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TCM Toni

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Posts posted by TCM Toni

  1. There is much to see in this multilayered opening to "Strangers on a Train." Hitchcock uses the "criss cross" metaphor both visually and through the music.


    As the two men walk toward each other, the editing cuts back and forth between them. We see the train tracks cross, then it takes one track as if to signify the men taking a fateful path. On the train, they sit across from each other then each crosses his legs until they touch which sets up their fateful meeting.


    Even the music has a criss-crossing sound as it echoes a motif between the two men.


    Hitchcock sets up the contrasting personalities of the men just by showing their shoes. Bruno's flashy wing-tipped shoes contrast dramatically with Guy's plain, dark ones. It continues with their suits in the same manner. Flashy pin stripes, tie and tie clip for Bruno; conservative dark sport coat and vest for Guy. Bruno is outgoing; Guy reserved. When Bruno sits next to Guy, shadows cross his face. Again it's a contrast but also signifies something darker about Bruno.


    It's all fun to watch, although we know it's all going to take a dark turn.

    • Like 1
  2. The use of the mirror in this scene from "The Ring" was particularly effective and was a masterful move by such a young director. The short scene shows a few things we will see from Hitch throughout his career including cross-cutting and montages.


    We're watching people in two very different rooms. In one, we see serious looking men in black tuxedos talking to a boxer they appear to be grooming for a big fight. In the other room is a party with a much lighter tone. The boxer sees the reflection in a mirror of a woman, who it turns out is his wife. She's sitting on the lap of a man watching the dancing and then sees her husband's reflection in the same mirror. Is that guilt on her face? The dancing gets wilder, people are falling over each other, the champagne is flowing and there's a feeling the room is getting louder - even though it's a silent film (nice work by Hitch here)!


    Hitch continues his patented use of cross-cutting by showing the wife in one room and the boxer in the other. The boxer is told he will start training the next day but not to bring his wife. That appears to trouble him and he looks back into the mirror and sees his wife and the other man again. He grows upset and reality becomes distorted. He visualizes the image "leaving the mirror" and moving toward him. In a montage - another Hitchcock touch -  the image of his wife and man is superimposed over the people in the room, growing bigger as things start to move out of control. There's a record spinning and large, distorted piano keys being played by a musician. The boxer sees his wife kissing the other man and he screams! He looks into the room but everyone is standing still staring at him. His wife isn't kissing anyone - it was just his imagination. But how much was real or imagined - just the kiss or the entire party? (I don't have that answer yet.) He doesn't want to leave his wife but he's told not to worry by the promoters who, clearly out to use him, prey on his insecurities by saying the other man is "a champ" and he's not - yet. The boxer smiles: It looks like he's going to fight.


    I'm looking forward to watching the entire film to see how this all works out.

    • Like 3
  3. I find the music has two roles in this scene.


    First it builds the dramatic tension. At the start of the scene it is simply background music, although it is light and playful, not what you would expect to hear. As the tension in the room escalates - the blinds are drawn, the room is enveloped in darkness and Hume Cronyn's character, the captain, becomes more sinister - the music escalates as well. It begins to swell, the strings repeat and amplify the nervous tension in the room. As the captain lifts the stick to again beat the reporter, the music hits its high, dramatic notes. When the beating is over, he turns the music off.


    The music also is used to hide the sounds of the beating. The captain turns it up when he is "going in for the kill/confession" then turns it off when he is done (there won't be anymore sounds of beating or screams he needs to hide).


    I think it fits in with post war noir because there appears to be a loss of freedom for the reporter, who is beaten by a man in authority with "brute force" and seemingly no justification. That feeds into the fears of Americans who at the time were not trusting of authority or strangers and feared their own loss of freedom.

    • Like 2
  4. Though set in 1918, film noir elements are found throughout this early scene. Multiple doorways are used as claustrophobic framing devices, a mirror in the background shows his reflection, a large number of train tracks take over full frames. There are elements of formalism as the terrified man goes on the run and a nightmarish sequence begins with a spinning train "wheel," dissolving into his sweaty, disoriented face, dissolving back again and then, in the middle of the frame, a train starts to come right to us. That sequence in particular highlights the noir themes of desperation, disorientation. Also, is his running away instead of calling for help going to be his fatal mistake?


