Jump to content

 
Search In
  • More options...
Find results that contain...
Find results in...
Dr. Rich Edwards

Daily Dose of Darkness #13: Out of the Sun and Into the Shadows (A Scene from Out of the Past)

Recommended Posts

Out of the darkness is one of the best examples of film noir we will find.  It is not one of my favorites-story wise- but an excellent example.  I have watched it a number of times and still find fascination with the use of light the personality and character traits of the characters and the unexpectedness of our femme fatale.  She is so believable and we want to believe......but oh are we disappointed......why isn't it one of my favorite story lines, because I wanted the happy ending.  I wanted to see Jeff with the women he loved so much, but this story is ill fated and I continue to be disappointed when I watch this movie....LOL.....I guess I think somehow the story will change......what can I say?  I'm a romantic.

 

In this scene we see a mixture of uses of realism and subjectivity as well as the classic uses of dark and light, but in this scene there is a twist.  In so many movies we are placed into a dark setting where those fascinating silhouettes are set against the harsh light of a street lamp or something, but in this movie, we are actually in a bright daytime scene.  We are in the dark of a canteen hiding out from the sun.  Kathy's silhouetted entrance is deceptively beautiful and feminine has an immediate effect on Jeff.  Her appearance changes his perspective and his thoughts about love of a decent woman in love with him back home very quickly.  She looks ladylike and innocent in that wide brimmed hat and we all have to wonder how she could have ever been with a man like that snake back at Lake Tahoe.  What the snake said about her could not possibly be true.....

 

Then she takes a seat and lights up that cigarette so nonchalantly.  There is no indication that this is a woman that needs protection. She has a hardness about her, her eyes look dead and when Jeff comes to sit down with her, we can't really tell if she suspects who he is and why he is there or not.

We quickly become convinced that this is indeed a femme fatale and perhaps she really could be low down dirty and rotten......who can tell?  One of the great aspects of this film is we are never sure about Kathy's character until the end of the movie.

 

Jeff on the other hand is the subjective descent into darkness.  When this movie opens we are in the light and everything seems so normal and nice.  Jeff is literally forced back into the darkness of a world he thought he had escaped.  He takes it all in stride though and we can hear it in his voice during the narration while flying over Acapulco.  During the descent of this flight we begin to understand that we will not be landing here for pleasure but the descent into this beautiful city is a descent into a dark story. Next we are entering that cantina and Jeff continues the narration stating that he will wait here....that wait however is not the wait of your average P.I., he has the feel of a predator in his voice.  This is a job and he is there to do it (get his prey) and get back home.  He is a no-nonsense type.  We are missing the style and swagger of many of our favorite past detectives.  

 

He makes no bones about the effect Kathy's appearance has on him and how he instantly changes. Kathy begins the cat and mouse game immediately and we are treated to a scene not unlike the "just whistle" scene in "to have and have not" as Kathy exits the cantina.  My suspicion has always been she suspected who he was the minute she saw him.

 

This film was a rich addition to the film noir genre.  The use of realism and subjectivity were classic but so intertwined in this movie.  We received a dark story with a character continuously trying to get back to the light, a place, I might add, where most did now want him and felt he didn't belong.  In the end he knew they were right and we tragically find out that he will never be anyone's slave and he means it!!  This particular scene is so full of classic noir features, the dark/light usage, the narrative storytelling, a wonderful femme fatale......and the excellent twist of having a daylight scene from which our characters walk into darkness.  It was like they knew they were ill fated from the moment they met.  The attraction was instant and startling and in this scene we just have no way of understanding how deep this movie is going to go......

