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Takoma1

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About Takoma1

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  1. Of the ones I've actually seen, I'd rank them thusly (a ranking that is to do with favorites, not how "noir" they are): The Big Sleep M The Killers Stranger on a Train Out of the Past Dark Passage The Third Man Kiss Me Deadly Elevator to the Gallows The Asphalt Jungle The Postman Always Rings Twice Laura DOA Mildred Pierce Of the movies in the doses I haven't seen, I'm most interested in: The Strange Love of Martha Ivers Ministry of Fear Beware My Lovely The Hitch-Hiker Too Late for Tears Criss Cross Desperate The Letter
  2. I'll probably also continue to use this message board (the course one) on and off. It's been great learning a lot of new information about different movies and the studio histories.
  3. I always find it interesting to jump into the middle of a story and not be too sure about where my sympathies should lie. Is she playing him, or is she genuinely in love? Is her snapping at her husband just the way she is, or its it the frustration after years of controlling behavior? Likewise, is his irritability symbolic of how he has always acted in this marriage, or has she led him to this place of suspicion? The implication seems to be that they are going to murder the husband, but the movie doesn't spell out who is on the "right" side of this dynamic. More broadly, I've enjoyed the daily doses. Having such short clips means that the conversations can be much more focused. It would be crazy if we were trying to pick apart entire films. Having just 3-4 minutes of "text" to parse allows for everyone to be on the same page with what we're referencing. The doses also show off the great range of noir, from the snap crackle pop dialogue of The Big Sleep to the soul-crushing violence of Brute Force. It was a good survey, I think, especially for someone who might not have seen a lot of noir. The doses have also been great previews for quite a few movies I haven't seen. Of the 32 daily doses, I've seen 14. That gives me a great list to keep pursuing my noir viewing (I am what you'd call a very casual fan of noir).
  4. While I can't speak as strongly to its presence in film, one of the great hard-boiled detective books, Red Harvest, is all about a town that is rotten to the core with institutional corruption (so much so that there are multiple corrupt factions within the town's police force!). I'd be curious to know if plots like this became less popular during the war. As you say, though, once the war was over there was less need to see police (or generally men in uniform) as being universally good men. And as Willireo points out: Seeing that kind of abuse would have stung especially deep after fighting for freedom. To me, the most depressing thing about the clip is the reaction of the man about to be beaten. He answers direct questions, but he doesn't try to reason with his tormentor. He doesn't call for (or expect) help. His body language expresses a kind of passive hopelessness that is totally dispiriting to witness. And the worst part is: he's right. A whole roomful of strapping men just sit around playing cards and allow an atrocity to take place just feet away. I think that something else about the music that's interesting is that it seems to reflect that the warden believes himself to be worthy of it--that his actions are rightfully accompanied by an epic, powerful score. He isn't ashamed of his actions--he is celebratory. The glint of his ring as he washes his hands was, to me, very eerie (I think I saw that correctly--he is wearing a wedding band, right?).
  5. Agreed with all of the observations about the effectiveness of the lighting and the off-screen violence. I think it's striking how claustrophobic the scene feels, both because of the way that the overhead light creates a smaller space and through the two uses of extreme close-ups with the fist and the broken bottle. It really gives you that sense of someone being and feeling trapped. Often when someone is in a bad situation in a movie, you think "Oh, you can solve this by XYZ". But the way this scene is shot, you totally understand how helpless and hopeless the main character must feel and how totally overwhelmed he is.
  6. Being an "unnamed Midwest city," we can't say for sure. But I'd imagine that a lot of cities would have had laws against not having a legal residence, and perhaps also laws requiring proof of employment/source of income. These days, based on what I've read, these laws have been spread out into laws that generally work more against homeless people than vagrants. Loitering, being in a park after dark, etc. I feel like police often have a handful of vague charges that can be used to arrest people they don't like or suspect may be up to more. And, when in doubt, some officers (please note that I'm not rampantly anti-police or anything, but these abuses do happen) have definitely used bogus charges of "resisting arrest" or "assault on an officer" when other charges aren't usable.