    The Salvation Army Band appearance has two meanings for me. First, it underscores the noir theme of how fate enters life at any moment - it's a normal day on a pretty street where houses are surrounded by white picket fences. The Salvation Army Band is even playing - what could go wrong? The other thing it signifies is the opportunity for redemption, especially through help of others as the sign reads "through the kindness of your heart."

    • Like 1
  5. If I had not read the words of Foster Hirsch, I don't think I would have thought this scene was part of a film that "signaled the end of a movie cycle." However, I definitely would have though something was off.


    First that opening minute: the RKO logo accompanied by train sounds cuts away to an approaching train with a suddenly blinding light. Abruptly it cuts to the film's title in huge letters and the loud, jarring ringing of the alarms at a train crossing. The movie title slides to the right and we see a sign: Chicago Yard Limit. It's tilted at a peculiar angle; that image slides away and the camera moves to the right and we see a train that is slowly coming to a stop. That sequence has noir elements (night, train, shadows, sounds) but it is comical, not noirish to me, especially the "swooshing" camera and odd train noises.


    Then we get to the dialogue of the two cops. I don't know that it's a parody of the hard-boiled school (it is only a few minutes), but it is definitely poorly written. It sounds like something I would write if I attempted to do a noir screenplay!


    "Your cigar is dead."

    "I'm thinking of changing brands for something with a self-starter on it."


    "What kind of dish?"

    "A 60-cent special."


    "What kind of dame would marry a hood?"


    The entire sequence looks and sounds like someone had the checklist for film noir and marked things off without quite having the talent to pull it off.

  6. It is all about the timing in this opening scene from "Kansas City Confidential." A man is watching a bank from a window high above across the street. Silently he watches with a steel gaze, checking the clock on the bank as well as his watch. He is timing the arrival and departures of the police, a delivery man and an armored car. He hits the timer button on his watch twice and checks off the times on a large sheet of paper. It is a painstaking process but everything is precise and timed to the second. It appears to all be going according to plan.


    This short segment is intriguing because it is silent, yet the man's actions speak volumes. The opening crawl acts as a silent narration to set up the story in a realist manner. To that point, the crawl talks about lurid chapters in the annals of the KC police department of those brought to punishment, but that this film was meant to expose one criminal who executed the perfect crime. It's very enticing. Cut to the words Kansas City in large letters across the screen. It feels like news reel footage, another hallmark of realist noir.


    The heist is a good topic for noir because we get to see the motives of various characters and that gives interesting looks into their minds. Heists also usually have multiple elements with a many things that can go wrong and that increases the tension. These films also carry noir themes like greed, revenge, mistrust and threats.

    • Like 3
  7. This short segment from "99 River Street" was as brutal outside of the ring as it was in the ring. The opening shots take the viewer right into the ring using a realistic shooting style with close-ups of a bloody face jaggedly intercut with POV shots of the champ who is doing the pummeling. From these close shots to the crowd noise and the voice of the announcer sounding like he is sitting right next to us, we feel like we are ringside. Finally, Ernie goes down with his bloody face caught on a lower rope staring at the viewer. He could almost be dead.


    The camera then pulls back and just by the grainy look of the boxers, their slow-motion movements and the tinny sound of the announcer, we are taken out of the ring and transported into the real world where Ernie is watching a replay of the fight. His wife is sitting at the dinner table behind him looking quite bored. Instead of those quick-cutting close-ups, the editing and camera now linger with Ernie watching himself on TV or medium shots of the two talking. His wife often towers over him, she needles him about not being a boxer anymore, but just being a cab driver with dreams of opening a gas station. "I'd have been a star if it hadn't been for you," she says, bitterly. Is this our femme fatale - a bitter woman who wants money, stardom and the finer things in life but she's tied to a man she feels is a loser? And what about that diamond bracelet? That hints at something else going on her life. (The shot of her arm reaching in to shut off the TV with the bracelet glistening over the footage of her husband is priceless.)


