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About JGiesbrecht

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    Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
  1. The combination of open road and cars provides a clash of polarized symbols: the open road the very metaphor of freedom and the car an enclosed and confining space. And, of course, the symbolism of the road leading to somewhere, or as we've also seen, leaving somewhere behind. The road is freedom, but once you're in a car, you're trapped, no matter where that car goes. The tone between The Hitch-hiker and Kiss me Deadly are completely different. The latter is confusion and chaos, where the pervading tone is set by Christina's fear and panic. The former is menace and the breakdown of society, where evil forces (and we know from the first second that the hitch-hiker is bad news) lurk everywhere. The camera work in Kiss me Deadly is kanted, with quick cuts underlying the feeling of confusion and where the dominant sound is Christina's breathing. The camera work on the Hitch-hiker is focused on the killer, still and patient, focused on his feet. He is still and patient, waiting for his next victim. Same basic elements: feet and people trying to get a lift on a highway, but completely different treatments for completely different ends. As for themes, I could probably write a few different papers on what the hitch-hiker symbolizes: the breakdown of society and its morals (tapping into the discussions on existentialism) or the paranoia that was already in film noir before McCarthyism (I'm sure it's no coincidence that the Hitch-hiker was co-written by a blacklisted writer). The beginning of the Hitch-hiker is shocking in its compact presentation of violence perpetrated on innocent people: it's presented in detached, factual and non-sentimental fashion. Then you spend the next hour trapped in the car with Roy and Gil, sharing their torment as you wonder when the bullet will come. It doesn't even let up at the end, you just know that none of that trio will ever be the same again.
  2. I found many changes from the films noir of the '40s that we'd been studying. As has been mentioned, there is no voiceover introducing us to the scene. Instead, we're thrown right into the thick of it, sharing Christina's desperations and confusion. While so many films have given us the protagonist's POV, this one is completely third-person. We're not privy to the thoughts of either character. Unlike other film noir women (fatales et al) Christina is not elegant or in control. There is no witty banter between her and Hammer. The glib remarks and rapport are replaced by a lack of conversation, and when Hammer finally talks, it's brutal and unromantic. When Christina takes his hand at the checkstop, it's not the flirtatious instant love that we've seen in The Maltese Falcon, Out of the Past or Farewell my Lovely. There's no spark, no lingering camera shots on her body and no exchange of glances: it's her cry for help, and for whatever reason, Hammer decides to go along with it. The entire tone of the movie (both psychological and technical) is different from the films noir we've seen thus far. It's formalized, but stripped down to the essentials. What remains, and perhaps is made stronger, is the sense of confusion: we have the soothing crooning of Nat King Cole (singing a song ominously introduced as "the last disc") with the desperate sounds of Christina's breathing, with the speed of the driving (did you see how quickly the road whipped past under the car?) and the apparent detachment of the driver. After the strange credits forcing us to view the movie in a different way, we get our first piece of information: she's escaped from an asylum. Why is she nude? Why is Hammer helping her? Why was she institutionalized? Why were the police looking for her? I, too, have never seen this movie, but I now want to know the answers to these questions.
  3. Seriously? You censored the first half of the word striptease? People are going to think I was being vulgar.
  4. What did you notice about Rita Hayworth's performance when you were watching this scene? Anger. A whole lot of anger on behalf of Gilda. Her movements seemed clumsy, and having read through the thread and discovered that she was an accomplished dancer made this number all the more intriguing. She's supposed to be doing a striptease, something that is usually very fluid and sensual. Yet, I never got that feeling from this segment. Her dancing wasn't sensual, her stripping wasn't evocative and teasing. She was a woman with a purpose, and her anger and dedication to this purpose overrode the artistic elements of her number, to the point where she was inviting men onstage to undress her and having herself hauled off by the stage manager. What are some of the deeper layers of meaning that are contained in this film noir musical sequence? What I got was that she was out there, angry and pushing the boundaries, for the sole purpose of humiliating Glenn Ford's character. She might've been a dame who would make a bishop kick through a stained glass window, but she was taking that window out herself, with a sledgehammer. In what ways do you think music influenced and contributed to the development of film noir? As has been referenced already in regards to Casablanca and The Big Sleep, musical interludes become character pieces, and the music reflects the psychological mood of the protagonist/film at that point. As Time Goes By isn't just a nifty little number that Sam played in Paris, it becomes a subtext of Rick and Ilsa's entire relationship, in both music and libretto. Having not seen Gilda, I couldn't speak to how this particular song reflects on the relationship between the two main characters, but it does seem a strange song to which to do a striptease. Harlem Nocturne it ain't. However, thinking of Harlem Nocturne leads me to add music, and particularly jazz, to the list of elements that helped make film noir a grittier, more realistic genre. This isn't the pretty, big band numbers of the '30s - a lot of the jazz I've heard used in scores is more in the bebop, freestyle jazz, where it can be discordant, energetic and almost out of control, much like many of the characters encountered in film noir.
