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Posts Tagged ‘film noir

The basics of film noir

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Orson Welles & Charlton Heston in Touch of Evil

More than crime drama, film noir is about the passion that drives men to murder and women to give up everything for a moment in their arms. The phrase was coined in 1946 by a French film critic to describe the gritty, black and white melodramas that dominated cinema double-features throughout the forties and fifties.

Bogie & Bacall in The Big Sleep

Robert Mitchum, Humphrey Bogart and Edward G Robinson starred as wise-cracking thugs or dime-store detectives, hard as nails and too easily foiled by a dame. The femme fatale could seduce any man – and had to do it with her clothes on: Lauren Bacall, Jane Russell and Veronica Lake brought them down, though they didn’t have much better luck than their male counterparts. Operating under the Hayes Code meant that crime could never ever pay.

A few suggestions for the beginner:

  • The Maltese Falcon (1941)
  • Double Indemnity (1944)
  • The Big Sleep (1946)
  • D.O.A. (1950)
  • The Wrong Man (1956)
  • A Touch of Evil (1958)

Film noir continues to evolve, especially in the low-budget, indy world, though Scorsese’s Oscar winner, The Departed (2006) could be considered an example of the genre. If you’re not quite ready to jump into the classics, try cutting your teeth on these:

  • Road to Perdition (2002)
  • The Cooler (2003)
  • Sin City (2005)
  • Hollywoodland (2006)
  • Lucky Number Slevin (2006)
  • Eastern Promises (2007)

Martin Scorsese directs Leonardo DiCaprio and Matt Damon in The Departed

Written by Titirangi Storyteller

20/03/2010 at 9:15 pm

Posted in Writing

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croupier-posterSophisticated and stylish, Mike Hodges’ (Get Carter) Croupier is a contemporary film noir masterpiece; its star, Clive Owen, an embodiment of Humphrey Bogart’s detached cool not seen since Annette Benning’s performance in the Grifters.  If you see only one indy film this year – make it Croupier.

Clive Owen is Jack Manfred – an aspiring writer who can’t seem to find the book he wants to write.

His publisher friend tells him to write a soccer novel, a guaranteed winner, but he can’t bring himself to do it.  Though is loving girlfriend Marion (Gina McKee) is willing to support him, he is weary of living hand to mouth – and so when his gambler Dad (Nicholas Ball) gets him a job as a croupier in a slightly sleazy London casino, he takes the job.

croupier-tableThough clearly a renegade, Jack is a straight-arrow when it comes to his work, to the point of turning in co-workers who cheat – and we slowly come to realise that he’s had a bit of a gambling problem in the past.  He relishes his position of control  and derives enormous pleasure from watching other people lose.

croupier-tieHe finally gets to work on his novel – about a croupier named Jake – and slowly his life and that of his character become intertwined.  Jack takes up with Jani (Alex Kingston) a casino regular whose gotten in too deep and her creditors are threatening her life.  The people close to Jack begin to lose – their jobs, their lives – but he coldly analyses the situation, his inner dialogue an ongoing voiceover throughout the flick – and continues.

croupier-bedThen Jani asks him to help her with a planned heist of the casino – he calculates his odds of getting caught and consents, throwing his life and his fictional character’s into an unstoppable spiral of events drawing to a very unexpected conclusion.

Clive Owen is perfectly cast as Jack, quirkily handsome in his croupier’s tux, he gives Cary Grant and the 60’s Sean Connery a run for their money.  But it’s his ability to physically project his inner dialogue that drives the flick.  Alex Kingston is exquisitely beautiful and utterly confounding as the deceitful Jani.  Paul Mayersburg’s script is sparsely written putting great demands on the actors and allowing Hodges the room to create an artificial world where even the betrayers are betrayed.

I’ve noticed this turning up as a late night flick lately – if you can stomach the ads, it does seem the perfect way to watch it.

Written by Titirangi Storyteller

15/04/2009 at 11:46 pm

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