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Karl H.

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About Karl H.

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  1. Discuss how the opening of this film exemplifies the noir style and substance. - Style: It’s like a capstone of noir; initially it is the night time, city version of Border Incident; parking lot scene a la The Big Sleep; exotic night club, its owner in a white tux jacket is evocative of Casablanca. Streets and cars in the parking lot are at angles; high contrast lighting reveals Yvonne De Carlo (ooh-la-la) and Burt Lancaster. As they discuss their future, shadows surround their faces. We see De Carlo from a low angle when she enters the club—the angle changes as she descends the stairs. She encounters shadows as she closes in on Dan Duryea. Duryea’s pithy (and sometimes amusing) sarcasm harkens to the pulp writers. The maitre d’ s sarcasm also provides some humor complementing Duryea’s tone. Substance: De Carlo and Lancaster have a past, but they are going to execute (pardon the pun) an evil deed, ON PURPOSE, and we know one mistake means doom in Noirsville. Mrs. Dundee, despite her sexy, combined with some girl-next-door charm is not complying with the norms of the time for women. Her “conversation” with Mr. Dundee confirms she is trapped in a bad marriage. She is all at once good, evil, and a victim. OR One could just say Dan Duryea…. Now that you have seen all 32 Daily Doses, what did you take away from the Daily Doses assignment? Did it contribute to your learning about film noir? - These focused mini-segments, both of the films, and theme of the week has given me a basis for viewing movies (in particular, film noir) for watching and understanding films on a much deeper technological, literary and philosophical level. DDD absolutely contributed to my learning about film noir due to the following factors: Building block approach to the subject matter both in the overview/chronological approach and in the increasing degree of difficulty of the weekly themes and questions; Weekly subjects to learn about particular aspects of film noir, lighting and cameras, music and sound, literature, philosophy, history (both U.S. and film history), philosophy and psychology. Thank you Dr. Edwards, Mr. Muller, and TCM
  2. What role does music (especially the record playing Wagner) play in the intensity of this scene? - The selection of this piece of classical music reflects and enhances the up and down mood and dialogue of the scene. The volume, especially when Capt Munsey turns it up informs of the increasing severity of the beating and the discomfort of the prison guards outside of the Munsey’s office. Based on what you've learned in this class, how does this scene fit in with your understanding of early postwar film noir (films released in 1946 and 1947) and the development of the noir style and substance? - In this period many of the ‘bad guys’ are institutions or people in positions that we trust to be the ‘good guys’, which is more cynical and unsettling than Marlowe chasing blackmailers.
  3. Describe how this scene uses cinematography to accentuate the brutal beating of Steve Randall (Steve Brodie). - The first few hits are in the shadows, followed by a disorienting close up. The beating continues as the overhead light circles with some slight randomness to the cycle and speed. How do Mann and Diskant utilize different points of view to heighten the tension in this scene? - With Brodie out of focus, we, the audience, are positioned as Brodie’s partner and very close to the initial fist to the face. When Brodie tries to leave, we see the next 4 to 5hits. The rest of the beating is off screen and coupled with the audio (including very agonizing grunts) makes the beating all the worse. The look from Raymond Burr’s assistant at the minute 2:08 makes the beating seem at its limits, but the beating continues for seven very long seconds.
  4. Discuss how this film depicts and utilizes this "unnamed city." Additionally, why do you think the film is entitled "The Asphalt Jungle?" - Is that some slight morning fog in the initial shot? The day is overcast, helping define the tone of the picture. The director has found lots of bold straight lines in the existing landscape; horizontal porch beams on the apartment buildings, the railroad tracks at an angle to the columns on the train station; the maze of electrical lines; the buildings flanking the alley create several lines almost converging on each other toward the turn; the café and the buildings behind it are of the basic box type. The title readily depicts a difficult struggle in a dangerous ecosystem. Describe the film noir characteristics, in both style and substance, of these opening scenes. - Style: As stated in the previous question, clever use of existing locations in the city. The (“shoebox” Ford) police car drives up a hill, fronting horizontal porches creating divergent lines pointing right. Before we even know it is Sterling Hayden (in real life an OSS operative with an assumed name in WWII) we can tell this man is disheveled; crumpled hat, tie at an angle. Hayden leaves the station platform at angle and to the right. The police car turns right under the power lines, the sun catching it, throwing a shadow to the right. [As the clip progresses, the radio gets louder as the cops close in]. The light is overcast again at the cut to the alley where Hayden walks – you guessed it, to our right – to a turn in the alley, and possibly danger. He turns left into the café, where things are nicer, for a moment. The volume of the radio with the close up of the café owner creates tension and disorientation. The master shot of the line-up is shot placing the aisle way by the desks at an angle and lines across the wall in close-up of the guys in the line-up. The nervous witness is first revealed in a shadow. Substance: Hayden, though the main focus, says not one word in this 3½ minute clip. The police, who should be the good guys, are anything but likeable and trustworthy. The (innocent?) café owner has no inherent trust of the police and seems to have prior knowledge of Hayden. Hayden, the café owner, and the witness are Regular Joes surviving the city and overbearing police tactics. Why are these opening scenes an interesting choice for a "heist film?" What are we learning about one of its major characters (Dix) that might be important for later in the film (and I'm not asking for any spoilers, just character insight)? - [NOTE: I have not seen this movie, yet] An incident occurred, perhaps a heist. Dix is evading, not running; managing not panicking. Dix Handley, a guy with troubles, is confident, connected and perhaps important, in his circle, however small that circle may be. He knows, or knows something about, the witness. He might be a slick, bad guy or the good guy in a corrupt world/situation. Regardless, he is skilled, dangerous, and maybe even likeable.
