The Noir List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

An ongoing survey of the Criterion Forum membership to create lists of the best films of each decade and genre.
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domino harvey
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Re: The Noir List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#701 Post by domino harvey » Wed Oct 03, 2018 1:25 pm

Image

Recent viewings, mostly duds edition

A Strange Adventure (William Witney 1956)
Robbers take a young pup and some errant government workers hostage as all hole up in a federal retreat for the winter in this very, very minor but not unenjoyable Republic noir. Jan Merlin does his best Richard Widmark impression here as the main baddie, but he like the rest of the component parts of the film come off as generic, store-brand versions of good noirs. Once TV started siphoning all the noir talent to smaller screens in the fifties, big screen noir suffered tremendously, and you can see clean-cut TV production-style all over this even if it was trying to present larger thrills for a theatrical audience.

A Woman’s Devotion (Paul Henreid 1956)
Lackadaisical Acapulco-set color noir with Ralph Meeker as a vet struggling with PTSD, which inconveniently manifests as some kind of woman-killing thing. This movie’s scenes are paced so poorly that it’s often oddly fascinating-- Henreid is about as gifted behind the camera as he is in front of it, ie not. Beyond the beautiful colors on Kino Lorber’s Blu-ray, which surely looks nice because no one has wanted another print made from the neg since it was released, this is just typical poverty row garbage with nothing of real value in it. Do not trust anyone who attempts to bolster this film up for presenting an early portrayal of “battle shock” without actually seeing what Meeker does with it.

Down Three Dark Streets (Arnold Laven 1954)
One of the many pro-G-man noirs, this one at least has a novel idea: rather than focus on one story, it shows how FBI agents are often juggling several cases simultaneously. Broderick Crawford is out to find the killer of his agent pal, and to find the murderer he must look into the three cases the agent was working on: an extortion plot involving Ruth Roman, an escaped gangster’s moll who may know where her boy is hiding, and a blind woman who is being terrorized by her husband’s thug cronies. Unfortunately all three stories remind us why noirs were called crime melodramas at the time, and “solution” to the mystery of who is trying to get Roman’s money is pretty easy to figure out given the suspect has a distinct voice, even when masked.

Five Miles to Midnight (Anatole Litvak 1963)
Sophia Loren’s abusive husband Anthony Perkins dies in a plane crash and she stands to receive big bucks from the flight insurance he purchased. One small snag though: He survived the crash and wants to hide out at their apartment until she claims the check, at which point he’ll finally leave her alone… or will he dot dot dot question mark. This is a thoroughly stupid movie, with three truly awful performances in descending order of badness by Loren, Perkins, and Gig Young. Loren is so, so, sooooooooo terrible in this, good God. By the time that last fifteen minutes come around and we’re being asked to sympathize with Loren’s disproportionate actions, I was amazed that for as much as I hated the film already, it somehow found a way to get worse.

Highway Dragnet (Nathan Juran 1954)
Richard Conte is wrongly accused of strangling a woman he was seen drinking with the previous night. He evades the cops and takes up with Joan Bennett and Wanda Hendrix in this cheapie notable, I guess, for featuring Roger Corman’s first on-screen credit for co-writing the script. The movie is standard issue b-string noir stuff with the world’s most obvious Real Culprit, but the film has one original idea in its finale, which is set in an abandoned house in the middle of a flood plane. It’s a visually striking locale, and even though the film doesn’t do much with it, it’s a nice touch.

I, Jane Doe (John H Auer 1948)
A woman shoots a man to death and refuses to give her name to the police. She is tried as Jane Doe and is sentenced to death. However, the victim’s widow decides to defend her in a retrial because, well, this is a stupid movie. Lots of flashbacks abound at this juncture. I could sympathize, as I also spent most of this movie thinking about anything else but the present.

