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About ColeCorri

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  • Birthday September 13

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  1. From the moment Criss Cross begins we are pulled into the world of noir. In the first aerial shot of the city, we see the city at a slight angle, telling us that something is wrong. Eventually, we zoom into a dark corner of the city, almost literally entering the shadows. Our lovers were hiding in the shadows, but are suddenly brightly illuminated by the headlights of a car. They break apart, and the dialogue soon informs us of why: they are secret lovers, hiding from Anna’s husband. In traditional noir style, we are dropped into the story with the plot already in motion. There is clearly something going down tomorrow; the audience doesn’t know exactly what, but it is clear that it is something dangerous. Our two lovers are lit, but there are shadows all around their faces, indicating that there is a darkness that surrounds them. When the scene cuts to Slim, the audience knows instantly that this is Anna’s husband, since he is asking where “she” went. Even though he is in a casual pose, with his hands in his pockets, it is clear that he is a dangerous man. With his white suit coat, he draws the audience’s eye immediately. He is shot from a low angle and is speaking to a much shorter man, all making him physically imposing. He is clearly a force with which to be reckoned. Anna passes through several shadows on her was to Slim, indicating that Slim can be found “in the shadows” as well. To further emphasize this we see the shadows of the dancers around him falling on his white jacket. He towers over her. He is sharp with everyone with whom he interacts, and it’s clear that he is not a man that one wants to cross. Without knowing what Steve and Anna’s plan is, we can already see how dangerous it could turn out to be.
  2. As many others have pointed out, the music lays a key role in this scene. For me, it actually makes the violence all the more jarring to hear this classical music playing during such a brutal beating. Often classical music is used to indicate a cultured, intellectual individual, but that is obviously not the case here. The beating actually ebbs and flows to the music, almost as if it is some kind of strange dance. Just a few slaps by the captain are shown, but it’s enough to plant the image into the viewer’s head. As he goes around the room the dread builds as he closes the shades and puts the rubber tube on the desk. We see the first hit with the tube, but we don’t see it land. Instead we see all the men outside the office, listening to each hit and doing nothing. When the worst of beating occurs, after the music has been turned up, we see and hear nothing, but we know exactly what is happening. The irony of a framed picture of the captain in uniform, looking on, is noted in this section. The end is equally disturbing, as the captain washes his hands, as if he can simply “wash away” what he has just done; he doesn’t feel the horror of what he has just done at all. Again, many have noticed how this scene from Brute Force connects to the existentialist themes. There is a sense of dread throughout the scene as Louis is helpless in the Captain’s hands. He is powerless, as are the men just outside the door, to stop the beating. Many others have discussed parallels to Fascism in this scene, which also marks it of the time. However, there is also an undercurrent of sexuality to the scene. The Captain is almost in state of undress, wearing only an undershirt throughout the scene. There is also some…interesting placement of the rubber tube; at times it is very clearly a phallic symbol. The violence is linked with the Captain’s manhood.
  3. This scene reminded me of The Set-Up as well. Beatings are always far worse when they are left to your imagination. Great point about the sadistic pleasure on Burr's face as well. He stood and watched with almost a black face, but there did seem to be a hint of pleasure there as well.
  4. The cinematography in this clip carries a great deal of meaning in it. The entire scene takes place in a very dark, claustrophobic space. It’s clear who has the power in this scene without a word being spoken. Even though there is a large doorway behind the crooks, they are always between Steve and the door. They are also always filmed from below, making them large and imposing, while Steve is always shot from above, making him seem smaller and more helpless. He also spends most of the scene in a physically lower position than the others, emphasizing how much power they have over him. Even though we see very little of the beating, the scene is very effective in making us feel the beating along with Steve. When the beating starts, the fact that the lamp starts moving back and forth makes the whole scene a bit disorienting. The viewer can only catch glimpses of the violence, but from the sounds heard, it’s not difficult to picture what is going on. The few extreme close-ups of the fist and the broken bottle serve to further disorient the viewer. It is almost impossible to focus on either object when the frame is so tight on them. The faces of the crooks are never in full light, even before the lamp starts moving. They are almost always at least half in shadow, while Steve doesn’t have shadows on his face, except when he is plunged into shadow. The fact that the shadows are encroaching upon him emphasizes his perilous position. The various aspects of the cinematography all work together to paint a clear picture of a man in a very dangerous, desperate situation.
