Posted by Susan Doll on April 16, 2012
As promised, this week’s blog post provides the answers to last week’s film noir quiz. The quiz was prompted by the tribute to film noir at the TCM Classic Movie Festival, which ended Sunday, but good movie dialogue has been on my mind since teaching Citizen Kane in my film studies class a couple of weeks ago. We were discussing Mr. Bernstein’s bittersweet recollection about the girl he saw while on the Staten Island ferry when he was a young man. She never noticed him at all, and he never saw her again, but there wasn’t a week that went by that he didn’t think about that girl. It didn’t take long for the class to understand that the girl symbolized the personal life that Bernstein gave up to serve Charles Foster Kane. I remarked that in a good script, the dialogue may seem to be about one topic on the surface, but it is actually representative of something else.
The conversation in class made me think about the clever witticisms and banter of film noir. More than just entertaining, noir dialogue denotes aspects of the characters as well key themes. Most notably, the noir genre is famous for the banter between the hard-boiled protagonist and the femme fatale. It serves as a substitute or metaphor for flirtation, love, or even sex.
Posted by Susan Doll on April 9, 2012
Next weekend, I am attending the TCM Classic Film Festival in Hollywood, and I am more than excited. I am going as a movie fan, not as a TCM blogger, and I can’t wait to see the films, the stars, and the historic theaters. One of the programs at the festival this year is titled “Noir Style,” which includes five films that will illustrate the distinct visual style of noir: Criss Cross (1949), Cry Danger (1951), Gun Crazy (1949), Night and the City (1950), and Raw Deal (1948). Few genres can surpass noir for its visual beauty and haunting atmosphere, especially when the films are seen as prints projected onto a big screen.
In honor of TCM’s homage to film noir, I have devised my own tribute of sorts, though I have chosen to focus on another convention of this beloved genre—the snappy dialogue. Noir is acclaimed for the well-written dialogue that can be poetic, sarcastic, insulting, provocative, and rife with double meaning. To discover which of my readers are well-versed in noir dialogue, I thought a quiz might be fun. Below are several lines of dialogue from well-known and not-so-well known film noirs. Some lines I selected because of the humor; some because they are quintessentially noir; and some because I personally like the sentiment (or lack thereof) expressed.
Posted by R. Emmet Sweeney on March 27, 2012
Onscreen, Barbara Stanwyck was rarely the nurturing type. She became an icon because of her persona of fearsome independence, her justifiably shameless arrogance next to godliness. So it’s jolting to investigate the byways of her career, in which she played off type, including her elegiac performance in Mitchell Leisen’s noir, No Man of Her Own (released on DVD today by Olive Films). Playing the vulnerable and doomed Helen Ferguson, Stanwyck exhibits a touching passivity in the face of a world continually conspiring against her.
Posted by davidkalat on March 10, 2012
Once upon a time there was a motion picture called Detour (1945). It was a small, wiry thing, gristle and bone. It would have been the runt of any litter, except for the sad fact that it came from a litter of runts, movies made for pocket change and thrust out into the world without support, left to fend for themselves in a harsh and competitive environment.
What Detour lacked in polish and graces it made up for with a steely constitution. It was made of stern stuff, this angry little poem written in the language of failure and defeat. Its flickering frames contain a story of an aspiring artist whose talent would seem to merit one kind of fate, glorious and celebratory, but whose life is shuttled down a cruel detour to a very different destination. He begins his adventure dreaming of a new life in a sunnier world, and finishes up lost and lonely, an exile.
Posted by R. Emmet Sweeney on February 28, 2012
As the 1960s ended, so did Robert Mulligan’s collaboration with producer Alan Pakula. After seven films together, Pakula embarked upon a successful directing career of his own, beginning with the college romance of The Sterile Cuckoo in 1969 (which would earn Liza Minnelli her first Oscar nomination). Mulligan also tried his hand at courting the youth market, starting production on The Pursuit of Happiness late that same year, although it was not released until 1971. It was the first coming-of-age story that Mulligan directed since To Kill A Mockingbird, and its melancholic sense of lost innocence pervades all of his work in the early 1970s.
