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  1. To me, the opening shot is signature noir with the long shot setting the scene of some place we don’t know about yet, onto some characters we don’t know, who are involved in some situation we don’t know about, and all at night. The characters are so noir also, they are fiercely intense, their assignation is so dangerous and illicit that we must ask ourselves “what is going to happen next”. Many films noir share this common formula, plus this opening has two noir icons, Burt Lancaster and Dan Duryea immediately present. Just the actors alone set the table for the ensuing action. All the Daily Doses helped me focus on how the noir universe is depicted, what features are most prominent, how those features are shown, and what those things come to signify. Going back to earlier comments, I also felt that I “could not define NOIR but I know it when I see it.” Over the past weeks I have seen a lot of films that have that exemplified different aspects of noir, and those films have given me a better sense of what noir is but the definition is still quite elusive, but I expect this will be a work in progress for quite a while. Bob Hope, King of funnynoir, once said, "Thanks for the memories". This is my chance to thank the Daily Doses, they created some great memories for me.
  2. This scene’s most predominant feature is the cutting between the faces of the characters in the scene. As the light shines on each of the characters, we see the arc of the swinging light illuminate first one part of a face and then another as a smooth panning motion completes the shot. Particularly effective for me was the cutting to tighter shots as the light swung about the room and shone on the characters' very expressive faces. Also I really came to notice how the actual beating was happening out of view but the sound was clear and present at all times, even the droning music accentuated the unseen pounding Brodie was getting; although I must say, he looked pretty good when Burr approached him and threatened to disfigure Mrs. Randall/Brodie. Throughout the clip we see different views of the characters in reaction shots to the action and this is very effectively bringing across the menacing vicious tension of the scene. After each change of point of view, we wonder how much worse will this beating will get, but no resolution is reached until the very end of the clip when Brodie finally acquiesces to Burr’s demand.
  3. The opening scene in keeping with the title shows a police car prowling the city streets. We know we are in the Asphalt jungle because the police car's prey, a man moving amongst the columns of some kind of overarching building flits in, around, and then behind tree-like posts to stay just out of the view of the police. The cityscape easily becomes the metaphorical jungle in the viewer’s eye and the man is trapped to be served up as an American meal to the audience. Huston clearly wants to make the viewers think about the comparison between the city and the jungle right from the start of the film. The noir characteristics are everywhere, the radio chatter as voice-over setting the action, the looming buildings in the foreground of various low-angle shots, the American-food diner sign front and center as though “this ain’t no foreign place here” needs to be made clear from the outset; in media res placement of the viewer is Iverstown all over again, the staccato music in the background, pacing the action and mimicking some kind of heart-throbbing drama, and of course Dix and Gus played by two actors immediately identifiable in the noir canon; these things are all present and signaling a film noir in action.
  4. Daily Dose #28 Elevator to the Gallows response (7/23/15) The central focus at the start of the clip is the extreme close up view of Florence, intercut with the close ups of Julien. The conversation about love is the main point and we viewers come to think that ”love” is so personal, and so important to the characters, that it extends then to each of us as a global, all encompassing, all important issue. The shot pulls back through the conversation and we come to see how small the characters are and how insignificant their love may be as we see Julien placed in the room on the upper floor of a tall building, surrounded by other taller buildings, on an even bigger planet; and Florence is shown to be in a typical 50's French phone booth, each character separate but connected by that thin phone line, the cord a tenuous link that could be severed at any moment, by any chance event: a storm, an inadvertent hang up, some random thing we don't even know about. As the shot pulls back, we begin to think more of the lone, piercingly insistent voice of the Miles Davis trumpet which may possibly represent the characters’ plight, and there is a “plight” here from the couple’s words and Florence's initial tears. The auteur’s visual point is reinforced by the music, ever present, singular, haunting in a way that comes to mark the human condition… we are here, we are unique, and we each somehow need love to sustain us and bring us forward through this ever curious world. A world that is at once distant and separate, yet always in the background, just like the beautiful music that runs through the scene.
  5. I saw Double Indemnity yesterday afternoon with about 6 or 7 other people at Cinemark Tinseltown in Rochester NY. The film stopped streaming about midway through the show and a prompt popped up that identified the movie as being streamed from some source. The break??? lasted about 5 minutes. That was when I realized I was watching a really a bad print. After about 5 mins. one of the patrons had called the main office of the theater, someone came and rebooted the link to continue the movie streaming. Too bad the film was completely grayed out with the night scenes (especially on the train) almost black. I have seen better prints and a recent TCM showing was much better quality. What a disappointment, but luckily Fred McMurray's voiceover saved the day. I looked for clues about the Hayes Code being implemented but saw nothing with this viewing that sprang to mind. I looked for the wind blowing through the curtains or something like the mirror shots, but nothing popped out at me to show Neff and Phyllis were the victims of Hayes Code censure. Maybe because the film was so dark with unsharpened focus, I just missed what I was looking for even though the film was on a big screen. The three shot in deep focus with Robinson, Stanwyck, and McMurray at the apartment elevator was great as I had not noticed how present all the characters were and it was the deep focus that made that shot so suspenseful. TCM should be able to better monitor the venues in this project and find a way to up the quality of the streaming or prints that are being used.