    I feel this dynamic between husband and wife also is a commentary on society where hard working but poor individuals are made to feel guilty for not providing enough for their wife/family. It also speaks to the need for celebrity/stardom - the selfish wife is bitter because she's not a star; the husband is broken because he's not the champ. It's a brutal, unhappy life.



    • Like 1
  8. This scene seems very straightforward, easier to read than some of the other noir scenes we have witnessed. It starts with a reunion of two (of three) old friends after nearly 20 years. They are sitting in an office and are using some elements of noir in a subtle way. They are smoking and have an early morning drink as the window blinds filter out some of the bright sun, leaving light shadows on the wall. It's nothing ominous - but we get inklings of that later in their interactions.


    When Walter's secretary buzzes to say his wife has arrived, he oddly tells her to wait, but Sam wants to see her. Walter seems reluctant for the two to meet again and we can see why as Martha and Sam embrace upon meeting again. The camera is close on the two as they embrace, but we can clearly see Walter in the background. The three may all be in the camera frame, but Walter is the odd man out. He is jealous, which never leads to anything good in film noir. Sam is still smitten by Martha, and that usually isn't good either. From her words and actions, it appears Martha isn't very happy in her marriage. Walter also seems possessive and perhaps even quick tempered and a heavy drinker. This is all a lethal combination in film noir that definitely won't lead to anything good and could very well end in murder.

    • Like 2
  9. While each of these car-on-the-road opening scenes are unique in their own way, this one really stood out in my eyes. While the danger seems to come from the outside in those prior scenes, I think the danger is already in the car when the film begins, and it's Jane. Once she discovers money in the bag, her expression changes and she begins to recklessly drive down the road trying to escape. The question of why these things were happening to innocent people during this era is a good one. The war had just ended four years prior to this film's release, and the cold war was underway. I think the traumatization of previous events had made American society more cynical, and that may be why this type of storyline came to be. I think Jane taking control in the car sets her up as a femme fatale-type character, overcoming the perception of male dominance. Apart from what already appears to be a captivating storyline, I think it's too early for me to see why Eddie Muller considers this the best unknown Noir of this era.


    Fantastic point about the danger being Jane!

    • Like 3
  10. This scene from "Too Late for Tears" has some of the elements from previous "road noir" we have seen of late: the dark highway, the isolation, a feeling of the viewer being put into the middle of the story. It doesn't have the feeling of foreboding of the opening of films like "Kiss Me Deadly" or "The Hitchhiker," however, but I think that is what helps it work so well. We may not know exactly where we are in the story, but that's not upsetting as it was in the previous films where there was clearly something bad happening. In "Tears," it seems like an ordinary night on the road.


    We meet Jane and Alan in their car. They look like an average (and innocent) couple in their humble clothing. But Jane does look a bit odd, emotionless until she quietly asks her husband to turn the car around - she doesn't want to go to their friends house where she feels she won't be treated well. Again, this isn't out of the ordinary for a woman to feel inferior (unfortunately); Jane tells Alan their friend's "diamond-studded wife is looking down on me."


    But this couple's ordinary day takes a turn into noir with a random twist of fate as a bag full of money is thrown into their back seat. Not only has fate stepped in with a case of mistaken identity, but now it has dealt a second blow: they've been spotted by the intended recipient of the cash. Suddenly, meek and mild Jane, who was afraid to be "looked down upon" only a minute earlier, now takes control and speeds off as they are chased along the highway. The change in Jane's face from no emotion to an almost gleeful smirk is fantastic. Jane has made her fateful choice down a dark road and it probably won't be a good trip.

    • Like 1
  11. I agree that Alfred Hitchcock should be a special case when it comes to considering film noir directors. And if we are to believe, as Foster Hirsch said, that Hitchcock is a noir stylist, then we may also believe that film noir is a style, not a genre or movement. "Strangers on a Train" is a great film to make my case; it's a thriller, but the look and feel is also noir.