  5. The opening moments of The Asphalt Jungle set up the conflict of a single man versus the police. The location appears to be in the seedy side of town, since the buildings are rather shabby and non-descript. The streets are deserted except for a single man and a police car. The music and police radio suggest that the policemen in the car are looking for someone. Finally, we see a lone figure walking the streets. As we watch this him travel the streets, the buildings around him dwarf him. He seems to be nothing more than a tiny speck. All this makes him seem rather insignificant and powerless. Even though he is in city, he feels very isolated from his surroundings. He hides behind one of the tall pillars of a building as the police go by, so the viewer knows that he has been up to no good. He remains small until he enters the bar. Clearly, he has been in this situation before, since the bartender immediately hides his gun and covers for him when the police enter a few moments later. Still, he gets hauled in, for seemingly no reason and put in a stacked line-up. The three criminals enter and they look nothing alike. A voice announces for what each man was arrested, making it clear that there is no way these other two men were involved in the robbery. Dix stands out in this line-up. No longer standing amongst tall buildings, it is clear that he is a very tall man; he towers over the other men in the line-up. To emphasize his outsider status, he doesn’t even stand in front of the measuring lines on the wall. Instead, he is just off to the side of the lines, glowering at the people viewing the line-up. When we see the victim of the crime, it is clear that he is caught between two people trying to influence him. The policeman seems to be trying to bully him into identifying Dix, while Dix is giving him a look that is clearly an attempt to intimidate him. Ultimately, Dix wins as the man looks down and claims to not see the man who robbed him. Without hearing Dix say a word, we have started to get a pretty good idea of the kind of man he is and what his life has been like.
  6. This scene from Kansas City Confidential does place a great deal of emphasis on time. There are many shots of the face of a clock or the face of a watch. There is even a clock above the door to the bank. There are people (the delivery man, the armed guards) who are clearly running on a schedule. There is also a crowd of people gathering at the door of the bank, reminding the audience difference just a minute can make. They must wait until the door is opened at exactly 10:00. The purpose of this is made clear when the viewer is shown a schedule of the coming and goings around the bank just prior to and immediately after opening. All of the focus on time gives the opening a feeling of tension, and this tension is probably one of the reasons the heist film can be such a good fit for a noir. Film heists usually involve very complex and precise plans that need to be executed perfectly for the heist to succeed. This is fertile ground to explore some of the common themes and goals of a noir. First, a criminal attempting a heist needs to be intelligent and a good leader. The fact that the criminal protagonist will have many admirable qualities makes it easier for the audience to sympathize or even identify with a main character who is a criminal. Heists are also often planned to be non-violent, which also makes the criminals perpetrating them more sympathetic. All of this helps to place your audience on the side of the criminals, not the police. Second, as I stated before, heists involve complicated plans that leave plenty of room for things to go wrong. Many noirs deal with the idea that fate can step in at anytime and change someone’s life (generally for the worse). Heists leave plenty of opportunities for fate to lay to waste one man’s best-laid plans. It also emphasizes, as many noirs do, that we live in a chaotic world in which many events are the result of random chance (or fate, depending on your viewpoint). Even if the heist is successful, heists usually require a group of people to be pulled off successfully. This provides another possible hitch in the plan, since it is difficult to know whom to trust. All it takes is for one member of the group to get greedy and everything can fall apart. This explores another common theme in noirs: people are not always what they seem. In the noir universe it can be difficult to know who to trust or what people’s true motivations are. The heist film provides a group of criminals who must work together in a high stress environment, a great set up to look at the lesser aspects of human nature.