Maigret tend un piege (Jean Delannoy 1958)
Jean Gabin unimaginatively embodies Georges Simenon’s popular detective Jules Maigret in an unnecessarily long movie about Maigret’s plot catch a Jack the Ripper-ish serial killer. Since at two hours the movie runs a good 45 minutes longer than any slim detective feature like this should, it allowed me more time to think about the plot, which is not a good thing. The movie belabors every step of the process and hinges on a detective following a completely unsuspicious woman and making a connection that no one could possibly have made without more evidence at the outset. For what is alleged to be a popular figure, I found Maigret as embodied by Gabin to be a complete bore, with no interesting beats whatsoever. It just looks like Gabin rolled out of bed after eating an entire Christmas ham before filming every one of his scenes— serious late-period Spencer Tracy vibes abound here. There’s a second film following Gabin as Maigret, and unless someone has a compelling argument for changing my mind, I suspect I’ll never see it.

the Man Who Cheated Himself (Felix E Feist 1950)
Policeman Lee J Cobb covers up a murder committed by his married girlfriend Jane Wyatt, only for his kid brother, a rookie detective, to figure it all out. The set up is creaky, but the movie is light and Cobb lucks out when the gun he thinks he safely ditched ends up being used in another murder, which is a novel complication. John Dall’s high school basketball team starter aww shucks-ness is put to good effect as the brother, and there’s a nice finale set at a familiar San Francisco landmark that is only marred by a truly lame conclusion. The lovely little last scene does its best to wash out the bad taste left by it, though. Enjoyable, slight, and certainly not worth the $40 Flicker Alley wants for it on Blu-ray.

the Man Who Died Twice (Joseph Kane 1958)
Mad props to this film for spoiling its twist in the title, but that’s about all the praise I can dole out for this inexplicably ‘Scope (nee Naturama) cheapie about the cop brother of a dead gangster who tries to sort through his brother’s affairs and finds, gasp, dope-dealing! Lots of square-jawed men in this one, to give you some idea of what I managed to come up with while searching for anything of value in this to report back on. [P]

the Wrong Guy (David Steinberg 1997)
Dave Foley plays a corporate idiot who discovers his murdered boss’ dead body and subsequently incriminates himself in an absurd fashion. He goes on the lam, not realizing that the actual murderer was filmed committing the act and in fact no one thinks Foley did it. That’s a funny idea, but the constant supply of functional idiocy it requires to sustain a narrative becomes tiring, especially when Foley abandons it to go for jokes that require slightly more self-awareness. The film is funny, and I chuckled quite a bit, but there are precious few big laughs. I think it’s because the movie hits every joke you could predict as soon as a given scenario is presented. What works best are the moments that, as in good sketch comedy, startle us with a fresh complications. Sadly there are only a few such bells rung here, like the character clearly modeled on Burl Ives in the Big Country, who gets a big laugh just from the ominous treatment given even to his name. The three credited writers all have their own unique baggage and public comic voice— Foley from the Kids in the Hall, David Anthony Higgins from Higgins Boys and Gruber, and Jay Kogen from the golden era Simpsons— and there is some fun to be had in identifying who wrote what joke, which isn’t as hard as you might think. This movie merits the lamest quasi-recommendation I can muster: I laughed, it was okay, I never need to see it again, and you probably wouldn’t be upset if you had to sit through it. Sold, right?

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Re: The Noir List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#702 Post by jbeall » Mon Nov 12, 2018 8:05 pm

'A pas de deux of sex and violence': a poet's guide to film noir
Robin Robertson wrote:These classic 40s and 50s movies – which seem like a distinctly American art form, like blues or jazz – were mostly not made by Americans but by emigres: Jewish directors and cinematographers who had fled Nazi Germany and ended up in Hollywood, bringing their expressionist aesthetic and their deep terrors to celluloid. These refugee artists were among the “huddled masses” that built America; the kind of people that are now, it seems, unwelcome.

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dustybooks
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Re: The Noir List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#703 Post by dustybooks » Tue Nov 13, 2018 1:44 pm

I feel downright ignorant but I just saw Gun Crazy for the first time a couple of nights ago and, while it seemed to owe a good bit to Lang's You Only Live Once, it's a perfect example of a film that cuts like a knife through every perception the general public may have of "old movies." The gunfire throughout felt like it was popping out of the screen at me, and I was watching on a laptop! Also fascinated to see John Dall in something besides Rope (and Spartacus); he's so much lower-key here that it serves to retroactively make his performance in the Hitchcock film even more interesting, because you know his melodramatic flair and smugness were completely intended as character traits. I thought his presentation of coexisting lust and fear in Gun Crazy was excellent. And those long takes! What a thrill.

