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Paul Smith

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About Paul Smith

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  • Birthday 01/01/1959

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  • Location
    Long Island, New York
  • Interests
    Classic film, reading, walking, beach going, music, meditation.
  1. It's funny to notice in "Easter Parade" that Ann is wearing heels during the ensemble production number "Magazine Cover" on the Ziegfeld rooftop. But she's in slippers right after when she brings Fred onstage for their dance together to "It Only Happens." She must have been slightly taller. Either way, she's an ace!
  2. Here's why I think it's called "The Asphalt Jungle": Not a single tree. Not one green living thing is visible. There is no activity on the streets, no traffic, no people. No children or women. It's all grey and lifeless, steel and concrete and pavement, and gives the impression of a city in the aftermath of some kind of mysterious calamity from which it has not recovered. Apathy. Malaise. A sense of futility and what's -the-use lawlessness. Mean Streets, indeed!
  3. I sometimes get the sense, as I did when watching the opening clip of "The Hitch-Hiker," that the director is deliberately provoking the audience to a state of high anxiety by presenting situations where characters do not act to save themselves when they actually probably could do so successfully. I saw numerous opportunities during this scene where either of the victims could have overtaken the villain and I was literally SQUIRMING IN MY SEAT wondering "Why the h*ll don't they DO something????" I get so worked up! And now, finally, today, thanks to this course, I see that my response and my real and actual emotional involvement is no accident. There's a master director at the helm here, someone of amazing storytelling talent, and the vague playing-down of the menace factor, along with the exaggeration of the helplessness factor, are things that are deliberately insinuated but in a very sneaky way. The only way for me to find relief from the tension I'm experiencing is to try to remember that the story will eventually have an outcome that is ultimately satisfying, i.e. a payoff that makes all the squirming worthwhile. The bad guy will get what's coming to him, so to speak. I miss this kind of craftsmanship in today's films. It's the reason why I so revere the classic Hollywood product.
  4. There's a "weirdness" to film noir that makes the viewer uneasy. We're presented with inexplicable behavior, unexplainable situations that strain credibility, questions that we can't possibly guess the answers to. We're being taunted and toyed with, hooked and then reeled in, as it were. This scene from "The Third Man" is a perfect example. Here we are on location, at night, and the street is utterly deserted. The shiny cobblestones, the tall buildings, the lone figure walking in the darkness all produce a sense of eerie disquiet in us, the viewers. We know there are other people all around, in their homes, and since the hour is obviously very late, all of them are sound asleep, their windows dark. This increases the sense of isolation being felt by the main character. He's surrounded by people, but he's all alone. We feel his vulnerability. Another strange thing is that the Welles character is so well-dressed, his pants so crisply creased, his shoes so shiny and unscuffed, even his complexion is so utterly smooth, that you can't quite believe it is this same person who tears down the street so wildly a few moments later. He's already been seen clearly, so why should he need to make such a quick and reckless getaway? That's one of those questions that nag at us. We are always trying to figure out why people act the way they do, but Noir takes this a step- or several steps- further, by extending the weirdness factor, often to a degree that makes the audience distinctly uncomfortable.
  5. I absolutely LOVE Greenstreet's entrance here, the way the low, trembling strings create that utterly sinister tone. I often think how this actor must have been having tremendous fun in his portrayals. He was certainly the antithesis of the Hollywood glamour boy, and was loving every minute of it, apparently. The chemistry with Lorre is perfect, which explains the long collaboration they shared in 8 films (I believe.) A winning formula, to say the least. One gets the sense that this director knew what special and superb talents he had to work with and made the best of it, as in having the camera roll slowly up to right under Greenstreet's chin, having Lorre lounging casually with a smoke even right after his possessions have been violated and he has a firearm pointed at him! Beneath the intrigue and tension there's that undercurrent of true masters delivering a fantastic entertainment and, as I mentioned, a real sense of fun in the offing.
