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Kasia Drzewiecka

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About Kasia Drzewiecka

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  1. Diagonal, aerial view of the city at night, close-ups of Steve and Anna, two-shots of Steve and Anna and the classic scheme – a married woman who, together with her lover, wanted to escape from her obnoxious husband. And, as Burt Lancaster is a typical Hemingway hero, I presume Steve is going to pay the price... The Daily Doses were an extremely helpful part of this course. There are so many wonderful movies to see and the Doses encouraged me to watch them, one by one. Investigating all those underlying meanings, hidden motives and dealing with all the noir emotions and background was a great and thrilling adventure. What's more – now I'm going to spread the news and simply share the mysterious world of film noir with my friends. Prof. Edwards and the Canvas Crew – I humbly thank you for the opportunity of the cognition of the means and motives of film noir Best wishes from Poland!
  2. I really don't like seeing Hitler in every appearance of Wagner's music. Wagner is really something more and older than that nazi cook. I agree it is a perfect background for gestapo-like beating here, but it is still a cliche. Well, maybe Captain Mussey is just pretentious. As soon as we see Mussey without a shirt we know there's going to be „a bloody massacre”. All those preparations – closing the roller-blinds, placing a billy club on the desk are supposed to terrify the man that is about to be interrogated. Mussey thinks he is so sophisticated, so exceptional, so powerful. And the truth is he is a plain sociopath. And as almost always – people see/hear it and no one does a thing. The „highest” form of protest is walking away. That's the way the SYSTEM works. And using the term „fascist” to every brute psycho is really an exaggeration. I understand the context of 1947, but the postwar era is not only the reminiscence of nazism, it's also the beginning of the witch-hunt for commies and as we all know Dassin was one of the victims of the unfamous blacklisting. The unjustified violence, sociopaths with power are unfortunately universal issues. It happens in every country, in every nation, but we still use the same cliches today...
  3. Our hero, Steve Randall, is in a very unpleasant position. A bunch of cold-hearted thugs wants to frame him up for murder. They beat him badly and when he still opposes, the boss – Walt, uses the final argument – Steve's wife. He threatens he will cut her up. This scene is as noir as hell! The room is dark and small, it gives us the feeling of entrapment. The camera angles show Steve sitting while the thugs are standing, showing their obvious advantage. The low, wide-angle close-ups of Walt make him even more dangerous. He is in the shadows, like a dark, brute force of evil. Steve tries to defend himself, stands up, but he is withheld with a punch so strong that it hit the lamp which started to swing. That swinging overhead lamp in a completely dark room is purely formalistic. Just like the close-ups of Walt's fist and the broken bottle – the instruments of violence, seen from the POV. One of the thugs stares significantly at Walt while the others are beating Steve – we don't see the actual beating, we only hear it, but we know who's in charge and who decides when to stop. Steve's position became hopeless as soon as Walt mentioned his wife... This is the only thing they „got” on him. And now he is really desperate.
  4. The city is empty, deserted or maybe it's just early. The decaying world of concrete, very gritty, unpleasant, uncongenial. We see a man (Dix) who is obviously hiding from the police car, probably a fugitive. He does not panic, it's his world. Dix hides behind the white pillars and then gets to a small diner, the owner of the joint hides his gun in the cash register – he's probably part of the scheme. It looks like he is the man that robbed Hotel de Paris. The police drops in and books Dix for vagrancy, not possesing a gun. The lineup is a joke – the suspects see the witness and it's obvious the witness would be too afraid to point out the villain. Dix is staring coldly at the witness who is clearly intimidated. And the choice of suspects – the only tall guy was Dix! Guess the police tries to manipulate the whole thing also. No place for justice here. It's the law of the jungle, no place for the weak. The scene is very realistic, documentary style. Loneliness, hopelessness, anxiety – we can feel it in the air. The facial expressions of Dix and the witness, the hard-boiled dialogue and the overall atmosphere of despair tell us this is the city of crime and corruption. Dix is a nowhere man. No occupation, but has a criminal record and probably does not now any other way. A typical anti-hero, cool-headed, cynical, strong.
