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Everything posted by BrianM

  1. This is a movie I've never seen, but now I'll catch it for sure! The opening is amazing. You never saw two such lonely people. The extreme closeups on both their faces only heighten their solitude, instead of the warmth you usually expect from such shots. The music only adds to this sense of detachment, but is amplified by the camera pulling farther and farther back from the male character, to show him as a tiny, trapped speck in the soulless, concrete-and-glass modernist office building - truly lost. She also is lost, and trapped, inside the glass walls of a cramped phone booth.
  2. As in Strangers On A Train, this opening sequence is created to deliberately disorient the viewer; a loud train whistle under the RKO logo, and another as the opening shot of an onrushing train is seen. The disorientation continues as the train rushes by behind the credits, as you're trying to read them. Another element of film noir then occurs: "the schedule," or "the plan," as we see granite-faced, gravel-voiced Charles McGraw give orders about the luggage to the Red Cap. He wants everything to be in order. But we know what happens to "schedules" and "plans" - and "order," for that matt
  3. With everything they've presented to us this week about the delusion of the "American way of life," after WWII, it's fitting that 99 River St. and Too Late For Tears are prime examples of characters in movies who think money will be the solution to their problems. The washed-up boxer who does "one last job," or the bickering couple having money literally thrown at them are terrific examples of wish-fulfillment fantasies, and maybe that's what drew audiences to these types of films at the time. Come to think of it, that's still happening today. We buy lottery tickets and dream of what we'll d
  4. As you'd expect, masterful work from "the master." The whole post-credits scene is designed to unsettle the viewer, from when the first taxi pulls up, nearly running into the camera (ie, the viewer), and later (again, from the viewer's POV), as the train suddenly lurches onto the other track, when you've been expecting it to go straight ahead. We see no faces, only shoes, walking into the station, One pair is two-toned, resembling the spats of decades past, giving a hint that their owner is something of a dandy. When Bruno eventually introduces himself, the "mama's boy" image is reinfo
  5. The opening shots are definitely from the main character's perspective. His silhouette is dwarfed by the severe angles of the police building in the first shot. He continues on alone through the corridors of the police station, in perspective, all angles, no straight lines (this seems to be an obsession with me!). Once in the Homicide Dept., the angles become "normal" as he interacts with the detectives in the two rooms. He goes into the office of "the man in charge" nearly alone also, but watch how the shots open up as he introduces himself (from two-shot, then medium close-up as we see his
  6. In my post about Border Incident, I mentioned the contrasts between the formalist angular composition of the "nightmare world" of noir characters (originating in Expressionist cinema), contrasted with the straight vertical and horizontal lines of the "normal" world. This effect is everywhere in this opening scene. First, you see a kind of perspective of the inside of the paddy wagon as the credits appear, leading your eye to the tiny window, whereout lies "the real world." Next, as the women are herded from the wagon, there are two sharp views of the prison exterior, either slightly skewed o
  7. Terrific opening scene. The sense of the woman being trapped is shown in the repeating shots where we see her bare, running feet, cutting to her upper body running toward the camera and stopping only when she is right in front of it, then showing each of the first two cars whizzing past. This is repeated three times, building to the climactic shot where she stands directly in front of Mike Hammer's oncoming car (ie, she doesn't care anymore), forcing him off the road. It's like she's a trapped animal, repeating the same movements over and over. It puts me in mind of Lilian Gish's "locked in t
  8. Personally, having seen this film a few times, I've always thought its style was kind of "Welles-esque," with low-key lighting, odd camera angles and so on. Not to detract from Carroll Reed at all, an excellent director in his own right; perhaps it's just Orson Welles being there that brings Citizen Kane or Touch of Evil so readily to mind. That said, the scene is very effective: the slanted streets and skewed angles that reflect the Cotten character's drunkenness; the shock of him seeing Harry Lime (whom he thought was dead, after all); and the slight startled look on Lime's face when the li
  9. In this film, there is also an immediate "power play" between the protagonist and the femme fatale. Nora drops (or pretends to drop) her lipstick near Frank, then holds out her hand for him to give it to her. He keeps it, making her come to him. He imagines he's in charge, though he isn't. There is lots of foreshadowing in the scene, also: "Man wanted" for labour and sex will become "wanted man;" Frank no sooner alights from the car than a motorcycle cop roars up with siren wailing; and Frank is so distracted by Nora, he doesn't notice the hamburger burning, a very apt metaphor for his own fu
  10. Many Noirs feature the opening "play," like this one, between the male protagonist and the femme fatale. Here, she rejects his opening advance of buying her the earrings, but then backhandedly invites him to join her at a place that will be more familiar to both of them. He complains about all the people who've tried to sell him things recently, but doesn't recognize her "pitch." This is similar to Walter Neff and Phyllis Dietrichsen in Double Indemnity initially recognizing each other's ploys, and rejecting each other, but eventually giving in and starting an affair anyway.
  11. There was almost a surreal quality to this scene: The jarring angles of the fields, canals and roads, the criss-cross pattern of the chain-link fence, are like something out of German Expressionist cinema. Juxtaposed against them is the bland narration, like something out of an industrial or training film of the era. The angles only become perpendicular when we see the warning sign at the end of the sequence, as if it's "back to reality."
  12. There is another great example of a long single take (a la Preminger) in this scene. The camera first looks down from the Swede's 2nd floor window as Nick jumps the last fence, then pulls back, into the room, to show the Swede lying on his bed, the lamp casting a shadow on the wall, rather than light. It stops and lingers on the scene for a few seconds, then suddenly moves right as Nick comes through the door. Then it follows Nick left as he moves to the foot of the Swede's bed to give him the warning. It's to no avail, and Nick leaves the Swede to his fate. End of shot. Brilliant.
  13. It's been some years since I've seen I've seen Gilda, and I'd forgotten how intensely erotic this scene is. Using her body and her hair, Gilda begins a virtual striptease, pulling off each long glove, then taunting the men in the audience to pull of the rest of her clothes! By the end, she is almost in an "altered state" of wanton depravity, and it literally takes a slap in the face to pull her out of it. Whew!
  14. In most film noir, there's always a sense of "time running out." In Ministry of Fear, they have to do their heroics before it's too late, ie, there's a deadline. In other noirs, like Out of the Past or Double Indemnity, the sense is that there is no escape for the doomed protagonist. The clock started ticking the minute they did the wrong thing, and as they say in Indemnity, they're on a streetcar, and the last stop is the grave (not an exact quote).
  15. This may not make me too popular, but I personally never liked the way Dick Powell played Marlowe. His characterization is lighthearted, smug, almost smarmy. Watch Bogart play him - he sneers, Powell merely smirks. There isn't an undercurrent of ruthlessness to him, like there is in Chandler's books. I daresay it's like Roger Moore's James Bond compared to Sean Connery's (or more recently, Daniel Craig's). My two cents...
  16. Loved this opening shot, one of Preminger's trademark long takes. In 1 1/2 minutes, the camera goes from the crystal objects in the display case, around the room, and back to the same objects again. The other thing I liked is that you think, for most of the first minute, that the room is all you'll see in the opening scene, but then the camera lands on McPherson at just the second Lydecker says, sardonically, "Another of those detectives came to see me." I've had this movie on DVD for some years, and will have to watch it again now!
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