  7. There is a definite change in energy between the opening scene of the fight and the part we see on television. The first part of the scene puts the viewer in the middle of the action. At times the viewer feels like he or she is in the ring with the fighters, and other times, like he or she has a front row seat to the fight. The camera work is dynamic and the cheering crowd almost drowns out the announcer. Once we cut to the fight on the television, everything becomes very static; the camera doesn’t move as much. Gone are the close-ups as well; we view the fighters in a long shot. The action is even in slow motion with no sound other than the announcer’s voice. Soon, the camera pans back so that our image of the fight gets smaller as well, as we see the television on which it is playing, and, eventually, even Ernie watching himself. Everything in the second part of the scene distances the viewer from the visceral action of the fight. When we get to the discussion between Ernie and Pauline, we see a wife similar to Jane in Too Late for Tears. Pauline is obviously unhappy with their social status and blames her husband for not earning enough to put them at the top of the heap. Unlike the American Dream of being able to work your way up in society, Pauline looks down on any kind of work. Instead of marrying a champion boxer, she ended up with a has-been, someone who came close to making it, but failed. The viewer gets the feeling that she probably only married him because she thought that he was going places. Now that he is just a regular guy, struggling to make ends meet, she wishes she could have her choice over again. The pressure that Pauline places on Ernie to make money fast or he will lose her is what really pushes this scene towards noir. The only way to make that much money that quickly is generally by doing something illegal, so if Ernie wants to keep his wife, he will have to do something desperate.
  8. In our “Summer of Darkness” we’ve come across several films noir that are set in non-urban areas. Some, like On Dangerous Ground, send our lead character away from the “dangerous ground” of the city to find redemption. Others, however, focus on the idea of danger invading a small town, like The Stranger or The Killers. The Strange Love of Martha Ivers appears to fall into the latter category, as it is the arrival of a Sam that is clearly going to bring out the darker sides the characters are hiding beneath a façade of respectability. The scene makes it clear that Walter and Sam have a prickly relationship. Walter seems to be physically trying to assert his dominance in the scene, looming over Sam at times, sitting higher than him, and invading his personal space. That all changes once the Walter offers Sam a drink and we learn what Sam wants. The way that Sam calmly states to Walter that he’ll get the girl out of jail, “for old time’s sake,” suggests blackmail; Sam appears to have knowledge of something that Walter would like to keep hidden. The dynamic between the two men becomes even more strained when Martha enters. She seems to share none of her husband’s dislike of Sam. Instead, she and Sam form a couple visually, while her husband is excluded. After they embrace, he slinks out of the frame, leaving the two together. Walter is next seen with a drink in his hand, showing his dislike of the situation. Martha’s tone is much more upbeat when talking to Sam than when talking to her husband. Her tone and body language indicate that she is not happy with her husband. Martha and Sam seem to share a history together as well, one that Martha doesn’t seem to want to discuss fully in front of her husband. They also are in close physical proximity, if not touching the entire time they are in the room together. Everything about their interaction suggests intimacy. When Walter reenters the frame, he is still physically separated from the other two by the desk, and they dominate the frame. Even after Sam leaves, we see the couple on opposing sides of the frame, indicating an adversarial relationship.
  9. Too Late for Tears is a bit unusual from the other films noir we’ve watched in that it features a married couple. Although the scene opens with one of the noir staples, that of the lone man in the shadows, we soon change our focus to a married couple. They are not criminals, just a regular married couple having a disagreement. Soon, however, we are going to see the birth of a femme fatale, right before our eyes. It’s clear from the discussion in the car that Jane would like to improve their social status. Her husband is completely unaware that they are lacking in anything, but she feels acutely that they are socially inferior to the couple that they are going to visit. Her struggle to convince Alan to turn back leads to a case of mistaken identity and a bag of money is thrown into the backseat of their car. The money in the bag would put to rest their social anxiety, and the moment the bag is opened, we see Jane take charge as she slides into the driver’s seat, both literally and figuratively. As she drives away from the car for which the money was actually intended, she barely gives her husband enough time to get into the car. Her power is emphasized by the fact that he rides in the backseat now, as his wife manages to shake the car off their tail. Jane is a lot like some of the other women we’ve met in films noir; she feels trapped in her life and, now that she’s married, she can’t really do anything to raise her income on her own. The suitcase provides her with her one chance to change things and it’s clear that she will do anything it takes to ensure that the money stays hers. I felt that this film is critiquing the materialistic values that were really taking hold in this time period. After the war ended, many goods were available that hadn’t been available during the war. It was almost every citizen’s patriotic duty to keep the economy growing by purchasing new items. This was also a time of advancements, so that people were purchasing new inventions like television sets, clothing and jewelry, household appliances, cars, and even houses themselves at a fast rate. What a family owned was increasingly a way to show off their social status. Jane’s obsession with wealth is a product of this “American” mindset.