  5. Do you see evidence, even in the film's opening scenes, for Foster Hirsch's assessment that the dialogue in this film sounds like a "parody of the hard-boiled school" or that "noir conventions are being burlesqued"? These men are definetely tired, maybe it's the journey, maybe the case, maybe both. The dialogue is not bad and has some sarcastic moments. It's not Marlowe of course, but not a parody also. What seems strange is that the younger guy (who is supposed to be the tough guy) cares so much about the luggage or his partner's coat. They act like 2 salesmen on a business trip. What are some of the major noir elements in this film's opening, and do they seem to be variations on similar elements we have encountered in other noir films from the mid to late 1940s? Once again we see and hear the train, but this time there's no music. And that makes it neat and raw. 2 men came from LA to deal with something or someone – the business is no pleasure. The older guy tries to introduce some small talk, the other one seems bitter. It's like another routine job. We feel no tension. Of course there's dark lighting, shadows, smoke.
  6. In what ways does Miles Davis' score (improvised while watching scenes from the movie) work with and contribute additional layers of meaning to Louis Malle's visual design? At first I thought they were talking through a prison phone Florence was so passionately promising Julien that she won't leave him that I thought he is in some real trouble. But it seems that this well-situated pair decided to leave everything behind and escape together. What a passionate romance it is... Davis' music fits perfectly to this atmosphere filled with passion and sexual tension. It slow, steamy and simply sensual. Going back to our original discussions of jazz on the film noir style, what is it about the "idioms of jazz" that resonate so well with the style and substance of film noir? Jazz is really emotional. It covers and expresses all the noir feelings involved: passion, melancholy, rage, sadness, despair, madness. It's mostly improvised, unpredictable, vivid.
  7. Describe the noir elements, in terms of style and substance, in this opening sequence. The man opens the door and sees the woman, lying on the floor, probably dead. He's terrified, shocked. We actually think he will go for help, call the police, but he flees instead and jump into the first train passing by. We are really puzzled, because we know he didn't do it. Maybe he is an escaped convict and is afraid to be involved? Maybe some bad people are chasing him and he realizes they have just found him? The man is not scared, he is really terrified. Hmm, maybe a war veteran with psychosis and seeing another dead body caused such panic? He didn't even turned off the water! What do you make of the film opening with the Salvation Army band playing and the prominent Salvation Army sign in that first shot? The Salvation Army means charity and this guy seemed to be helping this lady so maybe it tells us that he is a good guy, an innocent man and a victim of circumstances. He seems to be rather gentle and caring. What's more it suggests that this is a quiet town where such things are not common, they rather shock the community. Even though it is set in 1918, how does this scene reveal some of the typical noir themes of the 1950s? Typical noir theme of the 50's in this picture is fear, paranoia, panic and war trauma.
  8. Discuss the role of time and timing in this scene. Perfect timing is always good for robbers and bad for bankers. Sometimes „routine bites hard” - being predictable makes you a great target. The man is preparing a heist and is very precise. He thinks of everything – every piece of this puzzle must be in the same place. He is a perfectionist, probably cold and calculated. No wonder it was a perfect crime, as the introduction said. What are the film noir elements (style or substance) that you notice in the opening of this film? The introduction reminds a documentary – it suggests that this is the story of „the one that got away”. The man observes the bank from the upper window – low angle shot and a glimpse at the city. We see clocks and watches and feel the importance of time. And finally we see a criminal planning a heist. And we are waiting with anticipation for the results. Why is a heist a good subject for a film noir to tackle? Put another way, how or why might a film that involves a heist affect or change what we think about criminals and/or criminal behavior on screen? We love the ones that got away. We cheer Bonnie and Clyde and others. And if something is perfectly planned we even admire it. As long it does not affects us – we enjoy it.
