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Dr. Rich Edwards

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

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Even though you have the daylight in the background you have the shaddows inside the cantina. Also the voice over naration. It interesting how all the guys in the cantina are wearing just a shirt while Robery Mitchum is wearing an overcoat. He might have something to hide? I also like how she tells him about another cantina as she's getting ready to leave, then tells him " I sometimes go there." She is using her femme fatale line.

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

 

For us, the scene opens with a Mondrian-like city grid, which creates its own light and dark patterns, without shadows. The Mondrian grid  also calls to mind the fine arts influences on noir. The use of the modern art inspired grid brings light and dark geometric shapes to the screen despite the bright day light. The film then moves into more common ways for throwing light and shadows into scenes.

 

When we first see Robert Mitchum walking through the streets of Acapulco, we hear his hard-boiled, voice-over narration talking about his trip through Mexico until he arrives at La Mar Azul to wait for Jane Greer. Then she makes her entrance into the film. Although it is not a spectacular entrance (think Grace Kelly's entrance into Rear Window), I agree with the comments in the Daily Dose, that the DP did a masterful job of highlighting all of her angles and curves as she makes her way from the blazing Mexican sun into the darkened bar. Once in the bar, not only are she and Mitchum making multiple, moving shadows with their heads and limbs, they are also creating their own shadows (Mitchum's nose on the side of his face, Greer's hat on her forehead). All of the props in the bar scene are also creating stationary shadows, the chair slats, the counters, bottles, etc. In addition to light and shadow, minor characters emerge to lend a noirish note.

 

While Mitchum is passing through a breezeway, which creates its own interesting shadows in the bright sunlight, a heavyset man observes him. He arrives in the bar to approach Greer and Mitchum and establish a way for Mitchum to meet Greer in order to complete his mission for Kirk Douglas. The exchange between the Mexican guide and the two stars is tawdry in nature, beefing up the noir aspect of the scene. Mitchum also makes a base observation about Greer when he mentions that he now knows that Kirk Douglas is not just trying to find Greer for the $40,000 she stole from him. Greer is our femme fatale.

 

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

 

We learn that Jane Greer has been around and is not about to fall for a line: the self-proclaimed Mexican guide's line or Mitchum's loneliness line. She is beautiful, she knows it, and has learned to cope with all sorts of approaches from men whose attentions she does not want. The audience also senses that  she is wary. before she has any substantive conversation with Mitchum, she may be stalling  in order to check him out before she chooses to meet up with him, or not, again. Any future encounter they have will be on her terms. He can like it or lump it.

 

Mitchum on the other hand is ready to take advantage of any circumstance that comes his way in order to accomplish what he wants. He is not immune to Greer's beauty, but he is not going to lose his head. His character is going  to focus on his desired task, he is too disciplined to fall for her so soon.

 

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

 

I would say that the use of broad daylight as a noir construct might be the answer to this question, however, the other film pictured in the week's module (Postman, 1946) also uses broad daylight in a noir film, as does Double Indemnity (1944). These films that take place in California necessarily exist in sunlight, so those cinematographers found ways to have noir happen in the sun (it happens at night or indoors!). Noir can also be found in subject matter alone

 

An MGM film from the 40's, even a Cain noir such as Postman is going to be beautifully photographed with lots of light and classicism (Louis Mayer wanted his films to be appealing and accessible). Interestingly, Postman's femme fatale, Lana Turner, is also shown in white clothing throughout the film, as is Greer in our opening scene for the Daily Dose. Perhaps RKO was influenced by MGM. The fact that RKO could pick up a technique by MGM, not exactly a noir studio, could be a perpetuation of the use of classicism to present a noir.

 

 

 

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Tournuer revels in contradiction. The femme fatale is introduced as angelic purity. Later at the end she prepares for her last car ride in dark colours that are akin to a nun's habit and again she is framed under an archway. Tournuer's symbolic mis-en-scéne is redolent throughout the movie.

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The beginning of this clip shows aerial scenes of Mexico in a semi- documentary style, but in this case the voice over relates part of a personal narrative. We quickly learn that he is following a woman who he cleverly refers to as "90 lbs of excess baggage" The viewer senses the hot temperature as Jeff describes his walks through the bright sun lit streets. The inside of the cantina is conversely cool and dark. Her entrance is filmed beautifully. Her silhouette against the bright entrance way is emphatic. She moves with deliberate shadows behind her. The close-up of Jane Greer's face reveals a beautiful but mysterious demeanor. She refuses the guide, the earrings and Jeff's company, for the moment it seems. She hints that she "sometimes" goes to the other cantina. Jeff shows that he is a quick thinker by using his charm to further the conversation and seduction. Lots of chemistry here!!  Obviously, trouble is brewing!

