Hey Everybody,June this year marks our first anniversary here at Celluloid Pop Culture Junkie. So to celebrate that occasion we’re re-watching my 15 must see film noirs through out the month and inviting you all to do the same, possibly to discover a new world of cinema gold you never knew existed; And I’m betting some of you will be blown away by the pure awesomeness of these films.
For the purpose of these articles we are going to be looking at the classic “Film Noirs” by definition, starting in the early 40’s spanning to the late 50’s; Slow exposure black and white film cinematography with strong shadows rooted in silent German expressionist films and stories derived mostly from anti-hero crime fiction of the great depression era . Really the term “Film Noir” wasn’t even adopted in America till the 70’s, many of the classics were referred to as Melodramas by US film historians and critics during their initial run. However the term was first used to describe Hollywood films in 1946 by a French critic Nino Frank. Believe it or not, there still is a debate amongst film enthusiasts and scholars alike whether “Film Noir” is an actual distinct genre within itself or not.
In all honesty, who really gives a shit? It’s like arguing who the best captain on Star Trek was, it’s a stupid question that’s never ever going to get you laid. So forget it already and just enjoy the actual films with some sort of companion if possible. Now here are some great unforgettable pictures that everyone who loves the movies should see. If you decide to give any of these a viewing, you’ll find something to fall in love with and will want to turn other humans onto for the rest of your life.
I’m not going to rate where these stand in my opinion until the top 6, so the first few articles will be a general “must see” on my list for everyone. This week we have a private detective theme to this article. Starting off will a great Howard Hawks/ Bogart number:
- The Big Sleep (1946) director Howard Hawks – Bogart as wise cracking detective Philip Marlowe, total brilliance. The first thing that strikes you about this one is the speed and wit at which dialog is delivered through the whole piece. I really started to think about it and it feels like they do twice as many words spoken per minute than most films (10 times as many if you’re talking a Michael Bay movie), and the wittiness of the character banter brings a smile to your face quite often during viewing. The on screen chemistry between Bogart and Bacall is undeniable, they both hold a certain presence that makes you want to keep your eyes on them and the characters they inhabit continually . This would be the second film that the pair appeared in together, the first being Hawks’s 1944 To Have Or To Have Not. This time out director Howard Hawks brings us a more refined performance from Bacall, holding here own again the much more experienced actors. Watching these kind of films it reminds me about how little dialog is delivered now a days without a few quick cuts, close-ups and cut-aways to hide actors and directors mistakes. Here we have a film mostly shot in medium and wide shots, takes run 3-4 minutes on average and with perfect execution technically hitting a load of camera moves and focus marks during these long takes. If done well like here, the viewer hardly even notices the movement of camera opposite the actors moves. In this film we have acting masters and a director that were at the height of their game, it’s definitely one movie I’ve learned a lot from and enjoyed the multiple viewing reveling in if nothing else, Bogart’s command of the screen and camera lens. If you haven’t really seen many Bogart films this would be one to start off a long love affair with one of the silver screen’s great actors. With out question, a must see for everyone.
- Murder My Sweet (1945) director Edward Dmytryk- Tough guys, guns, girls, schemes and one big league blond. Another sweet Philip Marlowe story this time played by Dick Powell, not quite as epic as the Bogart take on the character but still great in its own right. The real jewel for cinephiles on this one is the razor sharp storytelling and direction by Edward Dmytryk., extremely dark for American cinema even film noir. The pools of light and shadow inhabit the sets and become a character all in their own, adding to the dread felt by Marlowe through out the piece. A very great example of the classic blond femme fatale played by Claire Trevor, an actress well into her 34th role after only 10 years of acting, she sets a performance bar that’s hard to match by the other players. Thrown in as well are a peppering of classic great ideas and climaxes in story and action that have been copied many times before. I really don’t want to spoil one moment in particular that has been copied at least 2-3 time as far as I know and I’m thinking of stealing it for a short film idea myself, I love the visual that much. Bottom line, a film with superb visual understanding, dark storytelling and a few iconic moments that sear them selves into the cinephiles brain for life. Another film to fall in love with, at very least an idea stimulator for the storytelling impaired.
- Kiss Me Deadly (1955) director Robert Aldrich- A blonde in a trench coat tries to flag down a car on a dark desert road, passed by the first one she desperately jump in front of the second. Slamming on the brakes barely avoiding her, the driver hard boiled private dick Mike Hammer offers her a ride. As they race down the shadow covered highway the credit role to director’s Robert Aldrich (the Dirty Dozen) film of the Mickey Spillane’s best selling novel. This film is as dark as they come with mostly great acting, brilliant cinematography and one of the best endings from the 50’s noirs. Ralph Meeker inhabits the character of Mike Hammer, a serious bad ass. He seems like he could really beat the shit out of any takers with still maintaining a human side with his love for his friends and women alike. The great mystery object story angle leave us with a brilliant third act and a climax that will have you skipping back to take a look at it a few times. A surprise awaits you if you watch this one, a great twist as to what everyone is fighting for, and as usual guns, girls and mayhem.
Till Next Time. Stay Tuned.