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domino harvey
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Re: The Noir List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#704 Post by domino harvey » Wed Nov 14, 2018 1:56 pm

I looked him up after seeing your post and I was shocked at how few films Dall was in-- he lucked out that three of the handful of films he appeared in withstood the test of time and remain relatively well-seen. Haven't seen the Corn is Green yet, curious now to move it up since he earned an Oscar nom for his debut in it

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Re: The Noir List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#705 Post by HJackson » Sun Jul 21, 2019 3:21 pm

Went through the first volume of VCI’s Hammer noirs over the last few days. All the flicks are watchable but only Stolen Face is actually positively good - and that mostly rests on the off-the-wall premise and the fun Lizbeth Scott has with the role. There’s a smug face she pulls while indulging in a touch of klepto that is simply perfect. But even that one feels rushed, especially in the third act when the inevitable complication Henreid has to face emerges - rushed endings are a theme with these, which is the downside of the fun-sized runtimes.

The Hollywood stars add something I think, and it’s nice see more of Dane Clark. Peter Reynolds is interesting from the other side of the pond in Man Bait, as a kind of English Dan Duryea. Tony Wright is quite good in the physical sequences in Bad Blonde, but stinks to high heaven in the more dramatic scenes. That one has a great murder scene that feels like something from the late silent era though.

The star of the show though must be the crappy DVD menus, introduced by an elaborate and very 1990s computer generated video of a Prohibition era car driving down a rainy street and getting shot to pieces by a smirking babe with a tommy gun - which is a classic noir image, apparently. Richard M Roberts is fun with the brief intros to the films and again the production is lovably crappy, with his voice accompanied by a slideshow of publicity stills arranged with absolutely no regard for what is being said and with instructions like “cut here and I’ll go back” totally ignored and left in the track.

Certainly scratched an itch and at this value I’ll grab the other eight in the second set. All of these felt noir to me (wish I could translate Roberts’ reading of the word from the extras here in text form...) which doesn’t sound like the case with VCI’s Forgotten Noir series, which is a shame if true.

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Re: The Noir List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#706 Post by Finch » Tue Dec 31, 2019 10:14 pm

I watched The Scar/Hollow Triumph 1948 for the first time today, via Film Detective's upload of their Blu-Ray transfer to their Youtube Channel. I only remember Paul Henreid from Casablanca so it was nice to see him play a gangster on the run, and the film also hugely benefits from John Alton's cinematography and another no-nonsense performance from Joan Bennett (the second film of hers I've watched lately, after The Woman in the Window).

I appreciate that other people's mileage will vary with the, shall we say, too convenient plotting such as
SpoilerShow
none of Bartok's staff pick up on Muller's scar being on the wrong cheek, Muller getting too good at impersonating Bartok too quickly
and I would agree that the film doesn't exploit the full potential of the twist enough but the combination of Henreid, Bennett and Alton elevates the film for me above other noirs like, say, Kiss of Death, not least because The Scar has a bleak ending which to me, feels more natural to a noir.

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Re: The Noir List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#707 Post by therewillbeblus » Tue Oct 20, 2020 1:58 am

The Last Seduction: It's no wonder I was so enamored with this as a kid, since its pleasures are boldly outrageous to the degree where only a child can delve into the beautiful cruelty at face value without squinting to ensure what we're watching isn't just a well-drawn cartoon. Dahl proved that he understood noir with Red Rock West but here goes for broke by exaggerating the power of the femme fatale to render men impotent of intelligence at every corner. Berg is a sucker who desperately wants to think with his brain and heart but just cannot break from the magnetic pull, while the most reflexive scene involves Bill Nunn's fragile masculinity caving in a decision that earns the gold ribbon for quickest forfeit of self-preservation for the sake of ego put on film. The ease at which Pullman figures out what her alias is, the ease of persuasion against morality into rationalized deviance, it's all straight out of classic noir's magical spells of psychological allure.