    This short opening sequence holds many motifs of film noir including heavy shadows, framing devices (the large arches at train station), the use of music and bold/interesting compositions (railroad tracks crisscrossing each other). Although we don't see it all in this short opening, the film also employs character motifs of film noir: people on the move (train), the role of fate (two men walking toward each other), a fatal mistake and revenge (a man wanting his father dead).


    But there are differences from other noir films, too. It's daytime, though there are shadows. There is not the typical noir feeling of heaviness and malaise - at least not yet. Though the music starts out dramatic, it takes on a playful tone as we are introduced to two characters - or two pairs of feet would be more accurate, another light touch. A cab pulls up to the railroad station and a pair of black and white wing-tipped shoes step out of the car. Another cab and another pair of shoes: this time they are black. This is the first clue about the two characters: one wears flashy shoes, the other a more sensible pair. The "feet" then walk toward each other - first in the train station, then, after we see miles of criss-crossing train tracks, on the train. The lives of these two men are about to crisscross and collide. Mr. Wing Tips sits first, crosses his legs and then is joined by Mr. Sensible Shoes who does the same and accidentally taps Mr. WT's shoes under the table. Their fates are locked and lives will be changed forever.


    As the film progresses it takes on the much darker tone of film noir - both visually and emotionally - and the theme of "crisscross" becomes much more prevalent. To say more would spoil it for others who haven't seen the movie yet.



    • Like 1
  12. The opening scene of "D.O.A." isn't flashy or loud, but it is an attention grabber that makes you want to stick around for the rest of the film. A man walks into a police station with a purposeful stride. We only see him from the back, but we - and the camera - follow him as he walks through the station and then down a very, very long hallwall lined with doors. The camera doesn't cut away and it almost feels like he'll never get to his destination. He finally turns and opens a door labeled Homicide Division. He wants the man in charge. "I want to report a murder," he says. "Who was murdered?" he is asked. It's only then that we see his face - exhausted, worried with a sickly pallor.  "I was," he replies. It is is riveting.


    Like the characters we've met throughout our other daily doses this week, Frank Bigelow is a desperate man and one on the move. He looks hopeless, yet somehow he is trying to hold it together. We see that in his determined stride; we see it as he tries to keep control by reporting his own "murder." Yet there's no doubt through the themes and motifs we are now accustomed to seeing, that the situation is bleak.


    Frank is like other heroes of existential works who are faced with the "threat of imminent death," often through no fault of their own. It is blind chance, or as Albert Camus called it, the "benign indifference" of the world, that sends them to their fate. It is a bleak world. "D.O.A." goes beyond the use of night and shadows that are often used in noir to show us the darkness, by giving us the "black vision" of emotions like dread, anguish, isolation to help us feel the darkness. Even the movie's title - "D.O.A." - helps emphasize the hopelessness.



  13. I definitely agree with what everyone has posted about the claustrophobic nature of the opening.


    I do like that the women who get out of the van just look like . . . .women. They aren't speaking like overly tough gansters' molls, and their clothing is what you might see on anyone walking around the city streets.


    The way that the officer speaks to the main character, and the way that he manhandles her, shows the lack of control that she has over her life at this point. It makes me wonder how much control she had before she was put in prison. While noir loves the idea of the femme fatale pulling the doomed male protagonist into a world of sin, in reality there are a lot of women in prison because their male partners involved them (sometimes without their knowledge) in criminal acts--women who are convicted for possessing weapons or drugs that weren't theirs in the first place.


    On a random sidenote: Agnes Moorehead!!!! My main association with her is the Twilight Znoe episode "The Invaders", so the idea of her talking is blowing my mind right now.

    Good point about the women's clothing and how ordinary they are; plus the question about how much control she had over her life before she went to prison.

    • Like 2
  14. I agree. I thought the only benefit to doing them that way was that it provided another visual layer that trapped the women in that space.


    I agree. I thought the only benefit to doing them that way was that it provided another visual layer that trapped the women in that space.

    Yes, I agree too. I think having the opening credits so prominent and obscuring the background was meant to make it difficult to see what was happening, adding to the confusion and feeling of being trapped.

