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Shaft (1971) - Soul Noir


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A Great NYC PI flick

One neat little bonus of going on a Neo Noir hunt is finding those diamonds in the rough that come completely out of left field. Sometimes a film is hyped so fully as one thing that its never looked upon or considered as anything else. This film especially so since it's considered one of the first of its own genre.

Shaft (1971) has been called the first blaxploitation flick, screw that and it's derogatory connotations (think Sergio Leone vs the majority of "Spaghetti" Westerns as a reference point), it's actually not only a great PI film, directed by Gordon Parks (acclaimed photojournalist for Life magazine )  but also shot in a very noir-ish style by Urs Furrer. Between the eye of the director and the skill of the cinematographer the film looks beautiful. The shots of Manhattan, The Village, Harlem circa 1970 are gorgeous. It's sleazy Times Square/42nd Street at fin d'une époque, before Disneyfication eradicated it all.

Shaft is based on an Ernest Tidyman and John D. F. Black  screenplay from a book by Tidyman. The dialogs are all spot on in 70‘s hip jive. It's co-produced by Stirling Silliphant (who wrote late classic noirs, 5 Against the House, Nightfall, The Lineup and also neo noir -ish  In The Heat Of The Night).

What's sad is Shaft gets right what practically every Mike Hammer, the quintessential NY P.I., based  film neglects, and that is a real feel for the gritty noir, on location, underbelly side of New York City. (save Allen Baron’s 1961 Blast Of Silence, and Armand Assante's I, The Jury(1982)) and even the latter doesn't spend near enough time in the streets

Shaft is a very plausible re-imagining of the classic private eye flick. The P.I. was always about cool this go round it is about back COOL. Richard Roundtree is perfect as the suave hip protagonist John Shaft, a good detective, grudgingly getting  genuine respect from all.

Moses Gunn is incredibly good as tough crime boss Bumpy Jonas showing quite a bit of range as he pleads with Shaft to take his case. Charles Cioffi as Androzzi Shaft's NYPD detective cop buddy holds his own and runs interference between Shaft and the department. Drew Bundini Brown is Bumpy henchman Willy, Christopher St. John is Ben Buford a former hoodrat friend of Shaft who is now a black militant, Antonio Fargas is great as streetwise Bunky. Character actor Lee Steele plays a blind news vender.  Shaft is a Neo Noir New York City wet dream, it hits on all cylinders, check it out. 10/10

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3 hours ago, cigarjoe said:

09insider-shaft-2-blog427.jpg

A Great NYC PI flick

One neat little bonus of going on a Neo Noir hunt is finding those diamonds in the rough that come completely out of left field. Sometimes a film is hyped so fully as one thing that its never looked upon or considered as anything else. This film especially so since it's considered one of the first of its own genre.

Shaft (1971) has been called the first blaxploitation flick, screw that and it's derogatory connotations (think Sergio Leone vs the majority of "Spaghetti" Westerns as a reference point), it's actually not only a great PI film, directed by Gordon Parks (acclaimed photojournalist for Life magazine )  but also shot in a very noir-ish style by Urs Furrer. Between the eye of the director and the skill of the cinematographer the film looks beautiful. The shots of Manhattan, The Village, Harlem circa 1970 are gorgeous. It's sleazy Times Square/42nd Street at fin d'une époque, before Disneyfication eradicated it all.

Shaft is based on an Ernest Tidyman and John D. F. Black  screenplay from a book by Tidyman. The dialogs are all spot on in 70‘s hip jive. It's co-produced by Stirling Silliphant (who wrote late classic noirs, 5 Against the House, Nightfall, The Lineup and also neo noir -ish  In The Heat Of The Night).

What's sad is Shaft gets right what practically every Mike Hammer, the quintessential NY P.I., based  film neglects, and that is a real feel for the gritty noir, on location, underbelly side of New York City. (save Allen Baron’s 1961 Blast Of Silence, and Armand Assante's I, The Jury(1982)) and even the latter doesn't spend near enough time in the streets

Shaft is a very plausible re-imagining of the classic private eye flick. The P.I. was always about cool this go round it is about back COOL. Richard Roundtree is perfect as the suave hip protagonist John Shaft, a good detective, grudgingly getting  genuine respect from all.

Moses Gunn is incredibly good as tough crime boss Bumpy Jonas showing quite a bit of range as he pleads with Shaft to take his case. Charles Cioffi as Androzzi Shaft's NYPD detective cop buddy holds his own and runs interference between Shaft and the department. Drew Bundini Brown is Bumpy henchman Willy, Christopher St. John is Ben Buford a former hoodrat friend of Shaft who is now a black militant, Antonio Fargas is great as streetwise Bunky. Character actor Lee Steele plays a blind news vender.  Shaft is a Neo Noir New York City wet dream, it hits on all cylinders, check it out. 10/10

This is a nice little review.  Is this your movie review?  Your ten star movie of the month?