Linda Fiorentino's perf is so good it's scary, quite literally scary, since she resembles an incarnation of some surface-level traits of a stereotypical, classically rude independent brazen city woman, who is manipulative enough to give off shades of realistic binding engagement and cinematic overstated artifice. Fiorentino creepily finds a middle ground of illogical seduction that is uncomfortably relatable now that I'm no longer that wide-eyed kid, with a few too many of these kinds of toxic relationships in my history. At the same time, the machinations are ridiculous, as are the characters, so we sit with skewed versions of the accessible that remind us just enough of the roots of sexual dynamics that expose deep wounds, yet different enough to accentuate their real-life absurdities and the joke that anything overly familiar is at least half-projection. The two men discussing defense mechanisms later trying to figure out this woman's plan, multiple steps behind even when granted extended full audience, is hilarious and tragic at once, since its a reinforcement of toxic masculine logic in 'other'ing the female, that's so pathetic they're trapped in directionless weakness. The grand plan is another sitdown of words, while she speaks with actions. The final gotcha moment is irritatingly pat to any sense of fair play- to character or narrative construction- but because the film is so unapologetically self-aware of its silly exploitation of power imbalances, it's disgustingly in step with the internal logic.

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Re: The Noir List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#708 Post by domino harvey » Wed Nov 04, 2020 2:15 am

This year’s Noir City fest will be virtual and highlight international movies. Info here for the AFI Silver program run

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Re: The Noir List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#709 Post by domino harvey » Thu Nov 26, 2020 3:33 pm

I'm not really sure it works enough as a whole to merit a recommendation, but Esther Williams' last film as a headliner, the Unguarded Moment (Harry Keller 1956), is one of the scuzziest, nastiest, and most deeply uncomfortable films I've ever seen come out of the studio era. It is also a fucking mess and filled with a protagonist who makes it very hard to not victim blame after she makes some incredibly poor choices in her downward spiral. Nevertheless, this is a movie in which teacher Esther Williams is raped (or nearly raped-- the coded presentation leaves some ambiguity) by a charismatic high school student who then turns everything around on her and gets her ostracized from the school via accusing her of predatorily pursuing him. The film then unbelievably positions itself to invite the audience to identify and sympathize with the rapist by showing the impact his misogynistic father has had on his worldview. The father is played by Edward Andrews, a name you probably don't recognize but he's one of those That Guys (I recognized him immediately as Babbitt from Elmer Gantry) and boy does he leave an impact here. This guy is maybe the most loathsome villain I've ever seen in a studio era film, and the movie pulls no punches in making his intense hatred of women a clear negative for a wide audience that was not necessarily ready to hear that. It's such a bold and disturbing character, especially the way he slavers over Williams and clearly struggles with his lust as he attempts to reconcile it to his worldview. If only he and his son (John Saxon, in his debut-- not sure Confused Rapist was the right vehicle to launch a would-be hearththrob, though, Universal) were in a better film, one where Williams didn't consistently do the things that make her look the most guilty to even reasonable friends on her side, or one in which the investigating police detective wasn't breathing down her neck and all but forcing matrimony on her via dangling his belief in her innocence alongside it. One longs for a film of this material that was better made, better written, and colored in throughout with the same bravura it exhibits towards its villain. And yet, it's a film worth seeing for the perversely fascinating Andrews' character, and it is def ripe for rediscovery in these #MeToo times.

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Re: The Noir List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#710 Post by swo17 » Thu Nov 26, 2020 3:49 pm

Whereas I instantly recognize him from his scuzzy role in Phenix City Story

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domino harvey
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Re: The Noir List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#711 Post by domino harvey » Thu Nov 26, 2020 4:00 pm

One additional fun fact about the film: Rosalind Russell has a story credit for it! I'm guessing she developed it for herself and was too old to play the Williams part by the time it got made (though it's impossible to imagine this film being made any earlier-- it already feels about ten years too soon for when it was made as it is)

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Re: The Noir List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#712 Post by therewillbeblus » Sun Feb 14, 2021 3:52 am

A few recent neo-noir viewings:

