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About markusinnocenti

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  • Birthday July 21

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  • Gender
  • Location
    Los Angeles
  • Interests
    Noir. Sushi. Boxing.
  1. Cinematically a hugely powerful opening - so many elements thrown into play to instantly engage the audience in the story - and still finding time to address tiny but telling issues to tell us who Mike Hammer is - the sporty English car, the hip music with its 'noir' lyrics, the gruff manner, the easy acceptance of underlying sexuality - and his "rescue of the damsel". I will definitely watch this film again - as I recall it has very interesting "Red Scare" era overtones - but I've always had a problem with author Spillane's ultra-mysogynist character Mike Hammer - well, at least since I passed the age of 15! It'll be interesting to see how the film version develops the character but, judging from the introduction, it looks as if it won't be altered fundamentally. I'm reminded of that great scene in "Marty" (1955) when the guys discuss how Mickey Spillane is the greatest writer who ever lived... interesting that "Marty" and "Kiss Me Deadly" were made the same year.
  2. I've been particularly interested in the use of camera motion in several of the Daily Doses we've seen. Laura and The Letter begin with wonderful slow tracking shots, The Mask of Dimitrios has that fabulous lo-angle dolly move into Sidney Greenstreet's close-up... and here in The Third Man there's the move where Joseph Cotton walks from long shot to medium shot and there's a subtle pull-back as he arrives at the 'Cupid Fountain' - an almost unnoticeable dolly move that ends with a perfect framing of the Cupid on the right. A Cupid that seems to stare at Holy Martin as if to say 'poor sap.' I know it's a small point - but films of this caliber all seem to have every detail exactly right - and it makes viewing them over and over again so worthwhile.
  3. Disclaimer: I'm not familiar with films noir from MGM enough to comment on a 'house style' - so this is just an uneducated observation... That said -- what we have here is clearly a more 'sanitized' visual texture than in the the majority of 'Daily Doses'. Contrast the diner from 'The Killers' with the one we enter here in 'Postman'. The interior seems so much more "art-directed" - it doesn't seem particularly 'lived in'. The exterior too is manicured - so much so that I wondered if it was actually a sound stage with an expensive set. The soundtrack is curiously empty - which suggests that this is not a 'location', particularly as we see that the diner sits on a road above the ocean. Is the ocean a back-projection? If MGM's house style veers towards the 'mainstream', and aimed towards an audience quite comfortable with "sound-stage reality", then it seems that the studio wasn't interested in too much grit in their 'noir' and preferred to keep their glamorous stars safely on the back lot. I'll be very interested to watch out for other MGM films noir and see if this observation holds true. Visconti made a version of 'Postman' several years earlier (Ossessione) - which makes a fascinating comparison in terms of the visual 'reality'. To exercise, hopefully correctly, recently learned terminology - the Visconti version is brutally 'realist' while MGM's 'Postman' is carefully 'formalist'.
  4. Like others have noted, it was interesting how much this sequence evokes "Casablanca" - from the costuming (in particular Jane Greer's hat and the way she wears it), to the exotic setting, the cool interior and the sun-blasted exterior. Jane Greer's entrance is truly one of the great femme fatale "entrances", isn't it? She looks like an angel in that white dress, with the sun behind her - but then she steps from the light, into the shadow - giving us a nice subliminal message as to who she really might be. It must have been extremely difficult to balance the 'hot' exterior lighting with the shadows and 'cool' dimness of the interior - and I think this is a reason why this movie is an important contribution to 'noir'. Here, technical brilliance is demonstrated - proving that 'noir's low-key lighting style isn't merely a Poverty Row solution to not having enough money to afford proper cinematic lighting. There are skillful filmmaking techniques on display - elevating the 'noir' form and, at a stroke, removing the genre from the noir trope of dark, rain-soaked streets - to tell stories in daylight that still hold a quality of mystery, suspense and impending doom. 'Noir' suddenly becomes incredibly glamorous. A quick final word. The editing is really wonderful, the steady, languorous rhythm of it pulling us - fascinated - into the lives of these two characters.
  5. Bogart's 'Spade' is an edgier creation - a more tightly-coiled character, always ready to block a punch or deliver one. Bogart's 'Marlowe', on the other hand, is much more relaxed and laconic. He'll block a punch, of course - only a little more lazily. Bogart portrays 'Marlowe' as even more world-weary than 'Spade' and much more accepting of himself. For that reason, 'Marlowe' seems a friendlier, more easy-going character. 'Marlowe' also seems more comfortable around women - I think 'Spade' would have found Carmen Sternwood's "fall" into his arms to be much less fun!
  6. Like several others, I find the heavy-handed docu-narration to be dated and a mood-buster. However, Alton's cinematography is amazing - and, being a rural view, it becomes an interesting parallel with the aerial shots (again with stentorian narration) of NYC that form the opening of Jules Dassin's "Naked City". Many 'noir' films show man as a tiny, tiny part of something huge and impersonal - struggling against a vast environment that cares nothing for him. Here it's Nature - rather than the City - and I'll be interested to see how this works out in the film. I'm still struggling with the terms 'Formalist' and 'Realist' - but, in this case, I think Mann and Alton have very cleverly interwoven the two - with a 'realist' documentary-style opening that, in terms of its composition, is heavily 'formalist'.