   This scene is very different from the urban nightly settings in many noir movies. The director and studio of this film chose authentic Mexican locations to depict this fateful story. In other words, film noir can take place just about anywhere. Its the aforementioned elements that make the difference

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The noir elements are apparent in the dialogue as well as the actors' body language. Kathie's bouts of silence and sultry glances evoke the femme fatale persona we know well but also add to her mystery and intrigue. A woman who appears from a white, angelic and heavenly light into the cool, dark shadows of a lowly cantina in an exotic location. Jeff's dialogue oozes with deep existentialist musings about human existence and the desperate need to overcome loneliness and isolation (mirrored in the film's title sequence of an isolated mountain town). These individuals are both lone rangers and independent in their own right but they are inherently lonely and very isolated emotionally. Every true noir character suffers from true emotional intimacy, living with a constant mistrust of others and ultimate loyalty to themselves alone. Self-interest (which does not equate self-love, to be clear) reigns supreme in the noir universe, even to the detriment of these characters. 

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The scene may be in broad daylight, but the low angles and camera placement made me feel as if I were lurking in the shadows- in an alley or a dark corner of the cantina. This feeling is amplified when characters cross into shadows as they move closer to the camera.

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Johnny really isn't attracted to Gilda.  Instead he is repulsed by her.   Note that Johnny marries Gilda.  He does this NOT because he has a fatal attraction to her but instead to punish her.   Johnny is loyal to Ballin even after his death (well what Johnny believed was Ballin's death) and so he marries Gilda to ensure Gilda doesn't have a relationship with any other man,  even himself.   (Johnny doesn't even have sex with Gilda out of loyalty to Ballin).    

 

Gilda wasn't bad for Johnny.  Instead Ballin was bad for Johnny.   All the bad things that happen to Johnny are because of his loyalty to Ballin.   Remember those first few scenes.   Johnny promises to be a loyal and obedient friend to Ballin.  THAT is what sinks Johnny.

 

Note the song Put The Blame on Mame was done to illustrate that people would put the blame on Gilda when she did NOT deserve the blame.   It was a farce.   You took the bait,  hook, line and sinker.     

Jesus, this misses the point. I'm not gonna cross talk here, but Johnny was bad for Johnny. It may be that the character of Gilda was enlightened (rather than self-conscious) enough to understand what others would think of her objectively, but I'm not betting on it. Her deliberate Jessica Rabbit number was intended to draw attention to her, as the destroyer of men image to which she resigned herself- the fate of a beautiful woman (incidentally, I thought destroyed by the dubbing of voice for song). No, the interpretation you attempt to sell is one only possible if one loses the suspension of disbelief and sees the characters as chess pieces moved around the board by the Deus ex Machine of the unseen director.

"Gilda," frankly, wrapped up too cleanly for me. Loyalty and obedience are rewarded in the end, triumphing over deceit and deception, embodied by the scheming, evil portrayal of Germans (necessary for the time, but carried way far more effectively and less heavy handedly in the brilliant "Casablanca," with a touch of humor.

The focus on film noir for me remains on the internal struggle. The genius of "Put the Blame on Mame" is in Gilda's willingness to put herself on public display, making known that for which she has no choice: in the male dominated society a beautiful woman is not allowed freedom, respect and independence. I only wish Ms. Hayworth had been allowed her own voice. The message really was in the studio's decision to substitute hers for another equally talented, less comely, and un-credited woman.

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The shadows of the chair against the white tablecloth really stood out, as did the archway and overhead light when Jeff stood up from his table.  Also the way Kathie's hat framed her face was classic.  She looks like a good girl (white dress, immaculate hair and make-up) but you know that she's got something to hide.

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Out of the Past (1947) The use of shadows in this scene almost flirt with the viewer and pull you into the scene. I love ths shadows as Jane Greer enters the scene. Additionally, the fedora atop the saleman's head creates a playful shadow that dances on the wall. This scene is a visual feast. As the narrator talks about the scene, it is laid out before our eyes...the cafe to the cinema. Jane Greer's dress is timeless too and the white of the dress plays off the shadows beautifully.

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I am having serious issues with passwords and there is no daily dose showing up in canvas, is this me or anyone having issues.

