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Posts posted by Heserrano

  1. The snappy dialog that somehow feels like double entendre is what is the most "noir" to me. (Though nothing comes close to the speeding ticket banter between Phyllis Deitrichson and Walter Neff-two-fs-like-in-Philadelphia in 'Double Indemnity'). The comments about the earrings feel as if the characters are, well, forgive me, but *jaded.* 

  2. I'm impressed with the way that Marlowe remains non plussed by the strange things that happen once he enters the Sternwood home. He rolls with things. When Carmen falls into his arms he remains on the job, so to speak. He's neither appalled or seduced by her behavior. He's then shown into a hot house, which seems like Sternwood's attempt to place Marlowe in an uncomfortable position--quite literally--so that Sternwood remains in charge and in control. But instead of being shaken and put off by the general's environment, Marlowe takes things in stride. His refusal to be thrown off guard silently indicates the strength of his character.

    The Sternwoods are *weird* for sure. But Marlowe takes it in stride, while acknowledging in a matter-of-fact way that he's not going to be snowed by anything. The comment about him "not particularly" liking orchids is less wry than his comment to the butler about Carmen needing to be weaned, but it's a second example in a very short time of his unwillingness to pretend he likes something he doesn't.


    Also, he takes off his jacket, he likes his drink "in a glass"--completely unpretentious. Marlowe seems less bitter than Sam Spade, more well-adjusted. 

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  3. On the one hand, this really seems like the "newsreel" at the beginning of 'Citizen Kane' with that "NEWS ON THE MARCH!" voiceover, tangentially related to the images we see floating in front of us.


    But--speaking of tangents--the images insistence on the diagonal becomes such a dominant motif that it's as if the whole world is slanted, off-kilter. There's an angle to this story.

    There are a lot of contrasts in the last shot. Instead of seeing it from a high (bird's eye) angle, looking down on the fields, we see the sign from a low angle, looking up. The camera movement is also the opposite of the other shots in the montage; mostly the shots of the fields are sweeping left-to-right, even as the shots themselves change. Someone else on the board (Brian M) observed that with the shot of the signpost, "The angles only become perpendicular when we see the warning sign at the end of the sequence, as if it's 'back to reality.'"



  4. 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.

    This shot seems to move from realism to formalism--the overhead shot, in deep focus, could almost be a pov shot, except (as we discover) the Swede isn't bothering to look out his window. But the entire conversation in the Swede's room is so formalist, so expressionist. Really cool!

  5. Lang uses a long take on that clock, and as someone already observed, the ticking gets a little freaky after a while. This must be like what the character felt like--a bit like the character in Poe's 'A Tell-tale Heart', where the monotony is enough to drive a person mad even if he isn't mad already. 


    That helps us strengthen an identification with Ray Milland, who is a character that we might otherwise find difficult to relate to--a convicted murderer in an insane asylum. The best way to ask an audience to relate to a character is to use subjective camera and sound. The ticking of the clock echoes and echoes for us as it must for Milland.

  6. This week I seem to be doing a lot of thinking of the role of the detective as a stand-in for the audience in films noir. Like the audience, he doesn't really know what is going on ("You may think you know what you're dealing with," Noah Cross tells Jake Gittes in 'Chinatown', "but believe me, you don't.") and is just doing his best to find out the story.


    So like this class, the audience is investigating. It's why we like these hard-boiled detectives: they aren't naive, they aren't going to be fooled by anyone, and they are angered when someone lies to them. 

  7. Usually, in films noir, we are asked to identify with the detective, the one who is trying to figure things out, and we follow him around, as he investigates. But with 'Laura' the v/o of Waldo Lydecker, who is "the only one who *really* knows Laura* puts us at odds with our usual way into a film noir. We aren't the least bit like Waldo (unless you're watching the film in a fancy marble soaking tub), but we are asked to identify with him instead of the investigator, the one we feel more like.

  8. In thinking a bit about the moon, and the way Wyler used the black and white, I'm struck by how the plantation workers were dressed predominantly in white, and Bette Davis's dress was black--like the sky, but with her white face lit so well, it looks like that white moon. 


    The panning shot at the opening doesn't stop (a little jump behind the grass roof) as it moves from the moon to Bette Davis, visually linking them. The moon is classically "female" ("th' inconstant moon"), too, so the femme fatale trope is borrowing from a classical allusion. 

    ps. Is that the same cockatoo from 'Citizen Kane'? Both films from 1941, and even though 'The Letter' was Warner Bros and 'Kane' is RKO, how many cockatoos are there working in the studios in that year? Did the cockatoo have to sign a contract? 

  9. The feeling of paranoia--though the characters in the film don't seem paranoid, just burdened. The *audience* becomes increasingly paranoid, though, as the sequence goes on.


    The figures in the sequence are shot from above, from behind, from below, always as if someone is watching them, and the pacing is slow, slow, slow--someone is watching and waiting. That's what makes this film so creeeeeeeeepy!

  10. The female onstage is one of the tropes that appears in films noir--though, as we learned in the lecture, it's so hard to really go down a checklist of the standard iconography that make a genre in film. Usually the woman is singing for some character in the audience, as a statement about the relationship between them. She might be in front of a large audience, but she's often performing for just one person.

    Gilda's performance is pretty typical though--right down to the point that Egythea_A makes about the focalization of these sequences, starting with a pov and then seeming to "forget" the pov shots, and moving to medium shots that take the audience closer than the character for whom the woman is ostensibly performing. 

    "The scene is staged to completely draw us into Gilda's mesmerizing performance as if we are sitting in the audience. It starts from Johnny's birds-eye viewpoint peeking through the blinds in Munson's office. But as soon as Gilda appears, we forget Johnny. We see her moves in medium shots while the close-ups hint at the complex emotions behind the beauty of her face and keep us attached to the character while she works the audience and herself into a near-frenzy. "

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