  9. Compare and contrast how director Karlson shoots and stages the boxing scene as a contrast of styles between cinema and television. Karlson is trying to convince us that cinema has richer view, POV and viewer's stronger engagement. TV is no competition, even with slow motion. It can be technically more advanced, but it is cinema that touches our souls. Discuss the scene's social commentary in the interactions between Ernie (John Payne) and Pauline (Peggie Castle). What are some of the noir elements in this scene, either in terms of style or substance? Dissapointment. Pauline is dissapointed with Ernie who was supposed to provide her with goods and a better life, Ernie is dissapointed with Pauline who does not support him enough. Once again unfulfillment, disillusionment and rejection. Pauline is angry and does not show love, but contempt. She will probably want to leave Ernie who still is hoping for turning of the tide. Pauline crushes his hopes and does not believe he will do any good. She accuses Ernie of not being able to overcome his not so glorious past. The man is literally castrated and the movie shows what a crisis in masculinity actually looks like. Once a puncher, now is permanently punched.
  10. Discuss the scene in terms of its acting and staging. In this brief scene, what do you see as the interpersonal relationships between Sam (Heflin), Walter (Douglas), and Martha (Stanwyck)? If you have seen the entire film, avoid larger points about the plot, and focus simply on what you are seeing just in this scene. They have mutual past, that is obvious. Walter is probably in some kind of debt to Sam and that is why Sam is so sure Walter will help him. Sam and Martha must have been in love, there is still a slight tension between them. Martha seems suprised with Sam's arrival sensing incoming troubles. Walter also does not seem pleased, the last thing he needs now is disturbance (he has the elections on his mind). Sam is up to something, for sure. From this early scene, what are some of the noir themes that you expect will play out in this film? Martha might become femme fatale and „reopen” this old affair. Walter will certainly be jealous and may want to hurt Sam. Sam might be obsessed with Martha and try to get her back, even against her will. A regular love triangle. What other films or settings in the Summer of Darkness lineup remind you of Griel Marcus' observation that "the most emblematic noir location is a small, vaguely Midwestern city?" Swede was killed in a small town, Jeff Bailey looked for an asylum in such a place, but also found death there. The past will haunt you no matter where you manage to escape. The Postman Always Rings Twice is even a better example of a small town misfortune and how easily can people get to the point of no return.
  11. Compare the opening of this film with other Daily Doses that began with a similar set-up on a deserted highway at night. How does this film's fateful twist differ from other film scenes we have investigated? Well, our protagonists „did something wrong once” and that „something” will probably have deadly consequences. In this case the opportunity made the thieves and within a few moments decent, middle-class people became involved in a suspicious and dangerous scheme. They had a chance and could throw away the money or simply go to the police, but instead it looks like they want to keep the money and treat it as it was a blessing, a gift from God. Their intentions were not pure and that's why whey will be victims of their own greed. Why do you think unexpected incidents involving innocent people (such as today's couple) was such a popular postwar theme? What was changing in society and history that made this a popular film story for audiences at the time? The war, poverty, illnesses mostly affect innocent people. People of the postwar era experienced different traumas that influenced their behavior and beliefs. Fate is a grim and merciless power, it cannot be predicted. WWII did not affect the US continent directly, but the Cold War did. Suddenly the enemy could be living next door. Anyone could be a Russian spy, USSR could easily use nuclear weapon to destroy US cities. The awareness of the threat, emphasized by mass media, caused panic and paranoia. Raging consumerism caused unfulfillment and jealousy – that made Jane Palmer to take the money to herself, she was jealous of other people's wealth. Money, nice house, good car – that all supposed to bring sense of security and happiness, but unfortunately „keeping up with the Joneses” and the race for goods brought tension, debt and many social pressures. The higher you reach, the bigger the pressure/fear is. Discuss this scene in terms of the style and substance of film noir. What do you see in this opening scene that confirms Eddie Muller's observation that this film is "'the best unknown American film noir of the classic era." Too Late for Tears has it all – the dark highway, lonesome couple driving a car, specific camera angles and lighting, the mystery and crime. But let's skip the technical issues and focus on moral overtone. This movie shows that every decent person might do something wrong when there's certain opportunity. That is the real drama of every human being. And that is the truth about modern times – the need of money, power, position and the feeling of acceptance can lead to doom if you don't know the line. Moral ambiguity of middle-class people, not gangsters nor vicious femme fatales, but two regular people who wanted more – Too Late for Tears perfectly reflects the change that occured in American society and the damage consumerism did to the innocent. People no longer recognize right from wrong and are capable of anything. We can no longer easily tell who is good and who is bad and that makes us afraid. And fear is one of the main substances of film noir.