Shutter Island (revisit): This film has not aged well. I seem to recall a lot of stylish homages working to flesh out a psychological thriller that really understood how to manipulate the viewer into the unreliable narration of its surrogate. While Scorsese can occasionally succeed here, the film frequently stalls and continuously loses steam as it fails to achieve the dramatic weight or self-serious tones its striving for amidst the aesthetic playground. Honestly even those technical attributes feel cheap here - am I the only one who detected blue or green screen dissonance between actors and backgrounds, be them the ocean at the start or the nature in the rainstorm? The final flashback is grating and not because of its content, but the last scene earns the noir influences in its embrace of fatalism, even if none of this is executed with investment. John Cope's defense in the film's dedicated thread is excellent, and I wish I saw the film he did this time because this kind of validation for the pains and coping mechanisms of a subjective reality is my bread and butter, but unfortunately this stopped working at all by the last act and it was a chore to finish. Max Richter's On the Nature of Daylight, used prominently and optimally in Arrival, is featured in some of the film's best scenes though- like the Michelle Williams-to-ash fantasy early on. If only there were more moments like that.

U-Turn (revisit): Another film that was far worse than I remembered. Part of me appreciates the intentionally chaotic technique to mimic the instability of Penn's drifter as he attempts to bury his powerlessness towards personal troubles both outside and inside the foreign town he finds himself in, but the film's characters, motives, and narratives are too vapid to warrant credited interest for any effort to enhance its ideas. I get that Stone isn't trying to reinvent the wheel and is imbuing experimental style into the familiar, but this is an overlong and boring film, and unworthy of its bizarre shenanigans working to coat the hollow pulp under flashy tools of engagement. I did enjoy Phoenix continuously showing up as TNT, a silly pawn as one of many stupid Murphy's Law magnets of resistance serving to block Penn from actualizing a bridge to safe haven, and the final punchline of fate makes sense within the logic of the preceding exchanges between the outsider and this hellish community- since it hinges on the first encounter with the first townie and feels destined based on Penn's attitude more than cosmic force.

This World, then the Fireworks: I can understand why this was so poorly reviewed- it's more of a postmodern noir that emulates the iconography and narrative flourishes of the period while inserting seemingly every perverse thought noir writers had but weren't allowed to publish on the silver screen. Throw all that into a messy structure that bounces all over the place, including back in time and across current settings, to reflect trauma-informed, incestuous, and sociopathic internal logics we are asked to entertain while being unable to understand since these protagonists are warped beyond our psychological capabilities, and you have a wholly self-actualized work that doesn't care about our role beyond passerby. Thankfully Oblowitz and Gross also have no interest in trying to force this content on us via traditional methods of alignment, and we're encouraged to gravitate towards the absurdity with complete self-consciousness, observing the overlap of loony and nefarious without necessitating humanistic intimacy and instead opting for the affection for curiosity, which is more than enough to keep us glued. When Cassel says "murder' the audio big-band cue is so bombastic that right then and there the audience member will definitively know whether they're willing to get on this film's wavelength or not. I thought this was intermittently fun as hell, and smiled wide in that instant, as well as many others. I'm not sure if I'd call it a misjudged masterpiece, but well worth checking out.

Black Widow (Bob Rafelson, 1987): No one here seems to have written about this Black Widow despite its prominence on several top neo-noir lists from a quick google-search, but having now seen it I'm stumped why it's found on more than one rare corner of the internet, even if aspects of the structural choices are smart self-reflexive deconstructions of genre and the nature of viewership- though these are quite likely accidental. What's strange about this film is its narrative progresses relentlessly in plotted action and yet by the one-third mark, we should have engaged with enough material for a feature length movie already but it all feels empty, dull, and meaningless. Is this the point? Winger makes a statement to O'Quinn, right before the second act kicks in, about how nobody knows anyone or anything. The attitude behind this exclamation, and the ensuing action that allows us to graze the details of Russell and Winger a bit deeper yet still intentionally detached, communicates a bifurcation of paradoxical feelings in both banality and allure towards unknowability. In the first half, Winger is drawn to Russell but also purposefully aloof, much like the film has been thus far in treating her section of the narrative. Is this because we've seen this all before and Rafelson is as bored with louder noir conventions as the rest of us? Or is it that by establishing so much plot without stopping to absorb atmosphere or introduce enthusiasm for characters, we become sober to how integral characterization is to investment? We get our answer as this skeptical stance of Winger's and Rafelson's about the potential of bridging connection shatters once the two female leads are in the same space together, and we immediately detect empathy and intimacy- whether this is authentic or not hardly matters because it's a breath of fresh air, a reason to care, an alluring trait that will never get old while the banal conventions fail to immortalize in the same way. We become authentically connected to the energy traveling between players onscreen. Rafelson's choice to shift his film into a different kind of familiar territory is jarring in how exciting the film becomes next to the first half, and if this was an intentional trick it's a great one as it served the movie well, at least for a short while.