  7. Well, I think that people who promote movies will try to find as many angles as possible to pull in an audience. Like when a movie is advertised as "featuring" a certain actor/actress and then you watch the thing and they're in it for like two minutes. I think that "noir" is something that a lot of people (especially non-experts) associate with sultry femme fatales, violence, and mystery-thriller plots. It's certainly a word that makes me sit up and pay attention. It implies darkness, and that's a good way to get people interested. You almost have to wonder if the people writing the marketing don't totally know what they're talking about.
  8. The more I think about it, the more I love how blatantly crooked the whole line-up scene is. Especially when you compare it to lineup scenes these days where all of the suspects share the same characteristics (build, hair color, eye color, height, etc). "So here's this guy who killed his wife in his own house. And this guy is a clerk who does drugs and tried to hang himself. And this guy is a vagrant who has committed a billion robberies. Now, who would you say is the man who robbed you? You said it was a tall guy in a brown suit. I'm just wondering if anyone--say that tall convicted robber in the brown suit--might be the guy you saw." I was trying to figure out earlier what it made me think of, and the way that the huge crowd of police officers is watching the men in the lighted frame up on the stage with the booming voice over the speaker puts me in mind of Welles' The Trial. Not necessarily a specific shot from that movie, but more like the overall vibe and surreal sensibility. And the fact that this man emerges from this crooked machine without having to say a word is pretty amazing. I feel sympathy for the clerk being intimidated, but also a strange admiration for this guy beating such a corrupt system. (He might be guilty, but you just know that a ton of innocent men have been railroaded by police using these same tactics).
  9. As with any genre, there are movies that seem absolutely steeped in noir tropes, while others seem to have just a hint of noir elements. There's definitely a grey area, and I don't think that you can draw a firm line and say "This is what makes something a real noir, while that is what makes something just a movie with noir touches." I do, though, think that the label "noir" is sometimes used as a lazy short-hand for any crime or thriller or mystery filmed in black and white. Similarly, I think that the phrase "neo-noir" is sometimes also too broadly applied. I think that some people genuinely don't have a notion of what noir is (I know that sounds a little snobbish), and think it does just mostly have to do with being filmed in black and white. I think that genre labels are mostly a good way to help someone contextualize what they are about to watch, and that can sometimes get a little sloppy. Mostly I don't care, but every now and then someone says "Oh that's a horror/noir/drama/whatever." and I think "Really?!". Like when you hear someone say "That blue couch" and think to yourself "That couch is clearly green." To a certain degree, you just can't argue perspective. And I think that, aside from outlandish exceptions, most genre debates are largely down to perspective.
  10. My reaction to this clip is in random thoughts: 1) There's a great sense of push-pull between order and chaos. There's an element of wildness, contrasted with order that borders almost on the surreal. A man stumbles into a diner and gives a gun to the owner to hide. The police come in, but the owner knows to demand a warrant. The police honor this code, but then use their own code (their right to charge someone with vagrancy) to arrest the guy anyway. In a bizarre, almost cinematic staging, men are brought in for a ridiculously crooked line-up, but the robber's implied threat (a kind of "threatening while hardly moving a muscle" that I also associate with Lee Marvin) keeps the identification from happening. 2) The line-up itself is an interesting contrast. The two other men represent "behind closed door" crimes. One man has turned himself in for killing his spouse. The other man is a drug addict and is suicidal. The other two men are touched by death already (a murder and an attempted suicide), and you can't help but feel that the robber is headed that way himself. 3) I love the total locational blandness of the city, especially the diner, which advertises "American food". There are also signs that read "Home cooking" and another that references "Pilgrim". It's such characterless rah-rah flatline "patriotism". The fact that this diner is a place where one can confidently stash a gun used in a crime speaks to the deep and easy corruption of this place.
  11. One of my favorite openings. The close up on her face and her passion makes you think that surely she's in bed with the guy or at least locked in an embrace, and then the slow pan back to realize that, nope, she's on the phone. And not only on the phone, but she's in a phone booth or a public phone, while he's stories up in a commercial building. Their surroundings are sterile and not at all fitting to the grand love affair taking place over the wires. And then the camera pulls back from both of them as the jazz score kicks in, and you realize that they are apart and lonely, and that their passionate love is pushing up against something ugly and desperate (whatever it is that must be done). Between the score and the way that the two characters are shot, you get the feeling of doom right from the start.