  12. How is Hitchcock's rhythm and purposes different in this opening sequence, from other films noir such as Kiss Me Deadly or The Hitch-Hiker? Light, jolly atmosphere, relaxed protagonists, the music is cheerful. Typical Hitch – I am sure something strange is going to happen in a minute. It always starts with a mistake and an innocent man will be involved in an international affair or simple murder. Or someone does something stupid and would have to deal with the consequences. So we wait in anticipation. What are the noir elements that you notice in the opening of this film? Either in terms of style or substance? It seems like Bruno wants to make contact with Guy on purpose – he recognizes him as a tennis star and becomes more friendly. Seeing this opening I could not help myself from thinking about The Mask of Dimitrios and the scene when Greenstreet „accidentally” meets Lorre, the same innocent chit-chat, but we all know he had a hidden goal. There's no darkness, no shadows, only legs So, we still don't see the gentlemen's faces until the moment Bruno accidentally (?) kicks Guy's leg. The problem is Bruno is too nice to Guy, too interested and that makes us wonder whether he has some hidden agenda. And those odd angles showing legs and suitcases... Everything is telling us something strange is going to happen within minutes. Criss-crossing legs and criss-crossing railroad tracks are a great reference to what will happen between these two gentlemen. Do you agree or disagree that Alfred Hitchcock should be considered a "special case" in discussion of film noir? Why or why Hitch cannot be placed in one genre, in one style, school or however you call it. He was an artist and what's more a thinking artist. He brilliantly mixed genres by using different styles, motifs in his own way. His movies are always surprising, the tension is legendary. No one mixes jolly pieces with the dark ones so gracefully and the effect is brilliant – much more tension for the shocked viewer. After seeing few Alfred's movies you always wait for something extra, just like in case of this movie – we know he chose another clever way to fool us. The plot won't be simple at all. And the message is clear – don't make any deals or agreements with a psycho, because it would certainly backfire.
  13. Compare the opening of this film with the other three Daily Doses this week? Do you see parallels in the opening scenes of these films? Every opening is surprising and attracts our attention. Viewers are dropped into a middle of a strange situation, we are trying to catch up and find out what is really going on. Blind faith affects us all, everyday we can easily face death. The protagonist are on the road and their future is not bright and clear. It's a road to nowhere and death might be or actually is behind every corner. What are some of the noir themes and motifs that are being explored in this film's opening scene? How does the style and substance of this film's opening reinforce a feeling of pessimism or hopelessness in the character of Frank Bigelow? There is a very long sequence presenting a silhouette of a man walking through many dark hallways – we don't see his face, we don't know why he's walking and where is he going. It takes some time and then a bombshell – he enters a homicide department and says simply he was murdered. Surprise, you're dead. And the detective is not as surprised as we are. Frank Bigelow is a living corpse right now and we can only imagine how he felt. It's not the kind of resignation Swede presents. Frank is still fighting, if not for his life, then for justice – he wants to nail those who did it. The man is doomed, terrified, but not resigned completely. Maybe he just seeks for absolution before he dies? Or just people – he doesn't want to die alone. If he tells his story, his death won't be that unimportant and his side of the story will be heard. And written. Non omnis moriar? Frank Bigelow is a typical existential non-heroic hero, a Hemingway type – the man „to whom something has been done”. He faces the imminent death and that forces him to sum up his life, to examine his conscience, explain himself. Just like Walter Neff in „Double Indemnity”. That allows him to keep dignity being in a hopeless position.