  5. KANSAS CITY CONFIDENTIAL Does anyone else see a resemblance between John Payne in K.C. Confidential and Kevin Spacey in L.A. Confidential? (especially in Payne’s right quartering profile)
  6. BEWARE, MY LOVELY Without the course “Investigating Film Noir” and the Daily Dose of Darkness about this film, I’d have likely passed it up (noir in 1918?). BUT, this is one creepy flick! Robert Ryan is fantastic and compelling to watch in this role. The noir elements eventually show up and without certain clues, like the furnishings, it could have been in the late 40s or early 50s. As always, Ida Lupino pulls it off perfectly.
  7. Ida Lupino Here is a link to a noir focused article about her. http://www.criminalelement.com/blogs/2011/07/ida-lupino-noirs-indispensable-dame
  8. In what ways does Miles Davis' score (improvised while watching scenes from the movie) work with and contribute additional layers of meaning to Louis Malle's visual design? - The noir visual motifs are actually minimal: The haunting opening shot, the office bldg. windows (bars?) that are not shot at an angle. The major noir motif is audio: The whispering at the beginning is full of tension. The woman’s tone of voice changes from stressed to happy as the music begins, indicating a flashback. When the credits roll and we see the woman on the phone, the long sliding notes of the horn tell me she is the femme fatale. [NOTE: I have not seen this film, yet] The notes are shorter, more resigned, and lower on the scale when we cut to the man in the office bldg window. As the camera pulls back, the music seems to tell the entire story and pace of film we are about to see. The bank of windows looks like 3 levels of prison cells at one point, then the music fades out—that dude will end up in jail! When the music stops, everyday sounds are prominent; the creaking floor in the phone booth, the ticking clock, footsteps, the closing of the file drawer in the office. Going back to our original discussions of jazz on the film noir style, what is it about the "idioms of jazz" that resonate so well with the style and substance of film noir? - The long sliding notes of singular instruments seem to reveal the substance of noir and support the visuals of noir. A single instrument tells of the single person versus the world/cruel fate. The sliding notes denote sadness, cynicism, or hopelessness -- or in the case of so many clarinet solos, the stripper, the cheap woman (‘60 cent special’), or the first step down that slippery slope to doom.
  9. A few people have questioned Ryan Not Seeing The Body When He Retrieved His Coat. I watched the clip again, and I believe he gets his coat from a closet in the kitchen [a mirror is behind him], then enters the Laundry/mud room, opens another closet [screen door is behind him] where the body is. Thoughts?
