Author Topic: Noir-vember Group Marathon 2011  (Read 35732 times)

sdedalus

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Re: Noir-vember Group Marathon 2011
« Reply #270 on: November 28, 2011, 02:34:03 AM »
Very true.  I haven't heard a full story one way or the other, just hints here and there.
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MartinTeller

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Re: Noir-vember Group Marathon 2011
« Reply #271 on: November 28, 2011, 09:50:48 AM »
Woman on Pier 13 is very good if you just pretend they're talking about the mob instead of Communists (which is pretty easy to do).  I Was a Communist for the FBI is a lot worse.
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PeacefulAnarchy

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Re: Noir-vember Group Marathon 2011
« Reply #272 on: November 28, 2011, 03:25:36 PM »
Woman on Pier 13 is very good if you just pretend they're talking about the mob instead of Communists (which is pretty easy to do).
But that's kinda the crux of the problem.  The film basically makes the Communist Party out to be the mob without the interest in making money. After a night's sleep I don't feel quite so vitriolic about the film, but it's so ludicrously heavyhanded that it's not that easy to pretend they're talking about the mob. The labour themes, the allusions to the American dream and working your way up, the use of unions and protests are pretty integral to the plot. I guess what it comes down to is that, while one could make the effort to pretend the film is not vitriolic propaganda and turn it into a superficial thrill ride one could also just not watch it and watch one of the many other noirs that are equally entertaining and don't require such mental gymnastics.

Won't be watching I Was a Communist for the FBI for a long time, I guess.

Sam the Cinema Snob

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Re: Noir-vember Group Marathon 2011
« Reply #273 on: November 28, 2011, 03:37:28 PM »
Out of the Past (1947)

I feel a bit foolish for heaping praise upon the characters of Scarlet Street because Out of the Past has character that might be just as strong. If not, it has a stronger cast with names like Kirk Douglas and Robert Mitchum taking two of the lead roles. However, when it comes down to some of the details and presentation, Out of the Past is a bit rocky.

For a small town in the middle of nowhere, the mysterious Jeff (Robert Mitchum) is an object of much talk and speculation. When an “old friend” comes into town, Jeff begins to spill his guts to his girlfriend Meta Carson (Rhonda Fleming) about the time he worked for the corrupt Whit (Kirk Douglas) and tried to get his girl Kathie (Jane Greer) back for him.

The film does make a compelling contrast between the simple, small town America and the corrupt webs of the city that entangle Jeff’s past. It’s a way in which an otherwise average framing device gains a bit more weight and validity. It also serves as a motivation for Jeff, a reason for him to face this life, not so much for himself but for the future of another.

However, this contrast teases out one of the problems with the Jeff character. He’s caught up in-between a soft human portrait and this shrewd, fantastical detective. He’s a smooth operator who works all the angles and seems to know just the right thing to say and do but he also makes some dumb choices. It makes him more human and the initial small town setting offers up the idea of a man seeking penance, but the two men never fully mesh as the same person, just two roles in a life with no real identity.

In contrast, a character like Whit is able to walk a similar line but make it work. He’s corrupt and clearly evil, but he has this easygoing, soft-spoken manner that’s disarming and almost serene if it wasn’t for just the tinges of malice behind it. He’s able to never appear aggressive or abusive, but there’s little doubt to the evil inside him. It’s a paradox that is written and played supremely.

Likewise, the femme fatale Kathie exudes both cool sexuality and a naïve, adolescent innocence. Of course, the naivety is purely an act, a façade that doesn’t even begin to hold up at the smallest levels of scrutiny, but it is yet another one of those paradoxes that works, in part because it’s a noir convention, but one that Jane Greer makes work fantastically in execution.

Of course, with a cast like this, it’s the performances that make these characters pop. Robert Mitchum is able to perfectly balance that soft vulnerability with the cynical edge. Kirk Douglas is delightfully sleazy and one can almost see the devil dancing in his eyes. Also, there’s a bit part by Dickie Moore as a deaf boy and he’s able to develop a strong, memorable character without ever saying a single word.

While Out of the Past certainly has a lot of excellent elements, the protagonist isn’t as gripping or compelling as he should be. Robert Mitchum does a great job, but he’s stuck in-between two styles of noir protagonists in two different kinds of setups. For some, the duality might be the appeal but the result is that it falls short of being great at telling either story.
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sdedalus

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Re: Noir-vember Group Marathon 2011
« Reply #274 on: November 28, 2011, 03:38:12 PM »
James Ellroy's The Big Nowhere does a wonderful write-up of Hughes' attitudes to the red scare in Hollywood (all wonderful lurid lies). It would make a better film than LA Confidential handled correctly.

Does he say anything about Nicholas Ray?
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sdedalus

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Re: Noir-vember Group Marathon 2011
« Reply #275 on: November 28, 2011, 03:42:58 PM »
However, this contrast teases out one of the problems with the Jeff character. He’s caught up in-between a soft human portrait and this shrewd, fantastical detective. He’s a smooth operator who works all the angles and seems to know just the right thing to say and do but he also makes some dumb choices. It makes him more human and the initial small town setting offers up the idea of a man seeking penance, but the two men never fully mesh as the same person, just two roles in a life with no real identity.

I don't get that at all.  Can't a wiseguy seek atonement?

Jeff strikes me as a pro who's lost his taste for the game and is trying to find a way out, though deep down he knows escape is impossible.  To me, he's the epitome of the existential noir hero.
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Sam the Cinema Snob

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Re: Noir-vember Group Marathon 2011
« Reply #276 on: November 28, 2011, 04:00:05 PM »
He can, but I just found that I never quite bought the duality of his character.
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sdedalus

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Re: Noir-vember Group Marathon 2011
« Reply #277 on: November 28, 2011, 06:09:14 PM »
Why not?
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Sam the Cinema Snob

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Re: Noir-vember Group Marathon 2011
« Reply #278 on: November 28, 2011, 06:56:43 PM »
Because I think he's one character in the bookends and another character in the flashback/resolution sections. They never came together as a cohesive character to me.
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sdedalus

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Re: Noir-vember Group Marathon 2011
« Reply #279 on: November 28, 2011, 07:26:38 PM »
I see him as one character who's very much trying to be another type of character, but can't help failing.
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