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A "color noir"?  Interesting POV, since "Noir", as in "Film Noir", a term coined by the French based mostly on those late '40's movies shot in low key black and white methods reminiscent of  German expressionist cinematography.   But yeah,  I understand.  I could easily see the story set  in New York in the late '40's and starring Bogey or Garfield.  But Parks' long shot direction would be out of place in a genre that featured a lot of normal and close focus camera work.   The movie did leave quite an impression on me when seeing it back in '71.  And there couldn't have been a better choice for the film score than getting ISAAC HAYES,  who covered us with so much delicious HOT BUTTERED SOUL a couple years earlier.  ;) 

And yes....  I meant "color" as in FILM.

Sepiatone

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43 minutes ago, Sepiatone said:

A "color noir"?  Interesting POV, since "Noir", as in "Film Noir", a term coined by the French based mostly on those late '40's movies shot in low key black and white methods reminiscent of  German expressionist cinematography.   But yeah,  I understand.  I could easily see the story set  in New York in the late '40's and starring Bogey or Garfield.  But Parks' long shot direction would be out of place in a genre that featured a lot of normal and close focus camera work.   The movie did leave quite an impression on me when seeing it back in '71.  And there couldn't have been a better choice for the film score than getting ISAAC HAYES,  who covered us with so much delicious HOT BUTTERED SOUL a couple years earlier. 

Classic Noir was always about story and style. Visual Style is what made the original Noirs stand out. In B&W Film Noir we had the Chiarosuro clash of Shadows and Light the High Angle, Low Angle Shots, the Dutch angles, Depth of field etc.,  to give the sense of Alienation and Obsession and events spiraling out of control. 

With color you can still get the sense of Alienation and Obsession  with High Angle Low Angle Shots, the Dutch angles, Depth of field etc. but you also have new tools, extreme closeups, zooms and I've found that either a vividly clashing color palette or one is subdued, slightly disturbing, mildly nauseous, think of puke yellows, carnal reds, entrails green, and dead corpse blues  can more than make up for lack of  Black & White

Well you can look at it two ways.  The Color Film Noirs that were produced within this 1940-1968 time frame were were, you could say, actually the first Neo Noirs (let's call these first phase neos or proto neos) so that the two sub genres/styles actually overlap. But until the Motion Picture Production Code weakened in the 1960s the only significant difference between Noir and Neo Noir was the use of color film. Post 1960 the Neo Noirs (second phase neos) both Color and Black & White began to drift away from predominantly crime centric stories into more previously taboo "dark" subject matter and employing various salacious visual depictions not possible before.

The catalyst for this new alignment is when I read a quote about Neo Noir that said that if the filmmakers made a conscience decision to film in black and white when color was the norm then it was an artistic decision and not one of necessity for budget purposes, Same should go the other way if B&W was the norm for low budget B Noirs then it was an artistic decision to film it color.

The color film Noir,  or Neo Noir, running with this description, have been around now almost 70 years (again, my disclaimer, there maybe a few more to be identified) but they (Neo Noir) as a whole really up ticked in three decades, in the 70s (with 23), the 80s (with 17) and the 1990's (with 38) there was a dip, a lull, in the 2000s only 13 productions) with no films in 2000 or between 2002-4 and currently I count 7 in the 2010s, and with only three years left in the decade, it's lean times in the U.S., again these are almost all American productions about 120 total, there may and probably are more foreign films to find. Also it must be pointed out that as the majority of mainstream films are now predominantly catering to a youth and global market in general the subject matter has been sanitized,  the story lines dumbed down and characters have been caricatured practically into cartoons. The new, creative and serious fountainhead for Noir is now actually cable television, and these productions should be considered now equal or even surpassing film (this however is an interesting subject to tackle for an entire different essay) :

# of Color Film Noir (Neo Noir) produced between 1945 and 1967 (there may be a few more that pop up)

1945 (1)
1947 (1)
1948 (1) ---------- 3 in the 1940s

1953 (2)
1955 (3)
1956 (3)
1958 (1) ---------- 9 in the 1950s

1966 (2)
1967 (2)................................... end of Black & White film production

* I wrote this three or four years ago so the numbers for films in the 1990-2010s keep going up when I discover films of folks point one out. Example Fever (1999) is a pretty good psychological Neo Noir

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9 hours ago, cigarjoe said:

Yea full review with sceencaps here at Noirsville

A nice little write-up.  Well written.  Kept my interest.  The closes I get to writing movie reviews is on a TCM thread called "What Movie Did You Rate a 9 or 10 this month".   That thread doesn't seem to be as popular as it use to be since there hasn't been any activity since my last review in January 2020.   I guess there hasn't been any movie screenings on TCM since January 2020 that rate a 9 or 10 which would cause a member of TCM Nation to bring it to our attention in this particular thread.       

