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About ciro_barbaro

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  • Birthday March 6

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  1. OK. Re: "Macao" Here's an update: Has anyone seen the promo for AHS "Hotel" with Lady Gaga's hand tapping the bell? Consider the closeup of Gloria Grahame's hand at the gambling table doing a similar tap with claws and glove looking eerily similar. Hmmm. Considering AHS is the hippest of the hip, that would be quite an homage to "Macao!" if that indeed was the inspiration for it. Any thoughts?
  2. Thanks so much for your comment, and thanks for mentioning Jean Hagen. She was so versatile. From Doll to Lina Lamont! What a dame!
  3. I agree. I reacted so strongly because it's a pet peeve of mine with most older movies, not just film noir, but anytime anybody gets shot! I was harder on this one than I should've been.
  4. The Big Heat I have seen this a bunch of times and appreciate this crisp new print. I like this movie. Always have. It's not great, but it's a solid piece of entertainment. My following comments are just what I saw, and perhaps made me like the movie even more because I liked it in spite of its cheapness! It's amusing how fake everything looks. The Manhattan backdrop outside of the "penthouse" apartment looked like cardboard with cutouts populated by Christmas Tree lights, the apartment itself looked like it was borrowed from the Perry Mason TV show, the fake wainscoting on the stairwell of the Burton home; the obvious difference between the outside of Ford's house and the makeshift inside. Columbia spared every expense on this one! Glenn Ford seemed to like the sound of his breathy voice during his many weary/petulant outbursts, but he was OK and didn't get in the way of the thing. I loved Gloria Grahame more than usual in this. There's more I can say, but less is more, but, in the case of this film, less is, well...less! I think there was an inside joke in this. Although Rita Hayworth was not in this movie, perhaps since Glenn Ford was, and most likely in homage to "Gilda," in "The Retreat" bar scene, just after Lee Marvin burns a blonde Carolyn Jones, and after he exits and Gloria Grahame asks Glenn Ford if she can buy him a drink, the accordion diegetic music in the background switches to "Put the Blame on Mame!" Farewell, Summer of Darkness: "Here's tuning in to you, kid."
  5. July 31st Discussion for all 13 films. I watched the four primetime entries consecutively. Criss Cross was a film noir primer of sorts. It crystallized every element of film noir up to that point in history: lighting, angles, music, story content, type of actors, even music. Unfortunately, I didn’t see the passion in their relationship (except maybe in the parking lot.) The scene in the malt shop he was completely adversarial with her and vice versa, and there was nothing to indicate that they each got off on it, a la George and Martha in “….Virginia Woolf.” And since that should’ve been the heart of the matter, and it wasn’t going on, no soap for me. I appreciated all the art in it, the photography and all that went with it, but no. And the one thing that finally cooked its goose for me: Dan Duryea shot them both multiple times. It should have been a bloodbath. When the shot switched. Nothing. I know none of the movies of this period used much blood in the shootemup, but come on! You set something up like that and then show…nothing? A little blood, a few artful drops even….disbelief willingly unsuspended. The daily dose promised so much. This movie spun its wheels very well, but didn’t go anywhere for me. Brute Force delivered all that it promised. A little politically preachy in the one scene with Mr. Big reading the Warden the riot act but it was mercifully short. There was something very surreal about the big guard gate, like “Metropolis” or something. Loved just about everything in it. The flashbacks with the back stories slowed things down a bit, but fleshed out the prisoners. Calypso Man acted as a sort of Greek chorus. The movie they showed the inmates, “The Egg and I”, a movie released same year same studio, a comedy about city slickers moving to a farm in the country; was it sadism to show incarcerated people a movie about the great outdoors? Hume Cronyn was terrific against type. Unforgettable characterization. Great movie. Desperate is a good “B” film. Simple plot, a simple thing like a phone message set the whole thing in motion. Doing the right thing by flashing the headlights and pulling away, leaving Mr. Bad’s thug-in-training brother to be shot and apprehended created for the hero and his imminent family dangerous circumstances. What’s the message here? Do the wrong thing? “Nice Guys Finish Dead?” It has noir set pieces in it. The first beat down that was featured in the Daily Dose with its single swinging light, and a pretty terrific end sequence where there are endless angles of staircases and the different shadows and perspectives they present. Very ambitious. The Asphalt Jungle—I have seen this film in the past, but seeing it now. WOW! The artistry in this movie in its subtlety and integration is unsurpassed. And I am not one to hyperbolize, but I will here. Everywhere I looked in this movie I saw art. Every shot was intricately framed and lit and blended into the whole; every acting moment landed big time and blended into the whole; every note of music played and blended into the whole. Not one second of this was off. Not one thing in this film was “for the sake of” the individual element. There was not a thing that didn’t belong and every single part fit seamlessly into the fabric of this. There were flowers growing out of the cracks in this asphalt! The final shots of the farm and the horses and the clouds took my breath away. It looked like an Ansel Adams study. Such texture, such detail from white to black—plus, that too fit into the whole because his memory of it was that it was idyllically beautiful. And it was. Louis B. Mayer was an idiot. “Trash?” ART!!!