Unfortunately the rest of the film isn't worthy of those best neo-noir lists. The brevity of any mystery is quickly undone with more spoonfed information via scenes that make us objectively privy to expected motive and foreshadowing, slipping back into the stolid first act. We realize that the second act was only lightly thrilling because it was placed next to- and now sandwiched between- tiresome fluff. The ending is so stupid for so many reasons it's not even worth spoilertagging them. I'm all for giving rope to twists or gotcha moments in noir, but this is a new level of sloppy writing- as if turned in hastily at the deadline by a fifth grader.

Whispers in the Dark: Ethical therapy violations aside (and I don't mean the obvious ones, but moreso the dual relationship stuff) I thought this was pretty great. Not that the film has any interest in the realities of therapy of course, but strictly to use the Freudian psychodynamic model of repression and awakenings to insight in order to bridge the noir and erotic thriller genres (it doesn't exactly have a stake in portraying the ethics of any profession, come to think of it). Annabella Sciorra is great as our protagonist, who is a fleshed-out, relatable human being and I appreciated the film's willingness to treat therapists as imperfect and often in therapy themselves, in addition to exploring the countertransference in relating strongly to patients- even if these are naturally used to fit the genre's wilder deviations. This has a great cast too, full of wonderful parts for future stars- especially a few of her clients (so this is how Unger got her part in Crash!) and I admired how Sciorra weighed priorities in her own juncture between self-preservation and empathy for these clients once shit hit the fan. This is a film that meditates on the intricate psychology of a good person in the human services field when facing a crisis of their own, repurposing said complexity into clichés which work as narrative spaces to examine triggers for acute emotions.
SpoilerShow
I guessed the twist pretty early on, which accentuates the countertransference between therapist-client to the extreme, but at least it makes the ethical violation make sense!

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Re: The Noir List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#713 Post by therewillbeblus » Mon Feb 15, 2021 4:11 am

More neo-noirs:

The Late Show: I was with this movie for its first act, transplanting the physically deteriorating yet tough austerity of an aging Art Carney into the role of the typically younger but still wise-beyond-years noir hero, which should be perfect for the atmosphere of the neo-noir. However, the appeal is lost too fast, the script is lame and turns the already-irritating leads and side characters into head-slapping caricatures (the "I'm not going back to the hospital" speech alone ruins Carney's character), and I lost pretty much all interest by the halfway mark. Lily Tomlin is an awful sidekick- I get what the film is going for and some of her lines reveal fragments of decent ideas for how to repurpose the silly half of buddy-cop naivete into the cruelty of the noir milieu- but it's ultimately all for naught, and even when it does kinda work in the last act, the buildup from before still rings hollow. It might be cute for Carney to use ageism at the end to best the baddies in another, more definitively comedic exercise, but what an anticlimax- from the anti-twist of the culprits to the fizzle of action amidst the overexplanation.

Duplicity: Not really a neo-noir in spirit, but Gilroy cherrypicks his influences and repackages them into a convoluted rom-com spy film, that is admittedly more in line with the tone of Hitchcock's lighthearted espionage output than the fatalistic impulses of noir. This is a film that doesn't ask nicely but forces us to accept our position in playing catchup from the word Go, as we skip the seduction between two unknown characters and before we have time to muse about their complexions, we are immediately detoured into the most ludicrous credits sequence in recent memory, as Paul Giamatti and Tom Wilkinson go at it in what would be a five-star short film standing on its own. From there Gilroy waits until the halfway mark to provide some background information on these leads, and as an audience we're strictly planted in the position of aloof observers, never granted access to either's separate experience in the necessary full measures to be able to sift what is truth or lie when they're together. Only in the bedroom are we privy to any character alignment as a fusion of Owens' and Roberts' experience, feeding off the same energy of confused and skeptical and intrigued. This choice resigns the majority of excitement to the ordinary place where many of us can relate to the self-consciousness of vulnerably trying to express ourselves to and read a lover, as well as the games and tests that occur in private.