 

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The film clip begins with two noir elements; the narration by the protagonist played by Robert Mitchum and the aerial view of Mexico before we see Mitchum walking along the street and into the cantina.  His character appears street-wise and he is drinking and not clearly visible in the dim lighting; the anti-hero aspect being another characteristic of noir.  Jane Greer appears sweet and lovely all in white and the contrast of her in bright light; then the dark shadow of the archway and into the café creates the excitement for the viewer of being able to see her face in the close up as she sits down.  It creates excitement for Robert Mitchum as well, who wants very much to get together with her as he has been following her and there is the mystery of money involved.  She discourages all of his attempts until she rises to leave, suggesting a back-handed kind of invitation to him if he is interested to visit a place she goes sometimes.  This is an interesting meeting for these two and draws the viewer in as well.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

    Out of the Past is a prime example of Noir style. The use of shadows and the use of light (white) and dark (black) to disrupt the viewer is perfectly executed. At the entrance of the Cafe Robert Mitchum enters. There is a woman sitting on a stool wearing a black scarf and man smoking a cigarette with a white shirt who's in the shadow. That particular style continues throughout the scene another example is when Greer walks into the dark cafe from the shadows wearing her white dress and Mitchum is seating wearing a dark color suit. The choice to place the individuals wearing white in the shadows seems to tell a story that something deep and dark is lurking in the shadows.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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.* 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

 How does this scene employ elements of the noir style while most of the scene is shot during daylight?

As the title to the daily dose suggests it makes a real thing of the journey from the light into the shadow. Jeff talks of the sun and the heat of mexico but he brings to mexico his own pool of shadow and talks about how he can't connect with the hot summer things the city is known for. The lighting inside contrives to still have Jeff in shadow and to use the shadows of the local selling them things on the wall of the cantina.  Tourneur is known for his use of shadow and suggestion, mainly from his Val Lewton horror work and has a reputation as a director of Noirs despite the fact that most of his career and seemingly the work that mattered most to him was totally different, genre stories of building societies like Stars in My Crown or Canyon Passage, even his noirs like Berlin Express are actually about how you form a good society and keep it safe from threats and I think that rather than being down to him filming a lot of Noirs or even really having a noir attitude it is down to his total mastery of the noir visual, learnt on horror movies, only really shown on noirs a handful of times but SO good it has defined his reputation. Here we are in sunlit mexico, he has one of the most beautiful leading couples of all time in Mitchum and Greer in 1947 and he manages to make them look that beautiful while also making mitchum a thing of shadow. His visuals, hell RKO from 46-48's visuals generally are astounding. 

 

-- What do we learn about the characters of Kathie (Jane Greer) and Jeff (Robert Mitchum) in this sequence?

 

I dont know, I've loved the movie so much, have the poster on my stairs, that it's really hard to seperate out that scene from my knowledge of the characters and talk about what I learnt where.  It gets to the heart of the couple, gives the viewer something to hang on to and yearn for almost as much as Mitchum does (and much more than Greer does), makes you want them to have that brief reprieve so much that I think it is the romantic heart of the movie and why it touches people so much. It's the promise (soon to be dashed) of a non-noir ending for the couple.  Which is futile because Mitchum is clearly doomed, talking of how the pleasures of the world are denied him without Greer, and Greer is tossing him a bone with the invite to the bar that plays american music. Playing him. And you know and he knows it but you and he take the bone anyway just to momentarily have the delusion of something better. 

-- In what ways do you think this scene from Out of the Past contributed to the development of film noir?

It takes things like the narration and the iconic cool male lead of the Bogart/hammet/chandler approach to Noir and adds the doomed fatalism of something like Detour in the hands of the most underappreciated director of the studio system. It's the whole package, it combines all the philosophy of Noir with the audience appeal of real star power being perfectly harnessed so it touches the audience more than any other noir. I dont think it contributes to the development of Noir by pointing the way forward, I think instead it's a pinacle that few other noirs could ever match because they never managed combine the pure noir fatalism, the quality of the hard boiled story, the star power and pure sex of Mitchum and Greer together and a director like Tourneur.

It's not a road map for Noir it's a destination.