  15. All three of the Daily Doses this week introduced us to films with opening scenes that are disturbing and confusing. Again with "Caged" we don't know where we are. The opening credits fill the screen and slowly we can make out something behind them. Then we hear a police siren. A small square pops up in the middle, but most of the screen is still in darkness. I'm sure audiences that originally saw this on a big screen would have seen much more of what is happening in that small square than we can on a computer, but I think the effect is relatively the same. Watching on the big screen they would have seen more through what we learn is a car windshield, but they would have had much more blackness as well, adding to a feeling of confinement. Watching on the smaller screen, we can't quite make out what's happening through that small square right away and that adds to the confusion as well as feeling we are confined.


    And that brings us to why the opening is appropriate for a film about women in prison as well as making the viewer feel as caged as the characters. There is an oppressive blackness on most of the screen and a small hole that gives us confusing glimpses of the outside world while making us feel compressed. Both work in their own way to give off a feeling of being trapped or crushed, it doesn't feel like there's enough air to breathe.


    When the car stops and a back door opens to shine a light on the face of a scared young woman, it's a bit of a shock to the viewer. We easily pick up on her emotion. We can see hands of other people around her, but the bodies are in darkness. Again it feels very confined. The cruelty of the man who says "Pile out you tramps, it's the end of the line" gives off an immediate feeling of dread and hopelessness. We don't know why these women have been brought to the prison - clearly they've done something wrong - but we pity them. It feels like they are being stripped of their dignity with the brutality of those words. When the women turn for their last glimpse of the city beyond the prison gates, you get the feeling they are cut off from the world and any kindness and hope it may have held.


    The bleakness of the film noir style, especially the heavy shadows, adds significantly to the opening scene. If the director added more lighting so we could see all the women, as well as what was outside the car, then both the confusion and feelings of being confined or trapped are gone. It would feel more like a normal ride - even if it is to prison - without the dread we're feeling. It's a very unsettling opening.






    • Like 1
  16. Although THE HITCH-HIKER was made by Ida Lupino's company The Filmakers, it was released by RKO and aside from sharing cinematographer Nicholas Musuraca, it plays very much like an RKO noir of this classic period. The darkness in this "Keep Driving" clip is absolute, making the lighting so important in emphasizing the danger faced by Roy and Gil and the randomness of evil entering their lives while enroute on a simple hunting trip. Like Mike Hammer's pickup of Christina Bailey in KISS ME DEADLY, our typical middle-class American males in THE HITCH-HIKER have had the finger put on them by fate (to borrow Al Roberts' final observation in DETOUR) by unknowingly giving a ride to killer Emmett Myers. The lighting again comes into play as, pointed out in other posts, Myers enters the car and sits in the blackened back seat, uttering terse answers to the vacationers' good-natured questions. When Myers lunges forward to show us his face, the dashboard illumination captures his all-around detestable nature and contemptuous attitude toward his captives. Lighting from the sports car (was it a Jaguar?) dash in KISS ME DEADLY make Christina's and Mike's faces the focus of our attention and we learn things about their characters, Christina's remarkable self-possession despite her terror, and Mike's flip, what's-in-it-for-me demeanor. In THE HITCH-HIKER, we've been introduced to Roy and Gil early on traveling in the front seat of the Plymouth sedan, and by watching their faces we get some insight into the malaise they are seeking to escape on the hunting trip. After Myers enters the picture, their faces reflect the fear that has so suddenly entered their lives, THE HITCH-HIKER is also of its time when the unexpected and vicious nature of crime came into the fore. Serial killings were not unknown and made sensational newspaper copy, but were not part of normal everyday discussion in the early '50s. However, radio shows like GANGBUSTERS and TALES OF THE TEXAS RANGERS (starring Joel McCrea) were remarkably frank about the brutal nature of the criminal mind, the audience learning the grisly details as the investigators discuss them in trying to solve the crime. As part of our discussion of the motives of film noir, if THE HITCH-HIKER was designed to showcase the aberrant nature of Myers and the peril he posed to public safety, it succeeds admirably. Myers, brilliantly portrayed by William Talman, is an outsider to beat them all, and what's worse, he doesn't seem to care. He's boiling over with rage at the world, and at the end (sorry, spoiler alert), stripped of his all-empowering gun and in custody, he uses the only thing he's got left to strike back -- by pathetically spitting at his former hostages. THE HITCH-HIKER pointed to a new kind of madman at large by giving us Emmett Myers.