Gilroy allows the femme fatale to become her own character of equal dignity and worthy of love just as much as the individualist male, understanding that the allure in these noir archetypes has always been the commonalities in personalities shielding existential woes and sublimating them as willingness to find a flickering light of brief salvation in another lonely heart. Sure that light dissipates and they magnetically devolve into selfish action, but why can't they develop an authentic romance if they so choose to channel that personal fatal desire beyond introverted complacency? The mutual admission of "nobody trusts anybody" gifts both the kind of intimacy perhaps more femme fatale/disillusioned hero pairings could have had if they only lived in an era where they could openly communicate such psychological worldviews, made possible through the fortified sensitivity of millennium culture breaking down the expectation of tough exteriors. I really wish Gilroy would go back to directing his own original scripts; between this and the exceptional Michael Clayton- itself emulating the paranoid political thrillers of the 70s and besting most of them at their own game, updated into the aughts' No-Mans-Land of capitalist sociopathy reinforced by increasingly sterilized systemic barriers of cognitive dissonance- he's a major talent who must have plenty more tricks up his sleeves, as there are many more genres and styles game for recontextualizing. The scene where Denis O'Hare and Rick Worthy are listening to the audio of Owens' hard-boiled spitfire lines in a detached context is hilarious and smart in its disengaged assessment of the genre's artificial rugged antics.

Black Coal, Thin Ice: Well-made conventional noir in plot and tone that nevertheless functions unexceptionally with the pieces put together. I know Liao Fan won accolades for his role as the distraught traumatized detective, but Gwei Lun-mei steals every scene she's in as the questionable femme fatale, who regardless of whether she fits the archetype does not resign herself to it. She is a subtly complex character that earns the film's orbiting attention around her enigmatic core, only to find out that information gleaned doesn't change her spirit being one with any other broken soul.

After Dark, My Sweet: This is almost too fitting to the thematic and atmospheric qualities of noir, capturing the loneliness of its players and bolstering the yearning philosophy that one must be needed to be worthy, truly becoming a noir for our advanced world of further disconnect and even bleaker disillusionment. I love how paranoia sets in as sane behavior amongst the crazy, and how characters are trapped in elongated scenes stewing in the hazy moral space of relentless guilt and shame flip-flopping with greed and apathy. For these scenes to transform into sex or violence at random only adds to the destabilization of a sober path to finding identity or actualizing desire. Much like the previous film, the undefined, anthropologically-intricate femme fatale is the best part of this film thanks to Rachel Ward, though everyone is top-notch- from Patric's deranged antihero, who sways between a faded fugue state and manic tics, to Bruce Dern's wacky master planner, who gets excited by another's erratic behavior even when it puts him in jeopardy, to George Dickerson's closeted "mentor" to Patric, who embodies a walking ethical dilemma with equal parts lust, trust, loneliness, and professional duty. Watching his trajectory as he responds in body language and action, perpetually torn between his various impulses, is something to behold. It's a conscientiously masterful performance for a complicated character. The ending keeps us dancing on a jagged knife of disorder through the credits, permanently at a distance from truth except for the facts of isolation these people gravitate to even when physically together, thus making us one with them in the only area where there's no confusion for anyone.

nitin
Joined: Sat Nov 08, 2014 6:49 am

Re: The Noir List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#714 Post by nitin » Fri Feb 19, 2021 11:21 pm

Duplicity is surely more of a modern day spy movie satire (right down to some of the cutting and scoring) than a neo-noir? Love it though.

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therewillbeblus
Joined: Tue Dec 22, 2015 3:40 pm

Re: The Noir List Discussion and Suggestions (Genre Project)

#715 Post by therewillbeblus » Fri Feb 19, 2021 11:28 pm

Definitely, which is why I started my writeup admitting that, but watching it between some neo-noirs did help me realize some of Gilroy's borrowings (perhaps more fairly, Hitchcock's pulls from noir for his stuff, that Gilroy is then pulling from) and I had fun with the opportunity to contextualize the film through the noir lens

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