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Artistgirl45

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  1. The introduction of "The Border Incident" is much like one of those documentary film strips we watched in school back in the day. The shots of the canal, diagonal fields and crops tells the viewer that something is "off" even as the narrator drones on about the "great agricultural empire" (whose empire?) that is the southern California farming industry. We are high above it all so who knows what's going on down on the ground? Well, the narrator tells us when the scene shifts from the overhead nature shot of the canal and surrounding fields to the top of a barbed wire fence and the tops of the migrant workers' heads. They look like prisoners in a camp. The narrator talks about the fine, upstanding Mexicans who come to the fields to work, then he tells us about the others, the illegals that cross the border under cover of night who are neither fine nor upstanding--they are robbers and thieves who prey upon each other and anyone else they can get at near the border. The shot of the crossing is dark, foreboding and barren, a stark contrast to the bright, welcoming and lush fields in the beginning. The viewer's sense of doom gets stronger as the narrator drones on about the dangers and violence that is a part of the workers' lives. The narrator then tells us that the story is a "composite of factual information" supplied by the DOJ, so it feels like a propaganda short and the shot of the border signs underscores the dread felt by the viewer as the story is set up. We see the pristine, orderly fields from above but when we get down on the ground we see the dirt and sweat that goes into making those fields so orderly. After that we go further down and see the grime and violence that the dirt and sweat is standing on. It's like a pyramid, the tip is perfection but the bottom is grimy. And that is very, very noir.
  2. In the opening scene of the clip, I noticed a couple of things that were really stunning. One of the things I didn't see much was Hopper's "Nighthawks"--maybe in the first ten seconds of the clip, but instead I did see that the perspective in the next shot was identical to Da Vinci's "The Last Supper". The lines in the ceiling and the lines of the counter point toward a vanishing point in the center of the shot. In fact, the design of the ceiling is reminiscent of the ceiling in the room in the painting. The center of the shot is the napkin dispenser on the counter, not the diner owner or the killer. The diamond shape inside a rectangle on its side is the main focus-when we look behind it, we see the rest of the items on the counter lined up behind in perfect perspective. It is the star of the shot and not the men, which reminds me of El Greco's "The Conversion of St. Paul" in which the horse of St. Paul is featured in the center of the painting with the light of the holy spirit shining upon it and not Paul. In the foreground the circular objects are out of focus but notice the repetition of the rectangle all over the shot, they're everywhere. And again, the curvy or round objects in the room are not very noticeable, however the round buttons on the killer's coat are. The white coat of the diner owner contrasts heavily with the black coat of the killer-we know the owner is a good man and the killer is a bad one. The diner owner rescues his helpers in the kitchen and the first thing he does is get a glass and fill it with water for Sam, the cook and offers one to Nick, the kid. He mentions that nothing like that had ever happened around there before, so we know the town is pretty quiet and tame. He pats Sam on the shoulder to reassure him--he's a good man and a good citizen. When Nick runs out the back of the diner we see the realism of him jumping the fences and running across yards but when he turns toward the Swede's rooming house we see the formalism in the high shot from what turns out to be the Swede's window and again that vanishing point. This time Nick is the center of the shot and it is about him. The music swells and is intense-Nick is alarmed and he runs at top speed to warn the Swede. It's a heckuva buildup. The scene shifts from outside to inside the room seamlessly. The Swede is lying on a bed in semi-darkness. We can't see his face so we don't know what his expression is but we don't really need to see his face because the tone of his voice and body language says it all. It's over for him, they know where he is and it is just a matter of time now. He is resigned to the fact that he's run out of time and that's all there is to it. Nick is stunned at first, then leaves the room, defeated and perhaps a little bewildered. This scene is all shadow and it's used to great effect. The references to the Great Masters are hard to miss but so are the elements of German Expressionism and noir--the fatalism of the Swede, the camera angles, the high, medium and low shots, the shadows, the contrast in the characters and also character exposition; the music also plays a huge role in the exposition of the characters' emotional states. This clip is an excellent example of film noir because it contains all of its elements and then some.