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Jesus, this misses the point. I'm not gonna cross talk here, but Johnny was bad for Johnny. It may be that the character of Gilda was enlightened (rather than self-conscious) enough to understand what others would think of her objectively, but I'm not betting on it. Her deliberate Jessica Rabbit number was intended to draw attention to her, as the destroyer of men image to which she resigned herself- the fate of a beautiful woman (incidentally, I thought destroyed by the dubbing of voice for song). No, the interpretation you attempt to sell is one only possible if one loses the suspension of disbelief and sees the characters as chess pieces moved around the board by the Deus ex Machine of the unseen director.

"Gilda," frankly, wrapped up too cleanly for me. Loyalty and obedience are rewarded in the end, triumphing over deceit and deception, embodied by the scheming, evil portrayal of Germans (necessary for the time, but carried way far more effectively and less heavy handedly in the brilliant "Casablanca," with a touch of humor.

The focus on film noir for me remains on the internal struggle. The genius of "Put the Blame on Mame" is in Gilda's willingness to put herself on public display, making known that for which she has no choice: in the male dominated society a beautiful woman is not allowed freedom, respect and independence. I only wish Ms. Hayworth had been allowed her own voice. The message really was in the studio's decision to substitute hers for another equally talented, less comely, and un-credited woman.

 

Gilda wasn't enlighten.  Instead she was young and immature.   The use of the song and dance number was used to manipulate people into believing that Gilda was the 'destroyer of men',  when instead she wasn't.  She was just a vulnerable women being manipulated by men.   She never stepped out on Ballin or Johnny.  Instead Johnny had his thugs hold her hostage,  pays a man to pay attention to her and pretend to help her escape the hell the sick Johnny put her in.     The ending is indeed a farce but it doesn't reward loyalty and obedience.    If it did,  Johnny would have killed Gilda and Ballin and Johnny would have gone off together to continue their life of crime.  

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 -- How does this scene employ elements of the noir style while most of the scene is shot during daylight?  It had the beautiful shadows that had become necessary to show that the locale was possibly not the best place to be at any time of the day.  Under the hot sun, the darkness was almost a relief...or maybe that's the way I feel right now because it's over 100f outside.  :-p


 


-- What do we learn about the characters of Kathie (Jane Greer) and Jeff (Robert Mitchum) in this sequence?  It was a game of "cat and mouse".  Is he seeking her out for a purpose, or just because she's so gorgeous?  Why is she in a bar during the daytime, or is it because she just needed a cool place to sit down for a moment?  She was annoyed by his intrusion, but intrigued by his intelligence.  Is she a villain or just his prey?


 


-- In what ways do you think this scene from Out of the Past contributed to the development of film noir?  Snappy dialogue, great costumes, lots of smoking and drinking...but they make it look so darned attractive!


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It seemed like Jeff was spell bound the moment she came in. She had trouble written all over her. Like so many things in life, we see it, but can't look away. She explains the cantina and ends with I sometimes go there. Of Course, she does he is hooked and she reels him in. We all see that because of he lighting and the shadows, almost as though she is coming into focus when walking through the doorway. A wonderful example of the essence of film making.

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This scene from "Out of the Past" may take place in the sunshine, but it has many hallmarks of the noir style: shadows, voiceover, sense of confinement, high fashion.

 

It opens with overhead shots of a city and a voiceover in the realism style of noir making it feel like a documentary or newsreel. The narrator is matter of fact, like he is reporting. Then the camera moves to city streets. The sun is out, but there are shadows near doorways. Men lean against buildings and doorways; shadows flutter against faces.

 

The action moves inside a bar, a popular noir setting. Our narrator is at a table looking bored, restless while he waits for a woman he has been sent to find. She finally appears from the bright sunshine, wearing a fashionable light-colored suit and hat. It is almost like she is a breath of fresh air in the stifling heat. Despite the heat she is cool, calm, polite but distant. The camera stays close on them in the bar - despite the space there is a feeling of confinement and you wonder if they are about to be trapped by their actions. He is trying to sweet talk her, but she's not buying it - or is she? As she's giving him suggestions on where to go as a tourist, she slides in a "I sometimes go there." She is interested, but she won't throw herself at him.

 

By using a dynamic approach - taking the motifs associated with film noir but moving them out of the darkness and into the sunshine - the film contributes an innovative new approach to noir.

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A femme fatale doesn't do bad things.  A femme fatale an attractive and seductive woman, especially one who will ultimately bring disaster to a man who becomes involved with her.  I think Gilda falls into that definition.