  14. Why is this opening appropriate for a film about females at a women's state prison? In what ways has the design of this scene made the audience as "caged" as these characters in this opening sequence? It is obvious that the woman does not fit there. She might be a simple housewife who „did something wrong once” and was caught, she might as well be an innocent girl who was simply framed. She does not look like a criminal, she differs from the other women and it's not only the way she was dressed. She is scared, like she could not believe her life turned to such a point. Fortunately, she might get some help from the older woman, who has obviously been imprisoned before and probably knows the prison code. What we see and feel is despair, entrapment, claustrophia, powerlessness, defeat. The woman, who is frozen with fear or maybe just stunned with the whole situation, is simply pulled from the van by force. She is wearing her own clothes, maybe she was taken straight from the courtroom, maybe had no time to deal with the verdict. The van itself had no windows, except for a very small one, which made the transported women feel like animals, transported in darkness to another, bigger cage, simply dehumanized. What about this opening reminds you of the Warner Bros. house style? And why is that appropriate for this subject matter? These ladies seemed like members of the working class, at least our protagonist looks like a common woman, who led a decent life and was simply a victim of certain circumstances. Rich and glamorous girls don't get caught so easily and certainly don't get framed. WB hailed working class values, they were the social conscience of the film industry and their movies often presented social and moral problems of the postwar era. They produced many prison films that were brutal and realistic. And this realism makes WB pictures much darker. Just based on this opening, how do you think film noir will influence this film's realism about life behind bars? In other words, why is the "substance of noir" appropriate for a story set inside a women's prison? This is a drama of a regular person who is suddenly thrown into a very harsh world. She will probably fight to survive and that won't be easy. The other women, obviously criminals, will be very brutal, especially seeing her weekness and innocence. Even the prison guard calls the women „tramps”. She has to find help, support from an older prisoner, who will protect her and teach how to survive in this hell. Because prison is hell and it's real. Is there any hope for the weak?
  15. What are some of the major themes and/or ideas introduced in the opening sequence of The Hitch-Hiker? Once again nothing is what it seems and everything happens by chance. Strangers may hurt you. Do not trust anybody. People mock at your generosity, they will use your good will against you. No one is safe, it may happen to everyone. You may be attacked in your own car, which may become a death trap. Your faith is uncertain and there might be death behind every turn. Discuss the role of lighting and staging in this scene, and how lighting and staging both work to reveal the underlying substance of film noir? The hiker is hidden in darkness – it makes him look more dangerous. Roy and Gilbert see only the pointed gun, which unexpectedly comes out of the shadows. The tension grows as we all want to see the villain's face. The car is a trap – the camera is placed in the front of it and shows what exactly happens inside of the car. Compare and contrast the opening scenes of Kiss Me Deadly and The Hitch-Hiker? What is similar between the two? What is different? Why do these openings both work as excellent examples of how to open a film noir? The situation in both movies is similar – we have a car and a hitch-hiker. Christina forces Hammer to stop the car and pick her up, Emmet waits patiently and asks for a ride. They both are fugitives who want to survive, but Christina was wrongfully imprisoned in an asylum. Emmet was a regular criminal. Christina had a strong entrance, but she found temporary „shelter” in Hammer's car, Emmet acts normal at first, but then he attacks the men who wanted to help him. Christina is a HI-ker, Emmet - HI-jacker. So the main difference is INTENTION.
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