 

 

Beautiful. You've nailed it. Out of The Past is "not a road map for Noir; it's a destination." This film that I've loved for so long is lightning in a bottle, capturing in one dark and thrilling film the cream of Hollywood magic. Right time, right talent, right script, and a pairing of actors, in Mitchum and Greer, who inhabit their characters so completely and with such intense chemistry that the viewer is seduced as well. We know it's all too hot not to cool down, and of course, it does. With a vengence. This is, after all, a story of obsession. And yet, as you so rightly intuit, there is a heart to this story that sets the film well apart from imitators (which includes almost all of them). Thanks to the subtleties of Mitchum's and Greer's nuanced performances, we can never quite believe what Jeff and Kathie say to each other or do to each other, no matter how brutal. Their eyes and their body language say otherwise. This is bad love, alright--complete with lies, betrayals, self-serving treachery, and lots of tough self-delusion--but it still love, albeit destructive and doomed. Somehow, the way they finally end up together is the only way they could have. And only the appropriately mute young man, who opens and closes the film, gets what is really going on, and he ain't telling.        

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Inside the cantina, Robert Mitchum is seated at a table.  There is a large archway behind him.  The light overhead is to his right, casting a brightness to the right side of his face, but leaving the left side dark.  When the girl is in front of the café, you see she is very visible in the street.  As she enters, she passes through an archway, which puts her into the shadow for a moment.  Then she reappears again in all her beauty.  The opening of the scene has Bob narrating while there is a long shot over the city.  That created a documentary flavor to the scene.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I realize this was a last week's film, but I just got around to watching it. It's a stunner in so many ways. The acting just blew me away! Robert Mitchum certainly earned a place in film history along with Kirk Douglas, but I think maybe Jane Greer is somewhat underrated. She's a real standout in this film and really puts the 'fatale' in the noir structure of this film!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

An exotic location . . . a beautiful woman with more than a hint of mystery . . . a rugged, strong and, of course, handsome private detective . . . set in the 1940s.  These add up to film noir on a big scale.  You start watching and you get hooked.  I know that I did the first time I ever saw this movie many, many years ago.  I had never even heard the term "film noir".  I just knew that I more than liked this movie Out of the Past.  I did not even know why.  I was a kid, but whenever it came on I would watch it again and again.  This was long before there was a TCM cable channel in existence.  As I learned more about film noir, this became for me to be the essential movie.  There are I guess hundreds more, but this is the big one. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The sequence with the aerial view reminds me "Border Incident", but the voice-over narration is more like "Dark Passage" or "Maltese Falcon". We meet a private detective, searching for a girl, who probably took somebody else's money and flew to Mexico. We also have flashbacks and the play of shadows - when Kathie Moffat comes into the cafe, out of the sun, we can see a shadow behind her - maybe a dark alter ego? "She walks in beauty", with grace, her silhouette is beautifully exposed and her white clothes make her look like she was a kind of an angel. It contrasts with her behaviour - smoking a cigarette and acting like an ice queen. One is for sure - she got Jeff fooled. She is cool, but while she was leaving she gave him a glimmer of hope and said she sometimes goes to the cantina nearby. And I was wondering - who's the hunter and who's the prey actually?

In this scene, Jeff looks rather bored with waiting, nothing happens, day by day, so her spectacular entrance made an obvious impact on this guy. His behavior seemed rather desperate, maybe he should have been more cool about it, just to control the situation. After all - she was the woman on the run. We all know how it ended.