 

But even then Gilda didn't lead anyone to their doom. Johnny and Ballin's troubles were all self inflicted. Gilda was just a symbol they gravitated around. 

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This movies shows elements of the noir style by starting with a narration that sets the scene. The plays on lights and shadows is classic noir as well as the dialogue between Kathie and Jeff.

One of the things that I have noticed in our movies so far is there are interesting interruptions with conversation. Most of the time I have noticed that it is done with a loud repetitive noise but sometimes, as in this case, it is with an unwanted person butting into a private conversation. It is always like sandpaper rubbing on your skin. I think it is very effective.

Jeff seems lonely to me but straight forward. I am sure he has an angle though.He is noir perfection in my book. Kathie is secretive and I suspect there is a whole lot going on with her especially since there is a mention of 40,000 dollars.

This clip is classic noir even in the day!

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The contrast of bright sunlight streaming through the doorway into the cantina against the simple interior helps to create a somewhat sleepy, lazy atmosphere that allows the character of Jeff, as well as the viewer to lose the sense of the passage of time- how long has he been waiting there? The day seems endless. And then suddenly that sunlight is blocked for a brief moment, jarring Jeff back into reality, by the appearance of someone whom he has never seen in the café before. He seems to be casually assessing, unnoticed by her. She looks somewhat pensive, unaware of the others in the café. As Jeff approaches she acts disinterested- she doesn't even look at him until the tour guide speaks. Her eyes stay on Jeff as the salesman makes his pitch. The viewer gets the sense that she suspects that their meeting is no coincidence. She is calculating, one can see that she has decided to play him, and so she drops a not-so-subtle hint as to where he might "bump into" her again. This character of Kathie established a blueprint for the cool, operative female lead antagonists that we see in many of the films noir that came after.

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Gilda wasn't enlighten.  Instead she was young and immature.   The use of the song and dance number was used to manipulate people into believing that Gilda was the 'destroyer of men',  when instead she wasn't.  She was just a vulnerable women being manipulated by men.   She never stepped out on Ballin or Johnny.  Instead Johnny had his thugs hold her hostage,  pays a man to pay attention to her and pretend to help her escape the hell the sick Johnny put her in.     The ending is indeed a farce but it doesn't reward loyalty and obedience.    If it did,  Johnny would have killed Gilda and Ballin and Johnny would have gone off together to continue their life of crime.  

Excellent discussion regarding "Gilda," if perhaps a bit off topic (this exchange of posts threads over the last couple hours). If one steps back and views the movie as forest, rather than tree, one can see the male dominated studio system using Ms. Hayworth (real name, Cansino) as an object, marketed for her sex appeal. But she plays the title character; the movie is named for her character. The name "Gilda" is reminiscent of "gilded," as in "only a bird in a gilded cage," a popular song in the early part of the last century. The character is on one level a beautiful woman caged within the male dominated, a) studio system; B) film reality of the powerful male characters, rich business owners; and c) caged by her own beauty. Like gilt (another play on Gilda), her outer beauty is gold plated.In German, the name Hilda represents a strong warrior and Hildegard von Bingen was one of the most important women in history, recognized even during her lifetime in the middle ages. 

In the end, the studio system (the topic for this week's lessons) makes of Ms. Hayworth merely a commodity. Contrast this with Ida Lupino, who lived her independence, directing and producing films of some importance. At the start of the picture business, there were far more women involved in the writing and production of motion pictures. By WWII, although women had joined the work force, Rosie the Riveter was supplanted by the pin-up girl. Put the blame on Mame, boys, but the real fault is on society's own unwillingness to recognize the inherent talents of both genders equally. 

"Gilda" didn't work for me as film noir. I saw the crime plotline as secondary to selling Ms. Hayworth's sexuality. I prefer the lower budget productions of "Poverty Row" that didn't have to make the huge profits necessary to sustain the studios and their lavish lifestyles. Call me a heretic, but I think "Gilda" was slumming, a poseur pretending to be noir.

If ever there was a heist, it was the big studios trying to sell folk songs to the folks who made them songs. Strictly mass marketing consumerism, nothing iconoclastic or new.

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I agree the opening is a documentary style, but it has a different feel, perhaps it is Jeff's delivery.  It's nice to see noir in the daylight.  It brings a new approach.  The bright light when Kathy enters is memorizing, as if she is walking on air.  The Cantina has subtle shades of light and dark.