  6. Like many of you, I too like to immerse myself in a film, and also its backstory. I have shelves of books about the making of classic movies and biographies of the studios and the stars. I am a nut for the provenance behind props and locations. I know too well the effects of over-saturation, and I agree that a break is an absolute necessity at some point to keep you from going on automatic pilot, as it were. But when I discover a great film or book I watch or read it many times throughout my life. I think it enriches my appreciation.
  7. "In what ways can this sequence from The Killers be considered an important contribution to the film noir style?" I think this sequence from "The Killers" typifies a kind of frantic and claustrophobic feeling that film noir conveys so well. We're on the edge of our seats, asking ourselves questions: Why are the streets so deserted? Where is everyone? Why doesn't someone do something? Why are these victims such pushovers? Don't they know it would be easy to just. . . . ." The rapid, urgent string music only intensifies the fraught emotion we are now in the grips of. We are completely caught up now, engrossed, involved, hooked! We may as well be tied up like those in the back of the diner, for we are now a captive audience: we simply can not tear ourselves away until we have followed the story through to the final denouement. Ah for the days when storytelling in filmmaking (rather than today's emphasis on visuals and shock value) was a CRAFT.
  8. "What are some of the deeper layers of meaning that are contained in this film noir musical sequence?" I think the most obvious meaning is that great feminine beauty can be very seductive, causing people-men and women both- to make rash judgments and decisions, to act out of character, and exposing themselves to risks they ordinarily would be careful to avoid. Here we have an especially beautiful and shapely woman, and the otherwise sophisticated and well-to-do clientele are actually trying to expose her right there in public! Thus they are exposing themselves, albeit unwittingly, as vulgar and crass and painting themselves as sexually desperate. Beauty makes men act reckless. Beauty is power. Another example of that is how Glenn Ford's character is so rough and brutal with Gilda. She meant a great deal to him, so much so that her words could have hurt him so deeply and spurred him to physical violence against a member of the weaker sex. He's not a thug. yet here he is acting like a lowlife palooka. He clearly valued his association with Gilda, and winning her meant that he possessed a great prize, inextricably tied in with her great physical beauty. Possessing her was a testament to his male ego. And ego also makes men act reckless.
  9. I get so excited when I see filmmaking of this quality that I really can NOT analyze it effectively. The only thing I can offer is a big WOW. Joan Crawford and Ann Blyth. WOW. That story line. WOW. Those characters. That setting. That direction. WOW. The make-up, the hair, the costumes, the lighting, wow Wow, WOW!!! This is the apex of Joan's career. She's like a thoroughbred racehorse on a winning streak, truly an awe-inspiring thing of beauty. She inhabited the noir style perfectly. Doubtless Miss Blyth's own exceptional performance was sparked and fired by the influence of such a consummate pro as Joan Crawford. Mr. Curtiz must have been in his glory with performances of this caliber being delivered under his direction.
  10. One thing that I always notice in film noir is that when the protagonist is trying to be optimistic, such as Milland is here in the opening scene of "Ministry," the darkness of the setting acts as a kind of counterweight, bringing us down and not allowing our spirits to lift with the character's. We don't really feel that things will turn out well. The sense of foreboding is palpable, and we intuit that the character is very likely deluding himself. Delusional characters put us on edge, and by the way aren't there some great musical motifs in classic film that communicate so well that disturbed, warped, unbalanced feeling that you get when you see a character going off the deep end!? (Joan Crawford in "Possessed" comes to mind.) Milland is looking forward to the future even in very bleak circumstances, but I am already fearing/expecting the worst!
  11. It's easy to see why an actor like Clifton Webb would be chosen for the role of such an acerbic and aloof individual: he's the best there is at this kind of thing. We're being led to think he has the superior intellect over the street-smart detective. He's watching him through the half-open door, supposedly sizing him up without his knowledge. But is the detective really unaware? Isn't it possible that he actually intends to call out his observer by deliberately picking up a "priceless" object so impulsively, and without any reverence for its supposed value, forcing Lydecker to call out in alarm to "be careful" and thus exposing himself (!) and the fact that he had been spying on his "guest?" Why should he need to spy at all, we wonder? Why should he need-right off- to obtain the upper hand over this detective?
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