    Thanks for the background info in your post; it helps put the movie in perspective to the time it was made.

    • Like 1
  17. In typical noir fashion, The Hitch-Hiker exhibits themes of chaos, darkness, and the random nature of events. I mean, here are two regular guys out having some wholesome bro time when WHAM, they try to do a good deed and help out a stranded motorist and end up with Mr. CrayCray McFugitive in the back seat. Unlike other movies where bad stuff happens to folks for easily discernible reasons, films in the noir universe, such as this excellent one from (my favorite female director) Ida Lupino, have a point of view that bad things happen just because.


    As for the lighting and staging of the scene, it all works together to create a superlatively menacing vibe. The way we only see William Talman's shadowy feet at first, then the back of him, and how the rear view mirror casts a shadow over his face until after he points the gun, even after he is in the back seat, really ratchets up the tension, notch by notch.

     Thanks for putting an entertaining spin on this topic .... "Two regular guys out having some wholesome bro time..." You made me laugh, but you made your point as well!

    • Like 2
  18. A man steps out of the darkness on a windy night and puts out his thumb. A car with two men pull over and pick him up. "Out of gas?" they ask. "Yeh," he answers. In just a few seconds, they will realize their act of kindness has put them in grave danger.


    This opening scene of "The Hitch-Hiker," filmed mainly in a car, feels very cramped and nearly claustrophobic. They may be on a highway and outdoors, but they look very confined. The lighting and staging helps with these feelings. The light shines dimly only on their faces or a side of their face; otherwise they are nearly engulfed in darkness.  In the car, the two innocent men sit in the front seat together; the hitch-hiker is in the back and the darkness shrouds his face until he pulls his gun and moves forward, menacingly, into the light. Even when the trio gets out of the car, the camera mostly stays in a tight close-up of the three men. Again, there is very little light and they are surrounded by darkness. There is no doubt these two men are trapped.


    The scenes from "The Hitch-Hiker" and "Kiss Me Deadly" have many similarities. In both, we are being thrown into a scenario with no understanding of what is happening. Both scenes are taut and unnerving, and have people who come out of the darkness and are desperate and on the run. Both scenes take place on an open road which should signify freedom, but instead acts to trap the characters.


    But there are differences. The actual hitch-hiker is clearly a violent man who terrifies not only the two men in the film, but the audience. We have no doubt this is a bad guy. Christina in "Kiss Me Deadly" is a mystery. She looks like a victim, running frantically from some dangerous situation in her bare feet, but we don't know for sure. The man who gives her a ride, Mike Hammer, is actually quite nasty to her but he does give her a ride. Our sympathy is with Christina, not Mike but there is that nagging doubt of both characters because the situation could be deceiving. One thing is certain, both movies set us up for a very taut, unnerving journey.

    • Like 1
  19. This short clip from "Kiss Me Deadly" is as powerful for what isn't said as it is for what is said. The film starts by throwing the audience right into the action without any explanation. A woman is running on a dark highway. She is in a trench coat, with perhaps nothing on under it, and is barefoot. Her feet slap against the highway in a frantic rhythm with her heavy breathing adding to the drama. What is she running from? Who is she? We don't know. She attempts to flag down cars to no avail. So she keeps running ... And grunting ... with those bare feet hitting the pavement. Finally, she comes to a standstill as a car approaches - it will either stop and help her or she will die. Clearly, this is an act of desperation.


    The driver nearly goes off the road. He doesn't ask her if she is injured or what is wrong. Instead he is annoyed. Nearly one minute into the film, we hear the first words spoken: "You almost wrecked my car," says the driver we will come to know is Mike Hammer (Ralph Meeker). Still he lets her into his car. He is a jerk on the exterior, but at least shows he has some humanity by not leaving her on the side of the road.