 

Both characters are lonely, that is easily seen, but what is Kathy's secret, 40,000?  Why is Jeff looking for her?  Both  characters have secrets....

 

This scene leaves us intrigued and eager to see what's next.

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Out of the sun and into the shadows is the perfect title for this discussion. We are introduced to Mitchum'c character through gloomy, serious voiceover narration that contrasts with the gorgeous sunlit small town this story presumably takes place in. There is certainly a juxtaposition between narration and setting. Most of the clips have seen have featured voiceover narration in a particularly dark locale with harsh shadows and secretive characters. This clip seems cheery in comparison. Jane Greer's character essentially goes from one kind of movie to another as he ventures "out of the sun and into the shadows". She enters this seedy underworld that Mitchum exists in. Then, she gets out and goes back to the sun.

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Excellent discussion regarding "Gilda," if perhaps a bit off topic (this exchange of posts threads over the last couple hours). If one steps back and views the movie as forest, rather than tree, one can see the male dominated studio system using Ms. Hayworth (real name, Cansino) as an object, marketed for her sex appeal. But she plays the title character; the movie is named for her character. The name "Gilda" is reminiscent of "gilded," as in "only a bird in a gilded cage," a popular song in the early part of the last century. The character is on one level a beautiful woman caged within the male dominated, a) studio system; B) film reality of the powerful male characters, rich business owners; and c) caged by her own beauty. Like gilt (another play on Gilda), her outer beauty is gold plated.In German, the name Hilda represents a strong warrior and Hildegard von Bingen was one of the most important women in history, recognized even during her lifetime in the middle ages. 

In the end, the studio system (the topic for this week's lessons) makes of Ms. Hayworth merely a commodity. Contrast this with Ida Lupino, who lived her independence, directing and producing films of some importance. At the start of the picture business, there were far more women involved in the writing and production of motion pictures. By WWII, although women had joined the work force, Rosie the Riveter was supplanted by the pin-up girl. Put the blame on Mame, boys, but the real fault is on society's own unwillingness to recognize the inherent talents of both genders equally. 

"Gilda" didn't work for me as film noir. I saw the crime plotline as secondary to selling Ms. Hayworth's sexuality. I prefer the lower budget productions of "Poverty Row" that didn't have to make the huge profits necessary to sustain the studios and their lavish lifestyles. Call me a heretic, but I think "Gilda" was slumming, a poseur pretending to be noir.

If ever there was a heist, it was the big studios trying to sell folk songs to the folks who made them songs. Strictly mass marketing consumerism, nothing iconoclastic or new.

 

Very well said.   Yes, the big studios did tend to add too much of a romantic factor to their noir styled films.   Often the most gritty non romantic noirs have leading players that were not major stars.    Even the iconic noir actor Mitchum when cast with Jane Russell was able to survive another day.   Compare that to earlier noirs like Out of the Past.      

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Jacques Tourneur's Out Of The Past, 1947, uses documentary realism and evokes the atmosphere of Edward Hopper's Nighthawks' painting to convey the noir style.  We watch the documentary realism unfold before us as Jeff (Robert Mitchum) narrates his tracking of Kathie (Jane Greer) to Alcapulco via plane, bus, and, on foot.  In the Cafe La Mar Azul where Jeff waits everyday for Kathie to show up, the mood is lonely and isolated for Jeff even though there are waiters and other customers present.  This atmosphere is much like the one conveyed in Edward Hopper's Nighthawks' painting.

 

We find the characters of Kathie (Jane Greer) and Jeff (Robert Mitchum) trying to 'feel' each other out at first (i.e. in clever repartee or conversation) and then drawn to each other because they are similar (i.e. strangers in a strange land) and lonely.  This scene from Out of the Past contributed to the development of film noir by reinforcing the use of cinematic styles such as documentary realism and art forms like Edward Hopper's Nighthawks' painting.

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When we first see Kathie, she looks like an angel stepping into the shadows.  We have heard see is bad news, but she looks so innocent.  Is she?  SPOILER ALERT: She's not, not at all.

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I love the lighting used in this scene. When Katie comes into the cantina, she is a dark silhouette. When she is sitting in the cantina, she is light. Later, she is a dark silhouette again when leaving the cantina. Very artfully done. Kathie and Jeff both seem innocent enough in this scene, but we'll see. RKO may not have been on MGM's level when it came to technicolor, but RKO does a great job with black and white. I usually feel like I'm in for a treat when I watch an RKO movie.

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