  10. Describe the noir elements, in terms of style and substance, in this opening sequence. - Style: The trombone is held at a downward angle. Robert Ryan is revealed in deep focus between the moving cymbals*. Ryan’s face is obscured the window screen*. The first closet door is in your face but we see Ryan in the small mirror*. The closet door shot is repeated (adding tension) on another closet just before Ryan’s world changes for the worse. As Ryan goes inside, he throws shadows. When he approaches and enters the next room (and bad luck), the shadows are larger and more pronounced. After the Salvation Army band music stops, there is no music until Ryan opens Door Number Two. When he opens the screen door to escape, there are angled disorienting shadows. Steam comes from the bucket in the sink. The door swinging open to reveal the corpse*[I’m guessing she is probably NOT the femme fatale ...]. Low angle shot of Ryan running along a bldg. The train tracks are at angles across the screen. Smoke from the train and the extreme close-up of the drive wheel. * These seem to be quite innovative stylistic items rather than a parody or burlesque of noir, considering that this film is chronologically the backside of the hill, so to speak. Substance: The alternately moving cymbals may represent something else—are the cymbals slicing him? It is danger nonetheless. Ryan is a regular guy just trying to survive in the world. Fate is random, cruel, and can put its hand on anyone’s shoulder. What do you make of the film opening with the Salvation Army band playing and the prominent Salvation Army sign in that first shot? - My only guess, based on the opening, (I’ve not seen this film) is that Ryan either got his job with help from the Salvation Army, or is working directly for them. The sign seems to provide foreshadowing; 'Kindness', the 'pot boiling'. Even though it is set in 1918, how does this scene reveal some of the typical noir themes of the 1950s? - One man alone against the world, as depicted by 1) The cymbals covering then revealing him repeatedly in the background as the percussionist plays. 2) Ryan as a small figure running in the train yard surrounded by tens if not hundreds of freight cars. The Regular Joe just surviving; Ryan is a handyman working in a woman’s house.
  11. I saw Double Indemnity last night on the big screen and it was great. No technical issues whatsoever. I think they might have screwed up my ticket price; waaaay cheaper than buying online (I purchased it in advance in person. However, there couldn't have been 10 people in attendance. When I saw Casablanca at a Fathom Event (in a different city) it was sold out.
  12. Do you see evidence, even in the film's opening scenes, for Foster Hirsch's assessment that the dialogue in this film sounds like a "parody of the hard-boiled school" or that "noir conventions are being burlesqued"? - Yes: When asked “What Kind of a dish?” McGraw gives a “sampler plate” of hard-boiled monologue. “Sixty-cent special” (very clever) says it all, but we are also treated to “cheap, flashy” (this too would suffice) and “strictly poison under the gravy” (a bit over dramatic). The other detective (Don Beddoe) seems to be asking soft-ball questions to offer a chance to say some pithy hard-boiled stuff – When Beddoe calls the woman a “dame”, McGraw corrects him with “dish”. We are beat over the head with hard-boiled phrases to make sure we know that McGraw’s overly intense (and unreal) character is the hard-boiled type. OR Am I overly influenced by the power of Foster Hirsch’s suggestion in the curator’s notes? What are some of the major noir elements in this film's opening, and do they seem to be variations on similar elements we have encountered in other noir films from the mid to late 1940s? - Train whistle (This Gun For Hire); high contrast lighting of the approaching train and the lighted windows as it speeds by; slanted ‘Chicago Yard Limit’ sign and rapid, repeating shadows flashing over it then an abrupt cut to a slow train; the windows of the slow train are at an angle from a low shot; smoke/steam in the shot as the detectives disembark from the train (Casablanca).
  13. Discuss the role of time and timing in this scene. - The second shot after the inter-titles pans, showing a clock on the bldg. A later shot depicts said clock much closer. We will be introduced to the wrist watch in an extreme close-up. Just about every other shot features a clock, watch, or the time-table. Time is one of the characters of this movie. What are the film noir elements (style or substance) that you notice in the opening of this film? - Style: The inter-titles are against a rough backdrop with subtle diagonal shadows. The music over the inter-titles says ‘police’, but changes to ‘drama’ with the Kansas City establishment shot of Union Station. At the close-up of the man who will be taking times, the music says ‘danger’. The clock and watch (everyday items) are shown but really mean something else. Two nearly identical panel wagons park in front of the building; the florist driver, (wearing a military style cap) brings something in; the security officers (wearing military style caps) take something out. Complete lack of dialogue allows realistic sounds to be heard and add to the tension. Substance: The pacing is steady, but draws the audience in. All of the people are regular Joes going about life. The pair of trucks adds some parallel and contrast. The trucks/drivers coupled with the timetable provide an aura of precision that isn’t exactly comfortable, yet is intriguing. The man timing the action is focused, serious, not smiling—as if he’s on a mission, even though WWII is over. Why is a heist a good subject for a film noir to tackle? Put another way, how or why might a film that involves a heist affect or change what we think about criminals and/or criminal behavior on screen? - Perhaps the criminal has a compelling or moral reason for his actions, even though they are illegal. The heist could provide a windfall for a regular Joe. The audience can relate to that, although most likely would not act on such fantasy. A Dark escape from reality for the movie-goers.
  14. I’ll be seeing Double Indemnity on the big screen tonight in Overland Park, Kansas. Even if you’ve seen this movie before at home, watching it on the big screen is an entirely different experience. (I saw Casablanca on the big screen after watching it multiple times on a television screen and it was like seeing it for the first time.)
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