  6. I saw "Dark Corner" a few years ago. It's compelling. I don't know if you know "Storm Warning", from 1951, with Steve Cochran, Doris Day and Ginger Rogers. Don't let the lightweight content resumes of these leading ladies fool you (this pre-dates "Julie" and "Midnight Lace" ). This film taps into a different type of paranoia, that of a town under the thumb of the ****. Very Creepy. Lots of night-for-night scenes. Low rent interiors. Low rent people. Also, if you're looking for something international, there's an English film "Peeping Tom," from 1960, in color, but more like Eastman Color, looks very "real", not splashy like technicolor. It's more toward Hitchcock/Horror, but it's definitely worth a look. Has lots of film noir style: odd angles, lots of POV and subjective camera. A little racy for then, but by today's standards, maybe a PG-13. Great technique, lighting; very, very creepy antagonist.
  7. Wk 9 Criss Cross -- Discuss how the opening of this film exemplifies the noir style and substance. Ominous music at the gate. Credits over the panorama of the city at night. Jarring font for the title “Criss Cross” which in look and feel has the edginess that we figure will abound in this flick. Overview gradually zeroes in on the individual story that will take place within this city. We see two people seeking cover between the vehicles of a crowded parking lot. They seem insignificant specks in relation to the opening shot. They barely escape discovery by ducking away from the headlights of a passing car. They seem desperate, two lovers in the midst of some kind of crisis. They're kissing as if their world will be ending in 1,440 frames! He’s pulling some kind of caper which requires him to be away from her for a few weeks. Her needy requirement for visitation is a few days. Her desperation to see him right now is jeopardizing his plan. He tells her so. These are clues that she will contribute greatly to his demise. Most likely he won’t be able to wait to see her and it’ll foul up the plan. They seem to be afraid of a man who’s inside the building. The lighting in the parking lot accents both of their attractive features. This is studio beauty lighting applied to noir. It’s dramatic, but there’s detail in the shadows’ darkness. Enter into the obligatory noir nightclub. We see someone who appears to be the owner/manager asking for the girl. First we think she’s his girlfriend. Bad news. Then we find out she’s his wife. Worse news. The actor playing the maître d is terrific, he says the things that will get his boss riled the least. He's just vague enough in his responses about the whereabouts of wifey. He knows where she is, but he's smart enough to know that bossman will shoot the messenger so he keeps mum. The wife enters. Husband asks her a million questions to try to trip her up. She answers each one without missing a beat. She’s been down this road before and knows hubby's every play before he even thinks about making it. Compare Dan Duryea’s characterization here compared with the one in “Too Late for Tears.” He’s very versatile and underrated. I always liked his work, but this course has given me a deeper appreciation of it. There is also appropriate dark humor here in the character of the maitre d. He goes off on “the rotten class of people you have to put up with” and then greets two couples who are exactly that with a welcome worthy of royalty! Great casting on the part of the two couples in type and costume. The bit lands right on the mark. -- Now that you have seen all 32 Daily Doses, what did you take away from the Daily Doses assignment? Did it contribute to your learning about film noir? The daily dose assignment is a great learning tool. We deal today in 140-character messages. So, I think the DDs are TCM’s way of throwing 32 short messages at us that paint a picture of noir. We see similarities, we see differences. We categorize them, we analyze them. We evaluate them. We begin to understand the overall picture, and the individual elements contributed by the individual and collective players. I learned that the DDs illustrate that it is important to show the world of the story, whether it be urban grit, gangster grit, heartland grit, overseas grit, high-class grit or just plain general grit. That it’s important to set up the conflict right away, whether it be a heist, a murder, revenge against the femme fatale’s abusive boyfriend, a political intrigue of international espionage, gangsters killing gangsters or simply a case for a private eye. The DDs allow us to begin to formulate our willingness to participate in this maverick sort of art form, this "film noir." We can jump in at any level. The question is, how far out of the box are we willing to jump? Depending upon the look of the film, we can start to differentiate between the studios and production houses that did them and which we like best. There are different levels. Each level sort of overlaps with the next rung down the ladder, because at the bottom of this ladder, in my opinion, is the truest “noir”. The people who did the most with the least get my trophy as the best. At the top, MGM is a very safe bet. Bad stuff going on in antiseptic settings. We’ll see actors we recognize from costume epics and melodramas about rich people, but in this film getting down but not too dirty. If we saw these actors on the street, we’d run up to them and gush while we asked them for their autograph. They pose no threat. WB gives us something more edgy. It’s got some of MGM’s studio technology, and good but less glamorous actors. Their sets look urban and gritty, but still are clean, no debris. We like the actors in these and if we saw them in something else it would probably be in another film with some kind of an urban edge. If we encountered these actors on the street, we’d approach with caution, but we’d still ask (very politely) for their autograph. Maybe they’re as tough as their onscreen personas! RKO has some of the WB’s edginess with a little less budget. Bad things happening in places that are made to look bad. The actors you see here are good, but for some reason not good enough, and probably wished they worked at the WB or MGM, and If you saw them on the street, they’d most likely snub you because they’d rather you think they are too prestigious to grace you with an autograph. Poverty Row Studios like Eagle-Lion or independent production companies: Bad things happen in bad places. Locations that are the real deal, or if shot in a studio, bad things happen on cheap sets (Consider the Bobby Driscoll movie—The Window—it made Ralph Kramden’s place look like a palace.) If you saw actors from these films on the street, you wouldn’t go up to them (unless you’re an aficionado) because you really wouldn’t know who they are, but if you knew, you would care, and gush, because this bare bones stuff, to me, is the most exciting--acting and production-wise. Case in point, the spectacular “Gun Crazy” and the very fresh “The Gangster.” If there were only a good quality print of “Detour” unearthed!!! They always seem to find things in London. Somebody please look! The Daily Doses have been such a pleasure to do. This whole course has been a blast. Thanks to all, and happy viewing!
  8. Wk 9 Brute Force -- What role does music (especially the record playing Wagner) play in the intensity of this scene? As has been the case with other noir films, classical music, and jazz, have been used to heighten the violence or cover it up, as when someone is getting a beating. There was another film in this series whose title escapes me where the antagonist used classical music to get him in the mood to be violent. In Brute Force, it’s mostly used to cover up any noise Sam Levene or the rubber hose with which Hume Cronyn beat him might make. He turns it up after he goes to get the hose. Also, this German aggressive music, combined with his imposing portrait on the walI, suggest that he is the "Fuhrer" of this microcosm. I particularly liked the reflection of the record in the top of the victrola. It looked golden, and large and imposing, like the music. This was a 12-inch record, one that played 4-5 minutes, not a 10-inch, which played no more than 3. Warden needed as much time as possible to beat someone before he had to stop to change the record. Columbia didn’t initiate the “LP” until 1948. Sidebar: Sam Levene, who is featured in so many of the noirs of this series, played Nathan Detroit in the original Broadway production of “Guys and Dolls.” (Frank Sinatra’s role in the movie), and Robert Alda (Alan Alda’s father) who was in “Nora Prentiss” as the good-natured club owner, played Sky Masterson (Marlon Brando’s part in the movie.) -- Based on what you've learned in this class, how does this scene fit in with your understanding of early postwar film noir (films released in 1946 and 1947) and the development of the noir style and substance? Definitely the Existential feeling of Nausea, dread, fear, and all those other negative adjectives are in full “force” here. Globally, on the surface, things are good: the war’s over, blah blah blah, but underneath it’s all decayed and falling apart. The man who’s supposed to keep order (the warden) is creating chaos. The Communist threat, crazy Joe McCarthy, the Korean War, all these things heightened the paranoia, and these films put a visual to it. The fact that he brought down the window shades and sent the guard to a different room signifies that this “threat” is secret, and there’s no way you can fight it without witnesses, so you’re endlessly doomed, and the music plays on, signifying that nothing’s really wrong on the surface.
  9. Very deep comments. Especially the drainpipe analogy. I think that maybe there's a third reason he might be washing his hands: to destroy evidence, separating himself from his crime of prisoner abuse. Even though he knows no one will accuse him (consider the "paralyzed" guards in an adjoining room, appalled at what's going on, and yet, even though they have him outnumbered, do nothing to stop it), better be safe than sorry.