    They keep driving and for another two minutes there is only the sound of a Nat King Cole love song on the radio and her very heavy breathing. No words are exchanged and it becomes uncomfortable listening to her breathing take on a very sexual tone. He makes a few terse, clipped comments and they come to a roadblock where we learn they are searching for a woman who has escaped from an asylum. She grabs his hand and he covers for her. They drive off.


    It is such an intriguing opening. We don't know the facts, but we understand the emotions: desperation and fear. We are introduced to a guy who comes off as a real cad ("I should have thrown you off that cliff," he says), but there is some complexity in him because he doesn't give her up. And her breathing is so sensual it clearly stretches the Production Code in a most unusual way.


    I have never seen this film before, but I am quite intrigued to see the journey ahead for these two characters.



    • Like 2
  20. This scene from "The Third Man" takes many of the traditional elements of film noir - shadows, odd angles, low-key lights and sounds - and turns them into what was so perfectly called a "dazzling display of formalist techniques." It truly is that.


    Director Carol Reed uses noir elements to extremes and then even plays them off each other for added effect. The city streets have severe angles of walkways and buildings, but that's not enough - the camera is tilted. Dark doorways are skewed at extreme angles, as are the people. At one point Joseph Cotten's character, the unfortunately named Holly Martins, is filmed at an angle leaning to the right and the next shot is of the dark doorway hiding Orson Welles (playing Harry Lime) angled toward him to the left. It is like the two characters are destined to collide.


    The "reveal" of Harry in the doorway is brilliant. When we first glimpse the dark, angled doorway all we can see is a kitten. It takes a second shot to see the shoes and pants of a man who is shrouded in inky darkness above the kitten. The camera cuts between a puzzled Holly, wondering who is following him, to the man in the doorway. A woman turns out a light and it shines directly on the man's face. He is dressed in black (hat, scarf, coat) to further add to the darkness around him, allowing the light to focus on that amazing face of Orson Welles. The camera moves in and captures the small smirk on his face before the light turns off and he is gone. That's a grand entrance.


    Reed's filmmaking and Welles' screen magnetism are a powerful combination. The play of shadows and angles along with Welles standing nearly perfectly still speak 1,000 words despite Welles not saying a word. It is fascinating to watch.


    The film uses all of those formalist techniques above but is still deeply realistic because it is filmed on location, uses real sounds like the car horn, cat and the female neighbor yelling at the noise for a bit of comic relief. We are on a very realistic dark, wet street in Vienna that starts to turn almost nightmarish with the overbearing shadows and angles - a perfect mix of realism and formalism.



    • Like 5
  21. This scene says so much about both characters in only a few minutes. It starts with the typical voiceover narration, but something is a bit off. The voice sounds drained, defeated and the man seems to be discussing something that has already happened. Something bad has happened.


    A car drives up to a small diner and a guy gets out - a hitchhiker and he is smiling (unusual for a noir). We recognize his voice as that of the narrator, but here his voice has energy. He's a drifter, but likable and at the ready with a quip. When the diner owner asks him if he is here for the jo, he replies he has a trouble that stops him from working: "My feet they keep itching for me to go places." He is actually quite charming in a low-key way.


    Inside when he's left alone for a moment, he hears something drop and he follows a tube of lipstick to a pair of legs. This is the big entrance for Lana Turner's character (Cora) and it is bold, sexy, powerful without saying a word. The camera pans up her bare legs and there she is: cool, emotionless, gorgeous all in white with short shorts, a crop top and turban. It is a stunning sight and Frank is definitely stunned - we can see his quick intake of breath. She ignores him. When she looks at him and sees how captivated he is by her, you can see Cora's lip quiver just a touch. It is an amazing set up for what is to come: he is bewitched and she holds the power.


    The film noir elements of the scene include the narration, the diner setting, the characters (drifter, feel mme fatale), Frank's witty dialogue, and the shadows. The shadows were especially interesting in this daytime scene as they played against the wall, on Frank's back (marking him as a trapped man) and were even on the floor as the camera followed the tube of lipstick - a great touch.