  7. I particularly like the sense of doom that pervades the sequence that begins with Nick running to warn the Swede. The introduction of Burt Lancaster's character - a "headless" body lying preternaturally still in the shadows - and the dull acceptance of his responses to Nick - "I'm through with all that running around" and "I did something wrong - once" - all of it is laden with a terrible, irrevocable fate. Although the literary source is Hemingway, you could be easily think - given the grim hopelessness of the situation - that Cornell Woolrich was the author. - Perhaps the screenwriters (credited and uncredited) owed as much to Woolrich as they did to Hemingway. It doesn't get much more 'noir' than this!
  8. One of the things that I expect this course will help me get over is my long-held feeling that 'noir' is an essentially American art-form. To me, Lang's "M" and "Ministry of Fear" have a distinctly European sensibility that - although influential on American 'noir' - just doesn't have the same flavor. The elements in both the opening of "M" and "Ministry of Fear" remind me of early Hitchcock - prior to his full immersion in American form. Hardly surprising given that, at the start of his career, Hitchcock was hugely influenced by German Expressionism. To compound this European-ism, in "Fear" we have a script based on a novel by that most English of authors, Graham Greene. I have to accept that the majority of the noir audience doesn't agree with this distinction - but I find it difficult to watch films like "The Third Man" or "Brighton Rock", "M" and "Ministry of Fear" and consider them 'noir' (although they share certain classic 'noir' elements) when, to my mind, they are euro-centric Thriller/Dramas. I look forward to being corrected on this small matter!
  9. The portrayal of Marlowe, as shown here by Dick Powell, highlights an important element of (hard-boiled) noir. Namely, that the PD has a 'code' that he lives by. It's not the chivalrous "stand-up-and-take-off-your-hat-when-a-lady-enters-the-room" kind of chivalrous code that audiences had previously been used to. That much is well-illustrated in Marlowe's rough handling of Anne Shirley - which I suspect might have been a little shocking to audiences back in the 40s. No, this is the unique world-weary 'code' of a man who needs one central thing to anchor his life. His professional standing. He's honor-bound to serve his client no matter where that takes him.
  10. Nino Frank's observation of a "charming study of furnishings and faces" is spot-on - and something I'd never thought about in 'noir' before - well, not the "furnishings" part. But if you think about it, noir isn't all rain-soaked streets, smoky dives and cheap hotels. There's a fascination with wealth too - think of Marlowe going to "visit" General Sternwood in "The Big Sleep". This isn't the kind of 'top hat and tails' wealth we're used to seeing from 1930's Astaire/Rogers depictions of rich New Yorkers. The opening of "Laura" shows us something more real, more carefully-considered and tasteful. There's a greater reality here - and it's that reality (although heightened for dramatic purposes) which draws me to films of this period. Again, rather like the opening to "The Letter", we're treated to a smooth, languid tracking shot that's been very carefully choreographed and which remains a single take without a cut (encompassing a great deal of v.o. exposition, establishing Waldo's home, the all-important clock and Dana Andrews' protagonist) until we enter the bathroom. Then a "shocking moment" occurs which breaks the mood of that gliding and carefully constructed opening take. However, unlike "The Letter" with Bette Davis and a blazing gun, we've got a whip-pan to crinkly old Waldo sitting in the tub. I'm not sure which of the two was more unsettling!
  11. Like some other contributors, I was fascinated by the physicality of Bette Davis' performance. From the moment at 1:28 when she strides out of the house - gun-arm outstretched without wavering, her other hand on the balustrade as if she were about to elegantly step down into a ballroom rather than brutally shoot someone down. What an entrance! Then, the stillness on her face during that long push-in to close up. The thoughts in her mind as she looks down at the dead man. The violence of that turn to glare up at the moon! The calmness on her face before she slowly steps away. And the way she holds her hand away from her side at 2:29 and again at 2:58 - as if perhaps there was blood that she doesn't want to get on her dress. There's even a slight tremble in her body - she sways just a little - while she so calmly states that an "accident" has left Mr. Hammond dead. She's holding herself together - but it's an effort for her. So many things going on, and so concisely expressed!
  12. I missed the TCM screening - but having seen this opening I have to watch the entire film - and soon! The dynamic between the two men is brilliantly done and promises much for the rest of the movie. The momentum, not just the movement of the train but of the editing, leaves one breathless. This is 1938! Terrific camera angles almost making me duck my head as the train goes into tunnels and under bridges. Fantastic camerawork. I note that some people thought the music didn't work - but, not having seen the rest of the film - it worked for me not just because the tempo slowed as the train's speed fell off - but because it has such a triumphant feel to it that the sense of accomplishment in bringing this fire-eating monster safely to its destination is truly under-lined. Like others though - I felt this opening sequence did not seem to herald a sense of 'noir' - it could just as easily have been footage from the final sequences of Herbert Smith's 1935 British documentary "Night Mail" - although rather better shot!
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