  6. Daily Dose #23 Martha Ivers response (7/16/15) From the start of the scene, it seems that Walter is wary of Sam for some unknown reason. As the actors talk, Sam seems to be direct and to the point ...explaining what he wants. His girl Toni is in jail for violation of probation and he wants Walter the DA to help her out of her predicament. Walter is not sure he can fix that problem but Sam believes Walter can and will “for old times sake”. Walter’s facial reaction is curious, as though the request is some kind of veiled threat. The staging is fixed as the scene starts with Sam sitting and Walter standing over him. After offering a cigarette to Sam, Walter comes down to Sam’s level and Walter is reminded of how long it’s been since they have had contact. Sam remarks “seventeen or eighteen years” ago they were kids together. Walter does not seem surprised that Sam is a gambler and there seems to be tension but the viewer is not sure why. This tension continues after Martha enters the scene. She shows that she does not recognize Sam but it is obvious that Sam remembers her. He whistles to her as she is about to leave the room, and then Martha immediately recognizes him through the whistle, and warmly recalls him as she states his diminutive name “Sammy”……. Masterson. She looks genuinely happy to see him and the viewer begins to think that perhaps they were sweet on each other as kids and that is why the tension exists between Sam and Walter. Walter continues to exhibit his displeasure with the situation and leaves the frame for another drink. Sam and Martha in a two shot begin to talk about remembering things from the past, and that is when Martha’s voice hesitates momentarily. There is slight hitch to her response and she quickly catches herself and goes back to the cheery tone for the reunion. Walter is now pouring and drinking another glass of liquor and he views the conversation between Sam and Martha even more warily. In fact, he looks like the liquor is taking effect as the camera goes back to Sam and Martha walking to the door. Sam asks her about being glad she missed the “circus” train. She says she doesn’t know and we in the audience don’t know what the circus train is (or is that a circuit train?). When the scene ends the music begins again and the closing of the door portends a discussion will take place that will reveal Walter and Martha’s true feelings about the reappearance of Sam. One “sure thing” is that there is more to this story than the scene has started. The noir themes here are uncertainty, and being caught up in a complex situation and unsure of the direction or outcome of the events. There is a sense of fear and anxiety throughout the scene and all the characters seem to be equally important. As usual in noir films, the viewer really doesn't know what is really going on.
  7. I have always liked this scene because of the rolling lipstick presaging the end of the movie in such a neatly closed circle. I also believe I finally have an acceptable reason for the white outfit Lana Turner is wearing - white hot, as one of the comments pointed out, is the most destructive and fierce part of the flame that is lit up here between the characters. The noir checklist is all checked off in this initial scene and Cecil Kellaway as Nick the dirty Greek is just so endearing that I don't care that he is not played as Cain wrote him. I also learned ...thank you very much... why this film is so glossy and what the MGM style is all about. I think I like the clearer view of the characters with the better lighting afforded by the bigger budget, even though the dialogue is stilted and dated in all the wrong places. I also want to remark on the link the lipstick has to Cora's identity. Cora's view of herself in the compact mirror is not good enough for her and she may be using the lipstick to cover symbolically the part of herself she is not satisfied with. Her true self is covered from our view and her own view of herself by the lipstick in the scene. Frank gets to see both from his perspective and maybe holding a part of her identity in his hands when he holds out on returning the lipstick to Cora in this clip. This kind of ambiguity permeates noir, Cain's novel, and Tay Garnett's film much to my delight.
  8. The shadow across the Sternwood door in the frame, the hand pushing the doorbell to the Sternwood residence, the self-introduction, “…My name’s Marlowe…” then the door opening - all this put us in the action and gives us the brief effect of a voice-over narration. All the noir you want, all the time, right from the very beginning we see who Marlowe is and what he is doing. This guy Marlowe is not Sam Spade even though Bogart plays both characters. As others have pointed out, this is a more refined, genteel man, a man who can live in a variety of circumstances and remain self-assured, confident, and likeable. He doesn’t like orchids and he doesn’t smoke when given the chance, that’s enough for me. The best post in an earlier Daily Dose response about Marlowe’s clean, pressed clothes sums him up so well. Here is Bogart being a different character, in a different movie, being an actor - as will be seen again later in the film at the bookstore when Bogart takes on a different persona to get to the facts he needs to know. The opening to this film solidifies a few of the noir techniques, prerequisites of the noir ethos let’s say, like the off-camera views and perspectives, the seedy story-line materials, the not-quite right women, the darkness and light and shadows across the frame and everything within it.
  9. Richard, et al. First post for me .... Certainly documentary style is clear here. I think the realism of this intro is in keeping with the Pathe newsreels we often see on TCM. The diagonals here are a great visual as though "cutting" through the narration but the voice-over narration is really the "arresting" feature to me. Somehow the omniscient narrator is so authoritative, and when the scene changes, I am ready to know and accept why these braceros are caged like this. The "unfortunate" people behind the fence are like prisoners here, clearly being held away from us, the viewers to the scene, by the cutting diagonals of the fencing. I didn't get the same feeling from the long overhead earlier shots of the fields with rows of plants. Someone mentioned Ricardo Montalban was in this sea of braceros but I couldn't find him in my first viewing. My favorite scene here is the momentary screen-filling roundish bush-like trees occupying the whole square, but just for an instant - thank god for the pause button. That really appealed to me visually, a perfectly orderly counter to the unordered morass of humanity, stuck it seems behind the border in the follwing sequence.
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