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SamSpade41

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  1. On the surface, there's not much to this scene from The Strange Love of Martha Ivers. The cinematography gets the point across, but it's nothing to write home about. The interactions of the characters just seems to be a couple reuniting with an old friend. It's the subtext, however, where this really shines. The district attorney and his wife are somewhat nervous around Sam. The implication is that they've had a past they'd rather forget and at the very least he's bringing those memories to the surface.
  2. The opening to To Late for Tears is a perfect example of the existential themes of Film Noir. An innocent couple is roped into a dangerous situation by complete happenstance. There seems to be no greater reason why the bag of money landed in their car specifically, they were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. It's like the quote from Detour. "Some day, fate can put the finger on you."
  3. (Wow, I can't believe it took me this long to figure out I should be posting here instead of creating a new topic. I feel kind of dumb.) Alfred Hitchcock is known as the Master of suspense, and even in this simple opening scene, he does not disappoint. We identify people largely by their faces, and Hitchcock plays with this by focusing on the characters' feet here. We don't know who they are, or what they want, but the fact that we can't see their faces sparks curiosity. Hitchcock manages to set the tone for the film quite well, and accomplishes the most important job of an opening: to catch the audience's interest.
  4. In this clip from The Third Man, one thing that jumps out at the viewer is the music. More specifically, the fact that the music doesn't fit at all. It would sound more natural with a silent movie, or something like The Sting. That's what makes it brilliant. The Music drags the audience back to the core theme of Film Noir: contrast. Every Noir emphasizes contrast.
  5. Noir is an odd choice for MGM, a studio known for creating lavish musicals. MGM films tend to be crisp, clean, and well-budgeted. Hardly the cynical, dark, urban tales spun by Films Noir. Indeed, the down-and-out drifter in this scene from The Postman Always Rings Twice has a conspicuously well-ironed shirt, a clean suit, and well-combed hair, only the lack of tie providing any visual indication of his social status. Yet, this film remains a classic, in spite of, or possibly because of the all-important contrast it forms with the majority of Films Noir.
  6. Most scenes begin with some kind of entrance. A character arrives with the intention to do something, and the point of the scene is finding out whether they accomplish their goal. This is hardly unique to Noir. However, as usual Noir establishes a particular style. Here, in The Mask of Dimitrios, Leyden returns to his room, just wanting to go to bed, but discovers the room has been searched. Then, Peters, a man he'd met on the train, steps out of another room, gun in hand. This kind of sudden twist by character entrance appears frequently in Noir, like in Laura, where the supposedly-murdered titular character returns, seemingly oblivious to her own "death."
  7. Normally, Film Noir calls to mind dark city streets, chiaroscuro lighting, and shooting at night. The very name of the style means "Dark Film," or "Black Film." This scene from Out of the Past, however, is set in broad daylight. This harkens back to another core concept of Noir: Contrast. The way the scene plays out, with voiceover, snappy dialogue, and cynical overtones, is distinctly Noir, and the fact that the visual style is so bright just makes the rest seem darker by comparison.
  8. At first, two of Humphrey Bogart's best known roles, Sam Spade and Phillip Marlowe, seem fairly similar. A reluctant, wisecracking private detective is dragged into a larger conspiracy. However, they do have key differences. Raymond Chandler's description of the Noir hero as quoted in the second lecture fits Marlowe to a T, which makes sense because Chandler was Marlowe's creator. Marlowe and Spade street-smart, familiar with the criminal underworld, and in the book Marlowe speaks of being well dressed as though it's something to be ashamed of. He's cynical and flawed. However, Marlowe has a certain honor about him which the more unscrupulous Spade lacks. This is shown immediately when Carmen Sternwood deliberately falls over, and Marlowe catches her, seemingly on instinct. Sam Spade, on the other hand, seems to be willing to do anything for money. He decides to avenge Miles Archer because letting one's partner die is bad for business. Even within the most common archetype, it is possible to see a lot of variation in the Noir Hero.
  9. One cliché associated with Film Noir is the voiceover, popularized by films like Sunset Boulevard. A character from the story narrates it, providing the audience insight into their thoughts. In this clip from Border Incident, however, the voiceover is handled differently. The narrator is not a character, he is not invested in the story, and he does not any pretentions about the fact that he is narrating a film for an audience. If anything, he is more an announcer than a narrator. Yet, the voiceover was a staple of the time, popularized by Noir, if not invented by it. While this clip has little that could identify it as Noir, it is interesting to note the small Noir elements that came from or permeated other styles.
  10. In this scene from The Killers, one of the tied-up men rushes to tell the Swede that two men are out to kill him. As he runs through the city, a feeling of dread builds up, leaving the audience wondering whether he'll reach the Swede in time. The hope that he'll make it is dashed when the Swede refuses to act, but it leaves the audience wondering why he won't flee.
  11. This scene from Gilda demonstrates a trope that has appeared in film since its inception: the Nightclub scene. In many classic films, the main characters at some point enter a restaurant, bar, or nightclub. This is frequently accompanied by a music number, like the one here. The Nightclub scene plays on an even older concept: the Watering Hole. French Coffee Shops. Medieval Inns. Roman Bath Houses. Actual Watering Holes in the wild. On a primordial level, there's something appealing about that sort of social gathering place. The Nightclub scene is just one step in the evolution of the concept.
  12. Mildred Pierce is a melodrama, hardly a typical genre for Film Noir, and yet director Michael Curtiz captures the Noir style perfectly. Noir is about contrast, at its heart. Rich and poor. Corrupt and ethical. Dark and light. It's not an exact dichotomy, and the two aspects are rarely in direct opposition, but rather juxtaposed. It permeates the story, the camera work, the lighting, and the acting. Here, we see the cynical, corrupt, Veda, trying to get away from her mother, who is horrified at what her daughter is doing. As the tensions mount, the two seem to chase each other around the room. Something that only escalates it is not the contrast, but the lack of it. They look similar, they dress similarly, Veda accuses Mildred of being corrupt like her. Curtiz uses Noir-style cinematography to highlight the absence of Noir's key factor: contrast.
  13. The opening of Fritz Lang's Ministry of Fear continually draws the viewer's attention to one aspect of the scene: the clock. We are introduced to the film by the clock's ceaseless ticking. It sets the pace of the scene. It gives the audience the forboding feeling that something important will happen when the minute hand reaches 12. Tick tock, tick tock, tick tock. Fritz Lang once again gives the feeling that something bad will happen while showing nothing of the kind, much like he did in the opening of M.
  14. In this early scene of the film Murder, My Sweet, Ann Grayle pretends to be a reporter in order to fool Phillip Marlowe into giving up information about a jade necklace connected to a murder. Aside from simple panning and tracking, there are no fancy camera, lighting, or composition tricks. It's a simple scene, focusing on a less simple element: the dialogue. There's a particular kind of dialogue which is a hallmark of the Noir style. It's fast-paced, witty, often sarcastic, and meticulously written. It's not stilted or pretentious, but not as realistic as other styles. It can only be described as tight. Often, the people talking are on equal footing, rather than one putting another down, even when one of them is clearly supposed to be in the wrong. It's demonstrated perfectly here, where Marlowe picks apart Grayle's story about being a reporter, while the two trade barbs.
  15. The Opening of Laura eases the viewer into the mystery. The narrator starts by revealing that the titular Laura is dead, and then that she was murdered. However, even the narrator, ostensibly the character from whose point of view the audience sees events, is shifty and closed-lipped when questioned by the detective. The slow teasing out of information without fully explaining events builds suspense, leaving the audience wondering how Laura died.
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