  5. Throughout film noir movies we recognize that characters were much more nuanced, filled with more contradictions, than the ones from the 30's. For example, you rather sympathize with Roy Earle (Humphrey Bogart) in High Sierra than with Tony Camonte (Paul Muni) in Scarface. Noir filmmakers tried to avoid one dimension characters, although Scarface is a magnificent movie. It seems that even the evilest villain displayed humanity at certain point. No wonder why some of us identify more with the obscure captain Hank Quinlan rather than with Mike Vargas in Touch of Evil. That's one of the things Nino Frank pointed out in his essay: that films noir were a departure from the traditional police serials to a stronger psychological focus. The plot no longer hinged on finding out the solution to the crime, but on exploring the motives and psyches of all those involved. How do they interact with each other? What drives them to do what they do? I think that's why your observations about noir characters is bang on, and why chronologically anachronistic characters like Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe still resonate with us today. The world they inhabit is long gone, but we still identify with their internal struggles and issues. They're not just caricatures, they're complex people who have issues (and Marlowe has more than a few if you read the books).
  6. In the podcast regarding the Maltese Falcon, the moderators discussed the shifting loyalties of Sam Spade: how he would defend Bridgid to the end until he found she lied to him, and then he gave her up without a second thought. Marlowe, the bookend to Spade for "hard-boiled" detectives, also exhibits this type of behaviour, which, as already pointed out, is ungentlemanly and certainly a change from the standard social behaviour of a man towards a lady. I believe it was Eddie Muller who pointed out that there's a degree of misogyny in film noir, which is not surprising considering the prevalence of femme fatales. Anne Shirley may not be a femme fatale, but you can never trust a dame, and Marlow doesn't. He doesn't believe her and is not above getting rough to get what he needs to pursue his own agenda. Looking at film noir as an ethos, the private detectives fit in quite well because, (again, as has been pointed out several times) they follow their own code of honour and behaviour, skirting right/wrong and lawful/unlawful and so are not bound by what the audience has come to accept as social convention and proper conduct. But that's the world they inhabit. A repetitive theme that seems to be emerging in our studies is that film noir is filled with people who have their own morals, and we watch while circumstances and individuals try to push these people into crossing their own moral line. In Scarlet Street, we saw how Edward G. Robinson was pushed by love into committing crimes he never would've done before. With Marlowe and Spade, we see them constantly dancing on the fence of their own moral boundaries and lines, sometimes falling on either side, depending on the circumstances and the individuals involved. They can go from being suave and charming to brutal if and when it suits them. For me, film noir is a combination of a certain cinematic style that echoes the murky moral waters of the characters. Perhaps that's why the private detective is such a good fit, as he operates within his own world, motivated by nothing more than his own murky morality and sense of justice, which gives him the freedom in his behaviour that wouldn't be acceptable or appropriate for anyone else.
  7. I wouldn't say the Nazis, but definitely the Germans. German Expressionism came from the disillusionment prevalent in Germany after WWI (where the Treaty of Versailles basically brought the country to its knees), similar to the disillusionment found in the United States after the Depression. The whole world was in chaos: one world war hot on the heels of another one, revolutions, economic depression, struggles everywhere ... who wouldn't feel like the world was imploding around them? I think people were just too cynical to enjoy the screwball escapism of comedies that they'd been seeing, and they wanted something they could relate to: a confused, jarring world where people do what they have to do to get what they want. This world was presented in noir through both style (darkness and shadow, camera angles, et al) as well as themes (where's the line between good and bad people?) The European directors had the experience to bring the visuals with them and marry these to innately American stories.
  8. I think the reason we begin with Lydecker providing the voiceover is because he is the controlling figure in this movie, and so he wants the viewer to believe his version of events. He even pulls out a written transcript of what he told the police detectives. The tone of the opening voiceover is also melodramatic, "I, Walter Lydecker, was the only one who knew her." It's the stuff of the written word, not someone speaking from the heart (as well as once again showing his arrogance and need to be the alpha in every situation).
  9. Eddie Muller said for him, film noir was about "what people wanted and how far they were willing to go to get it." The introduction to Lydecker shows that he has no boundaries. He obviously has no shame, which is evident in both his conspicuous display of affluence as well as his own personal lack of decorum, greeting people in the bath and challenging them by standing up to display himself. This is a man who will stop at nothing to get what he wants. Even in his voiceover, he shows that he doesn't share the same boundaries and morals of the masses, as he lightly moves from talking about the day Laura "died" to the fact that it was a "murder" with the same lack of concern that makes a murder, for him, the moral equivalent to someone dying from natural causes. If you want to look at film noir as an ethos, then Lydecker, for all his money, fame and trappings of success, is the same amoral bottom-feeder found in many film noir: someone for whom everything and everyone are just objects to be exploited for their own agenda.
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