  3. Controlling every aspect of a film from concept to release was a wise thing--not only did a studio know its product it knew where it would sell and how much return it would get. This was financially more sure than just putting a film out and hoping for the best. With two tracks running (A and the studio had its jewels (A's) and the means to keep making its jewels (B's). The competition between studios must have been killer. The entire system was a closed loop that fed into itself and made it possible to crank a film a week because that is the only way it could happen. The A vs. B system makes sense just like the major and minor leagues make sense; you have to start somewhere and the bottom is usually the place. The A vs. B movie system was an invaluable tool in weeding out talent, planning budgets and attracting creative types to a studio--contributing to that bottom line which is the point of any industry. Again, that closed loop. I enjoyed watching DETOUR not only for its story but for the ways Ulmer could make the movie happen. As I watched the film I found myself rooting for him, for his creativity, in making the story of Vera and Al talk to me. I am a diehard fan of "Plan 9 from Outer Space_ so when I see a cheaply made film I pay extra close attention to the actors and sets to see whether the director knows what he's doing. I keep an eye on the editing for the same reason. I now have a deeper understanding of why noirs look like they do, why they feel like they do--they are little worlds of despair and tragedy that are as self contained as the studio system that created them.
  4. The POV works for me. We are inside the barrel and that sets us up for the first twist--we are being hunted by all manner of police and are willing to die trying to escape them. Next, we are trying to get to San Francisco without having to answer too many questions about ourselves. Then we are found out to be a convicted wife killer and have to get out of a jam with our fists. We don't know what we look like but the radio and the facial expressions of the driver of the car we are riding in confirm it. Since nobody is what they seem to be in noir, this is a perfect setup for the viewer and a pretty effective draw into the story of the running man. All of this happens in broad daylight which is interesting in itself because there are no shadows but when the driver gets punched out we don't need streetlights and alleys to tell us this is not a sunny story. We are invested in whatever ride the running man is going to take because we are joined to him like a Siamese twin. We root for him and run along with him right or wrong because now we have a history together. I kind of dig that.
  5. I don't see where the hotness of this scene is supposed to be--it looks and sounds like a movie musical number, not something you would see in a South American nightclub. The band is tepid, sanitized and the act itself is corny. It's all so White. The stiff band and singer would never have made it in a real jazz club. Supper club, maybe. And that black dress is symbolic of black skin--she's standing in as a Black woman and her performance is a form of minstrelsy. Having said that....... Gilda is using her performance to torment Johnny by showing him what he's missing. She's also showing the other men in the room what Johnny's missing, too. She's running the show and Johnny can't do a thing about it. The first glove is removed from her arm then swung like a slingshot, she's throwing stones and Johnny's catching them. Some of the song lyrics are mispronounced: it's not 'hitchy-coo'. Black jazz artists and performers pronounced it '****-coo', but that may have been too street for the director who obviously knew how provocative the correct pronunciation was. Cab Calloway used '****-coo' or '**** ****' in his act. Coo, or **** is slang for the female sex organ. You could see and hear performances onstage at Black clubs that you couldn't see or hear in mainstream clubs which is why well-heeled whites frequented these clubs. They were exciting and exotic places, you could hear all the new bands and all the new singers. This is supposed to be a South American club but from the sound of the band it's dry, presumably because of the clientele. Was Gilda drunk? Maybe. But she most certainly was on a mission to get back at this man who had hurt her so. And as she is on stage whipping the audience up, she's letting Johnny (and us) know that she can have any man she wants but by the end we know that Johnny is the only one for her. Rita Hayworth's performance is stunning in that she is able to convey the emotions and inner turmoil her character is going through onstage as the man who did her so wrong is watching her. I just wish the music had been hot to help convey the sauciness of the performance more directly.
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