  10. I have to admit that to me, the films of Alfred Hitchcock are almost a genre in and of themselves. While I do think that some can be considered noirs, he had such a distinctive style, both visually and thematically, that his films are just identifiably his. The opening of Strangers on a Train has what could be a very noir opening. As others have stated, there is a focus on the feet and legs of our two main characters, much like the opening of Kiss Me Deadly and The Hitch-Hiker. It could also be seen as similar to the opening of D.O.A., where we follow a man who is nothing more than an outline of a man through the opening credits. Like Frank in that scene, here are two men who are headed to a very specific place, one that will change the course of their lives. However, these men don’t exist in the shadows or feel isolated from their surroundings. Even from just their feet you can see the distinct personalities of these two men emerging. What makes this scene stand out, however, is some of the Hitchcockian touch. The feeling of dread that permeates the openings of all the other aforementioned films is absent here. The music has an almost whimsical tone that seems as if it is setting up the meeting of the leads in a romantic comedy. One aspect that sets Hitchcock films apart from many of the other noirs is his rather droll sense of humor, clearly evidenced in his choice of music. It is the start of a sexual attraction that we are seeing here, even if it couldn’t be dealt with openly in the script. The romantic comedy-ish set up subtly places that thought into the viewer’s mind, perhaps without them even being explicitly aware of it at this point. I can’t help but feel that the use of this music was a little joke on Hitchcock’s part. There is also comedy in the actions of Bruno, i.e. him encouraging Guy to get back to his reading, even though it is clear to the audience that he will be interrupting him again in a moment. This also serves to distract the audience from the more predatory moves that Bruno makes. While Hitchcock was very good at creating suspense, he has chosen to almost misdirect the viewer up to this point, saving the suspense for later. The there are a few subtle clues of the more ominous events to come is the slight change in music when we see the train lock onto its course. That is a more typical noir moment, as it shows that our two leads are now locked into their collision course and are now headed towards the fate that this chance meeting will bring. This is a very noir use of the train metaphor (like Double Indemnity). The other clue of what is to come can be seen in the traditional venetian blind shadows that are often used in noir. It is significant that these shadows fall on Bruno, but not on Guy.
  11. All four of the opening scenes that we saw this week thrust the viewer into the middle of the action. While Kiss Me Deadly is probably the most disorienting, we begin each with someone on a journey, with no idea of his or her destination. Each creates a sense of danger or dread right from the start, as well. In D.O.A. in particular, all through the credits we follow an outline of a man who is headed towards a very specific destination. The viewer is left to wonder where this man is going and what he will do when he gets there. The music contributes to a sense of anxiety and amplifies this seemingly never-ending march towards…something. It is here that we see many of the existential motifs mentioned in Porfirio’s monograph emerging. All through this scene, Frank stands apart from the other people. He is often alone in walk, but even when he encounters others, they are often with someone else or a part of a group. We see their faces, but Frank remains a mystery. Even when he is taken to “the man in charge,” He is on the opposite side of the desk from the two detectives. It is clear that he is a very isolated man. When he tells the detectives that he has been murdered, we see the “man under sentence of death.” Frank does not seem emotional about this fact; he seems to have accepted that he is a dead man. Even this early n the film we get a sense of Frank having made a bit of the existential choice that Porfirio describes, as he his now clearly living in world that is not conventional, even if he did not choose to enter it. This opening scene also brings home the absurdity of the world. A man walks into the police station and tells the man in charge of the homicide department that he was murdered last night. To the audience, this is shocking. The detective, however, takes this news in stride; he is prepared for Frank’s story and simply finds the appropriate paperwork to notify San Francisco. Despite the absurdity of the situation, both he detectives and Frank seem to be trying to create some kind of order and reason out of what seems to be a completely unnatural situation.