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I'm surprised there wasn't more comments.  I wonder if all the boards  regulars already seen it, or god forbid they avoid films where the predominate cast is not all Caucasian It's there loss cause it fits perfectly up there in the Pantheon of great hard boiled P.I. films.

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On 4/29/2020 at 9:08 AM, cigarjoe said:

Classic Noir was always about story and style. Visual Style is what made the original Noirs stand out. In B&W Film Noir we had the Chiarosuro clash of Shadows and Light the High Angle, Low Angle Shots, the Dutch angles, Depth of field etc.,  to give the sense of Alienation and Obsession and events spiraling out of control. 

With color you can still get the sense of Alienation and Obsession  with High Angle Low Angle Shots, the Dutch angles, Depth of field etc. but you also have new tools, extreme closeups, zooms and I've found that either a vividly clashing color palette or one is subdued, slightly disturbing, mildly nauseous, think of puke yellows, carnal reds, entrails green, and dead corpse blues  can more than make up for lack of  Black & White

Well you can look at it two ways.  The Color Film Noirs that were produced within this 1940-1968 time frame were were, you could say, actually the first Neo Noirs (let's call these first phase neos or proto neos) so that the two sub genres/styles actually overlap. But until the Motion Picture Production Code weakened in the 1960s the only significant difference between Noir and Neo Noir was the use of color film. Post 1960 the Neo Noirs (second phase neos) both Color and Black & White began to drift away from predominantly crime centric stories into more previously taboo "dark" subject matter and employing various salacious visual depictions not possible before.

The catalyst for this new alignment is when I read a quote about Neo Noir that said that if the filmmakers made a conscience decision to film in black and white when color was the norm then it was an artistic decision and not one of necessity for budget purposes, Same should go the other way if B&W was the norm for low budget B Noirs then it was an artistic decision to film it color.

The color film Noir,  or Neo Noir, running with this description, have been around now almost 70 years (again, my disclaimer, there maybe a few more to be identified) but they (Neo Noir) as a whole really up ticked in three decades, in the 70s (with 23), the 80s (with 17) and the 1990's (with 38) there was a dip, a lull, in the 2000s only 13 productions) with no films in 2000 or between 2002-4 and currently I count 7 in the 2010s, and with only three years left in the decade, it's lean times in the U.S., again these are almost all American productions about 120 total, there may and probably are more foreign films to find. Also it must be pointed out that as the majority of mainstream films are now predominantly catering to a youth and global market in general the subject matter has been sanitized,  the story lines dumbed down and characters have been caricatured practically into cartoons. The new, creative and serious fountainhead for Noir is now actually cable television, and these productions should be considered now equal or even surpassing film (this however is an interesting subject to tackle for an entire different essay) :

# of Color Film Noir (Neo Noir) produced between 1945 and 1967 (there may be a few more that pop up)

1945 (1)
1947 (1)
1948 (1) ---------- 3 in the 1940s

1953 (2)
1955 (3)
1956 (3)
1958 (1) ---------- 9 in the 1950s

1966 (2)
1967 (2)................................... end of Black & White film production

* I wrote this three or four years ago so the numbers for films in the 1990-2010s keep going up when I discover films of folks point one out. Example Fever (1999) is a pretty good psychological Neo Noir

Thanks, Joe. Serpico is one film that has a lot of the puke green look. I don't really care for the look, but it's clearly a deliberate choice.

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7 minutes ago, kingrat said:

Thanks, Joe. Serpico is one film that has a lot of the puke green look. I don't really care for the look, but it's clearly a deliberate choice.

Look at more examples from  Classic Color Noir  and Neo Noir

Bad Day At Black Rock

Red%2BGreen%2BNeo%2BMotif%2BHotel%2BBad%2B03%2BDay%2BAt%2BBlack%2BRock%2B1955.jpg

Red%2BGreen%2BNeo%2BMotif%2BHotel%2BBad%2B04%2BDay%2BAt%2BBlack%2BRock%2B1955.jpg

Slightly Scarlet

Screenshot%2B%25289452%2529.png

Screenshot%2B%25289524%2529.png

Shaft

Screenshot%2B%25281928%2529.png

Screenshot%2B%25281890%2529.png

Screenshot%2B%25281912%2529.png

Blue Velvet

Dorothy%2BFrank%2BBlue%2BVelvet%2B1986.jpg

Color%2BMotif%2B06%2BBlue%2BVelvet%2B1986.jpg

The American Side

American%2BSide%2B36.jpg

No Country For Old Men

Screenshot%2B%25289263%2529.png

Screenshot%2B%25289276%2529.png

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