  12. (I'm playing catch up, so I only had a chance to skim the replies in this thread--apologies if I repeat something that was already mentioned). I love that not once but twice we see Howard literally being framed: first by the window, then in the small mirror. There's a nice jolt that goes against your expectations when he first opens the closet. We've been set up into a "rule of threes". First we're able to see Howard outside because he's standing in a window. Second, we're able to keep watching him behind the door because he's reflected in the mirror (a much smaller, tighter frame than the window). So when he opens the closet door, I was expecting to see what was inside. Instead we linger on not knowing, only seeing his horrified reaction. His instinct to flee (and his comfort in hopping a train) is so strong that you know there has to be a history there. This isn't just a drifter who is worried that he might catch the blame--he seems like he's undergoing a serious trauma from seeing her body.
  13. The main thing I noticed in this opening scene was the way that a lot of the action and dialogue seemed to happen with a "bursting" quality. The train coming toward the camera, the swing over to the Chicago city sign, the way he speaks to the red cap, the strong walk to the cab, the way that the cab swings over into the left lane, etc. Most of these moves are shown as being strong and from the left to the right. I can see how this combination of action and delivery--both energetic and clipped--could read as a parody. The line about the woman being a "60 cent special" in particular seems to teeter at the edge of too much. But I don't know. Moments like the way that he brushes the cigar ash off of his partner's coat make me feel like there's more than just parody happening.
  14. Yes--I think that noir does a lot to explore the sympathetic criminal--often via someone who is new to crime, but sometimes like in this movie. There is something about seeing someone plot something like a heist that makes you want to root for them. I think it taps into a very universal anxiety about "I have this plan, and I just want it to work." Heists (especially those in which no one is meant to be harmed) even kind of echo the American dream: you work hard, you're smart, and you get rewarded. As you say, these people are operating outside of the law. But even in the 40s I think that people were starting to get the sense of big banks and corporations not being "real people." And I'd imagine that in a post-war society, the feeling of "I am owed something" might be very sympathetic for some people. At least as of this opening scene (I have not seen the whole film), the planning is all intellectual: timelines, maps, etc. It would have a very different feeling if we saw him preparing dynamite, or loading a gun. In this opening scene he gives off the vibe of more of a "gentleman criminal". I think it's a fun (if pretty unrealistic) kind of character that you get a lot in the movies. Someone who gets to break the rules without hurting anyone, and gets rich in the process. Now, being a noir I know it won't actually go that smoothly for him, but I can see how an audience would really be on his side (until something goes wrong). To me, the biggest mystery at this point is what kind of problems he'll run into and how it changes my perception of the character. I'm talking the difference between maybe someone accidentally dying (like, I don't know, a guard panicking and shooting a customer by mistake) or the protagonist deliberately hurting someone (like him shooting a guard to get away).
  15. I just have to ask: all of the people remarking on the fact that Ernie is "emasculated"--what is the equivalent of that for his wife? If Pauline is robbing Ernie of his masculinity, are there ways in which he is robbing her of her femininity? In other words, if Ernie is being denied the American male dream of a respectable job and a dutiful wife, what is the female American dream? What is Pauline's ideal? What should she be aspiring to? Where does she draw her self-worth (aside from having a husband with high status)? Is her desire for money at odds with the American dream, or is it a grotesque extension of it? I'm genuinely curious about what you guys think about this. I feel like I have a pretty good handle on what life would look like for a happy guy, but I'm not so sure when I think about the "perfect" life for a woman. I had a great-aunt who was in her "prime" during the 50s. She was an (awesome) teacher, and she took her job very seriously. In a conversation with my father, he expressed the opinion that, had she lived in this day and age, she would have probably preferred to stay single--working her job and traveling (she's been to more countries than anyone I've ever met). I sometimes wonder how economic realities and social niceties impacted the direction of her life, and what her version of a "perfect" living situation would have been.
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