  12. I really enjoyed The Big Clock, but, like you, I didn't fell like it was really noir. To steal Foster Hirsch's term, I felt that it was more noir-stained than actual noir. It had elements of it, but it was a bit too light-hearted for me to consider it true noir. You are right in saying that George Stroud seemed to be having too much fun; he wasn't your typical tormented noir hero. The film was definitely a comment on the corruption of big business, which seems to fit very well into the world of noir, but tonally, it just didn't seem in line with other films noir. On a random note, did they ever explain why Louise Patterson was trying to buy her own painting? I loved the humor Elsa Lanchester brought to the role, but I was unclear about that point. I thought perhaps there was a line explaining it that I missed because I was focused on something else.
  13. Having just watched the opening scene from Kiss Me Deadly immediately before watching this scene from The Hitch-Hiker, I was struck by how different the two scenes are, despite the similarities between them. On the surface, they have many things in common. Both scenes involve picking up a hitchhiker from a darkened street, both of who are trying to make an escape and harboring a dark secret. Both scenes also set a menacing atmosphere for the film to follow, but it is here that I feel they begin to diverge in an important way. Kiss Me Deadly’s opening scene is all about confusion and nothing being what it seems. Christina is never a shadowy figure in this scene; she is always illuminated, even when it seems that there shouldn't be a light source shining directly on her. In fact, she appears to be trying to escape the darkness. The audience doesn’t suspect that she is possibly a danger herself until it is revealed that she escaped from the institution, which is another way the film pulls the rug out from under the viewers’ feet in this opening scene. This scene very clearly lets the audience know that anything can happen in the story that is to follow. The Hitch-Hiker, on the other hand, sets a very different tone while bring us into a dangerous world. From the moment we see a man’s legs, the lighting and music let us know that he is dangerous. Even the glare of the oncoming headlights doesn’t illuminate him for the audience. Even in the car, he is a dark shadow, an ominous presence, in the backseat. The first time anything about him becomes clear, it is the glint of light off of his gun that we see. He enters the light to take charge of the car, but soon sinks back into an eerie half-light, where half of his face is illuminated and the other is in total blackness, suggesting some kind of split in the man. For the rest of the scene, he prefers the shadows, only coming out of them when he needs something. Unlike Kiss Me Deadly, it is clear from where the danger is coming in The Hitch-Hiker. It is random chance that drew these men into this criminal’s path, and, as others have pointed out, they are being punished for doing a good deed; this world is unfair, but it is less chaotic than that world in Kiss Me Deadly. At least in this film the audience knows where they stand.