The whole situation, two lonely people sitting in a cafe in a foreign country, having no one to talk to is just like in Hopper paintings.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This scene reminds me of Annette Benning and Warren Beatty in Bugsy.  The part where she says to him, "Why don't you go blow yourself a soda?"  Greer's character and Mitchum's character are both cautious with one another, but curious and willing to take a chance.  We find out that she doesn't wear earrings and she prefers another bar where a man plays American music.  She tells these things to Mitchum's character.  The way she doesn't finish the drink she has ordered makes me wonder if she knew he would be there?  And if she knew that, he's being set up for something.  That is what a noir film does to the audience.  It turns us into detectives as well.  Unless you have seen the film before, you don't know how it will end, nor what kids of twists and turns the story will take.  We go along for the ride and assume that the good guy will win in the end.  That may not be the case for this man.  This scene contributes to noir films in that it shows that even in daylight, there is mystery and intrigue.  The darkness and shadows are not the only views that haunt or scare a person.  The daylight can be just as dangerous, exciting and adventurous as the night. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Even before the two main charcaters are talking at the table we already have some visible elements of film noir. The clip starts with a male voice-over narration, and the cinematography compositions privilege the 'unnatural' frames. When Robert Mitchum is walking inside the cafe we see him behind a silloute on the left and another man on the right below of the frame. And we can see all those elements clearly, as pointed by this weeks article about cinematic resources of noir movies. Later on, when Jane Greer walks in, the bright of the sun from the street are more visible than herself, something that the pre-noir studio system would fix pointing a high-key lighting directly on the star. 

 

The chat between them set another common aspects of noir scripts: a man searching for someone, many questions and few answers. Although Acapulco is a beautiful costal city, it's not located in the native land of the detective, so this element adds the fear from the unknown to the plot.

 

Certainly a great piece of noir cinema!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I am a bit behind on the daily doses.  This Out of the Past clip starts in the bright light of day, but even then there are shadows in the alley.  Once they are in the cafe, you can't really tell if it is daylight unless you are looking directly at the door.  I love it when Kathie says she doesn't need a guide.  She strikes me as super independent yet mysterious.  When she tells Jeff about the other place to go listen to music there is a longing and sadness in her like maybe she has something to hide or is lonely.  All of these qualities set up the basis for a good film noir. Mystery and shadows...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Does anyone else feel like Mitchum's attitude changes with the lighting in this scene on the Daily Dose of Darkness? When he's sitting close to the bar in the light with all of the busy bar patrons, he is more relaxed. Then, when he sits with her at the shaded table, he adds to their conversation by tightening his shoulders almost the instant she arrives.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This scene from "Out of the Past" exhibits many of the hallmarks of a Film Noir. It's a flashback, with Jeff telling Ann about his history with Whit. When he sees Kathy, who turns out to be a superb example of a treacherous Noir femme fetale, we see fairly quickly that he is attracted to her. She is resistant to him, although we see that she may yet see Jeff. After telling Jeff about the other cantina he can go to, he tells her to wear the earrings he tried to give her, and she says, "I go there sometimes." These characters don't engage in the verbal fencing matches as Bogart and Bacall in "The Big Sleep" or MacMurray and Stanwyck do in "Double Indemnity", but the immediate intentions of both characters are more or less spelled out in this scene.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

In this clip we see many elements of the noir style in the characters, the dialogue ,directional composition and visual motifs. At the beginning we get a voice over/narrative of Mitchum that was taken from the documentary style to add to the new dynamic way of telling a story. A long wide angle aerial view contributes to the visual motif we're learning about from our current readings. Kathie's entrance from light into darkness, particularly, we see the bright light (soft focus to low key light) leave her face which is an indication that there is something a bit dark about this character;there is cynical side below the surface waiting to come out, long before she utters a word.The darkened cantina suggests that a lot of shadiness lurks inside this place; a depth of focus shot from the camera assists in further defining our suspicions about the place and everyone in it. Also, there are a lot of vertical/diagonal lines seen in doorway entrances, exits and of a seated Mitchum waiting for the arrival of Katie. Their opposing seating adds to the tension that exists between them (in a two shot of them at the table). And lastly,the dialogue between this femme fatale and hard -boiled character is not typical, in that,the delivery of their dialogue is more conversational and not so fast and hard-driven.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

© 2020 Turner Classic Movies Inc. A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Cookie Settings
×
×
  • Create New...