Posted by Susan Doll on October 3, 2011
One of my favorite films airs tomorrow night, October 4, on TCM. In a Lonely Place is my favorite directorial effort by Nicholas Ray, with terrific performances by Humphrey Bogart and by Gloria Grahame. Though a box-office disappointment when it was released in 1950, In a Lonely Place has since been recognized as a Nicholas Ray masterwork and written about from every possible angle. It’s been discussed as an example of film noir, posited as an autobiographical retelling of Ray and Grahame’s disintegrating marriage, and dissected as a product of its paranoiac times (the HUAC investigations and the resultant Hollywood blacklist). I can’t improve on what most critics and historians have written about In a Lonely Place, but I thought I would offer some slightly disorganized observations on why I love this movie.
In a Lonely Place stars Humphrey Bogart as Dixon Steele, a Hollywood screenwriter who is down on his luck because of his drinking and his temper. Few studios and directors want to work with him, so he takes a job turning the latest potboiler novel into a screenplay. Rather than read the novel, he asks a hatcheck girl, Mildred, to come home with him to tell him the story. The film has a rich texture in which even small parts are memorable because of the fertile script and the pitch-perfect performances. Mildred is a working-class gal taken with the melodrama of the book who reaches beyond her education and station to describe the story. She notes that one of the male characters looks like a “bronze Apollo,” except she pronounces it “A-polo.”
Posted by medusamorlock on September 21, 2011
Kevin Lee of the Keyframe Blog at Fandor, the subscription internet video service, is holding an important event this week — “The Maddin-est Blogathon in the World” – celebrating the dazzling idiosyncratic Canadian filmmaker Guy Maddin. I had to put my two cents in. Especially after a very hot and sultry Florida summer, thinking about the sometimes frozen climate of Canada offers a much-needed and pleasing contrast, and I can think of no better, stranger, more magical journey into cold Canada than through a viewing of Maddin’s magnificent fever dream of a tribute to his hometown in My Winnipeg, from 2007.
Posted by R. Emmet Sweeney on July 5, 2011
Edmond O’Brien enjoys a post-Independence Day fireworks display in Rio Conchos, the 1964 Western just released by Shout! Factory on DVD. With all my squawking about studios cutting back on library titles for home video, there are still plenty of rare and strange items sneaking onto those glimmering circular discs. Over the past few weeks, Shout! Factory and Warner Archive have shown they’re still fighting the good fight, and I’ll run down a few of their most intriguing recent renovation jobs.
Posted by R. Emmet Sweeney on May 31, 2011
For the Migrating Forms festival, now in its third year at Anthology Film Archives, a moving image is a moving image. Whether it’s a supercut on YouTube or a gallery installation, programmers Nellie Killian and Kevin McGarry have their antenna up for playful, provocative work regardless of origin. This edition, concluded on Sunday night, presented films and videos from 49 artists from 15 countries, along with 12 retrospective screenings and one-off events. It’s impossible to reduce this multiplicity of material (culled from museums and film festivals and viral videos), into a unified theme, but it’s this very impossibility that gives Migrating Forms its vibrancy and its mission.
Posted by davidkalat on May 7, 2011
One of the things that can be fun about watching remakes is the insight it gives into what constitutes directing. Take two movies with essentially the same script, and the differences between them become more clearly the work of the different directors and actors interpreting that script.
Having said that, it’s pretty much impossible to evaluate the directorial style of Rudolph Maté from his work on 1948’s The Dark Past, because the film is a virtual clone of an earlier Columbia thriller, Charles Vidor’s Blind Alley (1939). Maté’s choices = Vidor’s choices. Where The Dark Past does differ, it differs by being a deracinated and miscast work of mimicry. Which isn’t to say it lacks its own merits—The Dark Past has an interesting meta-irony that deserves some notice, and we’ll come to it in due course.
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