    • Like 1
  22. Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet do a wonderful job of playing off of each other in this scene. Lorre's entrance is relaxed, carefree. He's going about his business and talking to himself. It makes you smile. Then he opens the door to his room and the film shifts into a darker mode as he - and the audience - see the room has been ransacked. Greenstreet's appearance, then, is the opposite of when we first saw Lorre: Greenstreet menacingly walks in from another room brandishing a gun.


    The two then begin a give-and-take verbally and in their movements. One sits, the other stands and so they keep moving as does the camera. It is interesting how Greenstreet has the gun, but he doesn't always appear to have control, as when Lorre stands above him, quizzing him in an almost innocent way and asking him "what are you doing here"? In one exceptional shot, the camera slowly pans in to Greenstreet until he is shot from below in extreme closeup, giving the effect of a powerful and dangerous man.


    The scene has multiple elements of film noir including camera movements that help add to the story, the interplay and verbal sparring between the two characters, and some great dialogue that really keeps you interested in the scene.

    • Like 1
  23. This scene from "Out of the Past" may take place in the sunshine, but it has many hallmarks of the noir style: shadows, voiceover, sense of confinement, high fashion.


    It opens with overhead shots of a city and a voiceover in the realism style of noir making it feel like a documentary or newsreel. The narrator is matter of fact, like he is reporting. Then the camera moves to city streets. The sun is out, but there are shadows near doorways. Men lean against buildings and doorways; shadows flutter against faces.


    The action moves inside a bar, a popular noir setting. Our narrator is at a table looking bored, restless while he waits for a woman he has been sent to find. She finally appears from the bright sunshine, wearing a fashionable light-colored suit and hat. It is almost like she is a breath of fresh air in the stifling heat. Despite the heat she is cool, calm, polite but distant. The camera stays close on them in the bar - despite the space there is a feeling of confinement and you wonder if they are about to be trapped by their actions. He is trying to sweet talk her, but she's not buying it - or is she? As she's giving him suggestions on where to go as a tourist, she slides in a "I sometimes go there." She is interested, but she won't throw herself at him.


    By using a dynamic approach - taking the motifs associated with film noir but moving them out of the darkness and into the sunshine - the film contributes an innovative new approach to noir.

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  24. We learn much about Marlowe in just a few minutes through his words and mannerisms. He tells us he is 38, went to college and was fired from his job at the D.A.'s office. But we know even more by watching him. We see he is businesslike, unimpressed by the wealth around him. He can make a wisecrack casually roll off his tongue. ("How do you like your brandy?" he's asked. "In a glass," he replies.) He is respectful, honest and well prepared for the meeting, rattling off information about the man's family - and not holding back as when he tells the man his two daughters are "pretty and pretty wild." It makes him seem trust worthy and likable.


    As to the differences in Bogart playing the two roles - I would have to watch both movies again, it has been a while) but Bogart is Bogart in all of his films. There are nuances of course, but we watch him because he is Bogart, not Spade, or Marlowe or Rick.

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  25. If you sat down to watch this film in 1949 without knowing anything about it, you would probably think you were watching a newsreel. The documentary realism style employed in this opening scene is devoid of emotion. Facts are stated by a narrator in an official way, like he is reading from a script. "Nature never waits," he says. Manpower is needed and it comes from a vast army of neighbors to the south in Mexico. It is all very factual, almost cold. We are looking down at this vast land through a camera that is jittery, adding more to the realism.


    This realistic style gives the filmmaker more tools to work with. By taking the action out of the city and using the landscape instead of the cityscape, the style broadens the scope for the noir filmmaker who now has a new world to explore. The realism distances the audience from movie but has the ability to pull us back in at any time. For example, Anthony Mann moved from impersonal overhead shots of the land to the tight shots of the migrant workers seemingly trapped behind the fence. Suddenly we are invested in what we are watching; then the narration finally informs us that we are about to watch a true story. It will be interesting to see where the film goes from that point and how it continues to use the documentary realism style.

    • Like 1
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