  14. The opening scene of Kiss Me Deadly sets up many of the themes common to film noir. The opening is disorienting; the first thing the viewer sees is a pair of legs running down a dark street. To make things even more intriguing, we notice that this woman is barefoot. The film plunges the viewer into the middle of the action, placing them in a world that is confusing and difficult to understand. The woman appears to be frightened and running away from something, but we don’t know what. The audience begins to dread whatever is lurking out there in the darkness as well, even though we don’t know of what we are afraid. There is a tremendous feeling of desperation and anxiety coming from this mysterious woman. She is so desperate to get away that she is willing to risk being hit by the next car, just to make it stop. Of course, when we meet Mike, he is a variation of a type we’ve seen before: the cynical man who appears to have seen it all. He does not seem terribly surprised to meet this strange woman in the middle of nowhere, and is mostly annoyed that she almost caused him to wreck his car. He allows her to get in, but continues to be rather cruel to her, instead of trying to comfort the upset woman. Even the opening credits are disorienting and confusing. They break with most conventions in two main ways. The first is the obvious choice to run the credits backwards. By running them in the reverse order that the audience is used to, they are, at first, difficult to process. The viewers have to adjust before they make sense; they also clue the viewer into the fact that, as the opening scene shows, this film is not starting “at the beginning” of the story it is telling. The second break with convention in these credits is the fact that the song playing can barely be heard over the woman’s labored breathing. Usually, the credits roll before the story and a song is played, often the theme song of the film, until the story begins. In this film, Nat King Cole can barely be heard, his smooth voice standing in marked contrast to the choppy breathing of the mysterious woman. Finally, the audience becomes even more confused by the revelation that the mysterious woman has escaped from an institution. Since the audience is encouraged to sympathize with her in this opening scene, it makes the situation even less clear. Were we wrong to hope that she would escape? Can she be trusted? Mike, however, remains unfazed and helps her get past the police. Is it because of a dislike of authority? At this point nothing is clear and the audience doesn’t know whom to trust. In this respect, Mike Hammer gets quite a different entrance than some of the other detectives we’ve meet, such as Phillip Marlowe. At the start of The Big Sleep, Marlowe was entering a murky world, but he was the audience’s guide; it was clear that the audience should trust him. Mike Hammer is just another piece in the confusing world at this point.
  15. The Third Man is one of my favorite films, and this scene is a prime example of why. The film itself, like this scene, is an interesting mix of realism and formalism. It begins like the viewer is about to watch a documentary, before transitioning into the narrative of the film itself. Much of the film is shot on location, capturing the look and feel of post-World War II Vienna, yet Reed chose to film in a very formalistic way, with much of the story being told through directorial choices such as camera angles and lighting. Reed even had to have the streets sprayed with water to capture the striking reflection of the streetlights on the street below. This specific scene has one of the most memorable entrances in film history. The whole film has served to build a great deal of curiosity in the viewer as to who Harry Lime really is. The meowing cat draws Holly’s attention (and, thus, the viewer’s) to the darkened doorway. The cut to the door is a bit jarring, since there is no establishing shot to tell us where this doorway is. Additionally, the camera is at a bit of an angle, so the shot feel off-kilter. It’s a long shot, so we can just see something in the frame next to the cat. It is hard to tell exactly what we are seeing at first glance, but it appears to be a pair of feet. With the cut back to Holly, we can situate ourselves a bit more in the scene as he turns around to look at the doorway. There is a shot from even farther away that is level, but the next time we go back to the doorway, we are at an angle again. The next time we go to the doorway, we are much closer and focused on the cat, with a man’s legs clearly visible behind it, but the frame is still slightly askew. We cut to the darkened window, waiting to see what will happen next until the light goes on and the light from above perfectly illuminates the man’s face. The rest of the frame remains dark, but the face of Orson Welles is brightly illuminated directly in the center of the frame. After a bit of cutting between the three people (Harry, Holly, and the woman at the window), we zoom in closer until Harry’s face dominates the screen and then, much to our surprise, he smiles. Our shots of Holly are still askew, suggesting his disorientation at discovering that his friend is still alive. The light disappears as the woman leaves her window, throwing the doorway into complete darkness. Somehow, almost as if by magic, Harry manages to leave the doorway and runs down the street. The only trace of him is the sound of his footsteps, which were hidden by the noise of the passing car. The scene is shot at quite sharp and crooked angles throughout the chase scene, keeping the viewer as off-balance as Holly’s emotions. The only other glimpse we catch of Harry before he disappears again is his shadow. Interestingly, Holly does not cast the same large shadow when he follows Harry’s path, a subtle clue to the viewer that Harry has a dark side that Holly doesn’t. When we realize that Harry has disappeared, the kiosk dominates the frame. It is in the center of the frame, and the light that surrounds it draws the viewer’s eye. Therefore, we are not surprised to learn in the next part of the scene that it enabled Harry to make his escape. Even though we did not see much of Harry in his first appearance, the viewer is left curious and wanting to see more of this charismatic man.
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