  10. Roadblock Saturday morning movietime local TV in the fifties. Some good visuals. Loved the moving camera following the car along the Los Angeles River. Great chase scene. McGraw good to a point. He's great in other films. He couldn't carry this one. It needed an actor with greater range to pull off this unlikely personality scenario. Also, it's kind of a cheap way out to talk about a heist and not show it. I know, it was more about the story than the heist, but since he came off as a maladroit, we needed something to hold our interest, especially since you'd think he'd have some savvy covering his tracks considering the investigative business he was in. He had to tell the postal lady that it was a fire extinguisher? There were so many moments when the character screwed up and the actor didn't own it in some way to make it believable...I wanted him to get caught just for being so careless! When his partner reveals he's onto him, and McGraw hits him with the bottle and abruptly runs out; that run was not his finest moment as an actor. It had a Jackie Gleason "and away we go!" quality so not appropriate. Enjoyable. Forgettable.
  11. Wk 9 Desperate -- Describe how this scene uses cinematography to accentuate the brutal beating of Steve Randall (Steve Brodie). When the light swings away, you try to focus more. This effect helps pull you in by making you try to see what you can’t when the light swings away, and pushes you out when the light comes back. First you’re struggling to see and then you’re hiding your eyes! It makes it seem worse than it is because what you imagine is happening in the dark is probably worse than what is actually happening. This swinging light effect was used previously to lesser effect in “The Glass Key” and later to famous effect in Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho.” -- How do Mann and Diskant utilize different points of view to heighten the tension in this scene? Camera looks up on Burr, giving him power, making him look taller. Camera looks down on Brodie, making him the victim. When Brodie gets up, he knocks the light into motion. Is he contributing to his own demise by fighting back, by making his “light” flicker? During the main beating, as the light swings, there are two “two-shots” of Burr and his henchman, a medium close-up and a choker. In both, Burr looks very happy about what he’s watching, seemingly getting a kick out of what’s going on. What’s telling is the point of view of the henchman. In the medium close-up, he’s looking at the fight with a blank stare. However, in the choker, he’s looks at Burr briefly, and seems to be questioning Burr’s delight, almost wondering if/when he would/should order it stopped, then his focus quickly shifts back to the beating. The broken bottle looks exceptionally menacing from Brodie’s point of view, and would’ve been less so if just included in the master shot, or shot from something other than this very low angle. Brodie’s almost hypnotized by the jagged bottle, and agrees to do what Burr asks. There’s another low angled shot up at Burr. As the light swings in an even pattern, and he threatens disfigurement of Brodie’s wife, the pulse of the light hitting Burr’s face in such a rhythmic pattern suggests to me the beating of Brodie’s heart.
  12. Macao It was nice to see Von Sternberg's name in the credits. I didn't see too many of his touches until midway through. The shot's near the piano. Mitchum shows Grahame the diamond. She leaves through the curtain-strips. The camera pulls back through it with her and shoots a little longer through the curtain. Also, just before Dexter and Mitchum were to leave for Hong Kong, at the dock there was a shot of their reflections in the dark water. It was upside down and off-putting. Great effect. Von Sternberg's eye led some visual class. Stylistically, visually, you felt like you were looking at something shot in the 1930s. It was also nice to see William Bendix not play a psycho for a change! In Abbott and Costello's film "Who Done It?" there was a scene between Bendix and Costello. Costello was furious at production and said that heads would roll if "you ever put me in a movie with somebody funnier than me again!" Until I started watching these off-the-beaten-path movies, I had little knowledge of Jane Russell, other than her promotion as a sexual commodity. She actually has a terrific down to earth quality about her and holds her own on screen. Kudos to her. I don't think this was under the category of "film noir as a genre." It had film noir style in spots, thanks to Mr. Von Sternberg. Loved GG's cat-like gloves when she shook the dice at the gambling table--that closeup of her "claw" tapping was a little exotically scary to me, in the same way that Gale Sondergard's appearance behind the beaded curtains in "The Letter" spooked me even more so. Robert Mitchum makes his track believable, and Brad Dexter is always great at shaking things up in these things. I like this one. I'd watch it again on a rainy Saturday afternoon along with "His Kind of Woman." A great double feature!
  13. I think either the witness would be intimidated to identify the suspect by the detective, possibly fingering an innocent man, or the witness would be intimidated to keep quiet by the perp, who was able to see them clearly a few feet away, possibly letting a guilty party go free. All around, not a good outcome with this system.
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