of “Strangers on a Train.” The credits roll over another noir archway, bright in the background and shadow in the foreground. With the U.S. Capitol visible in the
  13. It’s a short hop from existentialism to absurdism. As seen in the clips for the week, in the 1950’s noir had been stretched a bit thin and was often material for “B” pictures. That’s not to say they had no merit, but they could be made fast and cheap and with a dose or two of sensationalism, they could be profitable. It seems like 50’s noir has to have a gimmick. They seem to start in a dark, desperate place and then try to get even darker. That’s hard to do and over the years has been a great source for parody. (Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid) Sam Spade was doing just fine until Brigid O'Shaughnes
  14. Once again, there is no mistaking this film as anything but noir, but by the mid 1950’s, sensationalism superseded class. Mickey Spillane’s “Mike Hammer” was popular but plebian. Throughout history each generation of artist has endeavored to make their art more real than the generation before. In the 1930’s wealth and power was glamorized in films. Nick and Nora Charles were beloved. With the advent of noir in the 1940’s, the average guy in a tight spot (Philip Marlowe for example) became the hero. He didn’t look for trouble; trouble found him. He was cynical, but had complete allegiance to h
  15. The look and feel of this scene is so completely different from “The Postman Always Rings Twice,” that you wonder how they could both be considered noir. This scene certainly looks more European. You can certainly see the influence of German expressionism. Carol Reed certainly pushed the disconcerting camera angles to the limit. We still certainly have the noirish light and shadow too, but the real genius is the music. If the scene were supported by dark somber music, it would be too much. The happier music (and Welles bemused smile) turns it into a childlike game of hide and seek. Joseph Cott
  16. Well there’s no question that we have a noir film here. We have a drifter and a femme fatal. We have quick dialog and a diner filled with interesting shadows. We’ve already been introduced to a cop and the district attorney – you know you’re going to see them again. Of course this film demonstrates again that noirs don’t necessarily have to happen in dark city alleys. I also contend that we can read too much into these noir devices. Yeah, a lot of great noir scenes happen in nightclubs, diners, bars and other watering holes but you can really find that in any story. Whether it’s the Roman
  17. Okay, perhaps I’m flaunting my ignorance but I’m not sure I truly see the “house style” thing. Yes, I see similarities in “Mask of Dimitrios,” “The Maltese Falcon,” “To Have and Have Not,” “They Made Me a Criminal,” “White Heat,” and so on. But the same year that Warner Brothers made “Mask of Dimitrios,” they made “Shine on Harvest Moon,” “Arsenic and Old Lace,” “The Adventures of Mark Twain,” “The Desert Song,” and “Hollywood Canteen.” So perhaps we’re only seeing a studio style in retrospect. On the other hand, I have to admit that Warner Brothers made a LOT of noir crime dramas. But I sti
  18. I think the film clip from “Out of the Past” proves an important point about noir. It really isn’t about shadows or the night, noir is about stark contrasts. In this case, the sun predominates and the shadows accent the scene. I think it’s also worth noting the costumes. Mitchum’s dark suit stands in contrast to Greer’s white dress and hat. Naturally, he wears a dark suit. He’s not from Mexico, and it’s likely the only suit he owns. She clearly was prepared for the trip south and certainly out-classes him. Of course in the land of noir, the wealthy sophisticates usually see a reversal of fortu
  19. I am very glad the topic of “Spade” vs. “Marlowe” has come up. While the characters are distinct, in the films, it is Humphrey Bogart’s personality that dominates. In fact, I think Bogart’s Spade and Marlowe both have some similarities to Rick Blaine. It’s great to talk about films noir as art, but one should always keep in mind that at the time they were being made, the producers were more interested in making money than being the subject of an online course 60 years later. Bogart was cast in “The Big Sleep” because he was successful (profitable) in “The Maltese Falcon,” and the producers wo
  20. Well, I don’t really see a lot of noir here. There are a few things. There is a lot of black and white contrast in the aerial shots and in the fence shot. The credit music is very dramatic and the use of a narrator is also a noir device. It also features desperate blue collar workers. But I think all of that is stretching things significantly. The narrator is an omniscient narrator, not a first-person narrator. The scene is rural, not urban, and rather than a confined area, it is wide open. Yes, the credit music is dramatic, but the music under the narration is triumphant. Yes, the some of the
  21. “The Killers” has many classic noir elements. It features a passel of shady blue collar characters, lonely even when not alone, intense but not excited. It has high and low camera angles, lots of shadows, dramatic music, and people framed I doorways. But more than anything, light and shadow predominates. The white costumes of the counter man and the cook make it obvious that they’re innocent, and the padded-shouldered coats of the killers make it clear that they’re the “heavies.” Because films noir are often allegorical morality tales, devices that would otherwise be cornball become impactful.
  22. The ubiquitous “nightclub scenes” in films from the 40’s serve a standard narrative function. In fact, it goes back to the beginning of time in the form of gathering at the “watering hole.” Herd animals will gather together at the watering hole because it keeps them safer. Ironically, the watering hole is patrolled by predators looking for an opportunity to pounce. There have been many “watering holes” throughout history, Roman baths, open air markets, renaissance taverns, and Wild West saloons. The 40’s nightclub scene is a descendant of the 30’s speakeasy. The nightclub is the place to make
  23. Anyone who has ever acted or directed for film or stage, would easily be able to recognize how brilliantly this is staged. It would be impossible to enumerate all of the wonderful choices made here. In short, you have two equally matched titans doing battle. At the beginning of the scene, Ann Blythe, basks in her success. The scene slowly builds as each actor gives and takes to the other. Then comes the slap. During the course of a scene like this, each character will try numerous tactics to win. Ultimately, whenever a scene rises to a point of violence, there are no tactics left. The scene ha
  24. Well . . . to be honest, I see some noir attributes in the opening of this film, but nothing that I imagine was seminal or unique. Yes, the clock as a little angst and the huge contrast between light and dark are there too. The high camera angle is used to good effect. The smoke from the doctor’s pipe is a bit of a noir touch too. The biggest moment of foreboding comes when the camera zooms into the “Asylum” sign. Much the Lang land on the “Wanted” poster in “M,” it is a way of suggesting something horrible is going to happen. When this movie was made, there was little help or hope for people
  25. I think of Phillip Marlowe as the quintessential noir hero. Marlowe has his own moral code and only answers to himself. He’s a straight shooter and takes pride in his work. When he says he’ll do something, he does it. He sits in his office hoping that he doesn’t have to work. He’s always happy to pick up a little easy money, but he knows there’s no such thing. He is the ultimate reluctant hero, a hallmark of noir films. On the other hand, if someone mistakes his reluctance for apathy, they’re in for a surprise. He’s street smart and he doesn’t like people trying to pull a fast one. He can turn
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