Weekly Film Recap #16 (Film Noir)

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Film Noir is a specific sub-genre of films made in the Golden Age of Hollywood that, through the use of sharp black and white cinematography, tackled dark and existential stories through the point of view of a (usually) cynical, nihilistic lead character with shady motives. Film Noirs also introduced the idea of the ‘Femme Fatale’, a woman who uses her sexuality to lure in the protagonist to a world of danger, usually consisting of blackmail and double-crosses.

Central figures in film noirs usually tend to be private investigators, criminals, or innocent men who have been framed or drug into dangerous situations. There were flourishes of film noir tendencies in films dating back to the 20s, but it wasn’t really until the 40s when the genre took shape and started becoming a staple of American cinema.

Film noirs influence is still seen today in what we now call ‘Neo-noir films'. It also went on to inspire and influence some of the big movements we’ve already discussed such as the French New Wave and the New Hollywood!

Here’s a brief look at some of the important film noirs of the 40s and 50s that both helped define and re-define the genre!

STRANGER ON THE THIRD FLOOR     (dir. Boris Ingster)    Stranger on the Third Floor  is an hour long B-movie that received mixed reviews upon it’s release. However, as time went on it started getting recognized as one of the first ever film noirs!  The film follows a newspaper journalist Michael Ward who is a witness in a murder trial. After the man on trial gets sentenced to death, Michael begins feeling guilty as he notices a strange man coming in and out of his apartment building that he feels might have something to do with the murders happening around town.  Peter Lorre, who was quite the star in Europe, lended his hand to Hollywood in the early days of Film Noirs and B-Movies and  Stranger on the Third  Floor is one of his quirkiest and most memorable roles, even though it his quite small. The film establishes a lot of the traits that would define Film Noir later on and more specifically uses shadows to bring out the best of the black and white film. The film also contains some really interesting and surreal dream sequences that help set this film apart from some of the more straight forward ‘textbook’ noirs of the time.    4/5     WATCH: Putlocker

STRANGER ON THE THIRD FLOOR

(dir. Boris Ingster)

Stranger on the Third Floor is an hour long B-movie that received mixed reviews upon it’s release. However, as time went on it started getting recognized as one of the first ever film noirs!

The film follows a newspaper journalist Michael Ward who is a witness in a murder trial. After the man on trial gets sentenced to death, Michael begins feeling guilty as he notices a strange man coming in and out of his apartment building that he feels might have something to do with the murders happening around town.

Peter Lorre, who was quite the star in Europe, lended his hand to Hollywood in the early days of Film Noirs and B-Movies and Stranger on the Third Floor is one of his quirkiest and most memorable roles, even though it his quite small. The film establishes a lot of the traits that would define Film Noir later on and more specifically uses shadows to bring out the best of the black and white film. The film also contains some really interesting and surreal dream sequences that help set this film apart from some of the more straight forward ‘textbook’ noirs of the time.

4/5

WATCH: Putlocker

MILDRED PIERCE     (dir. Michael Curtiz)   From the director that brought us  Casablanca , Michael Curtiz orchestrates one of the most moving film noirs of the era with  Mildred Pierce !   Mildred Pierce  is a more unconventional noir, in that it doesn’t follow the traditional route of following a man living in a life of crime. Instead, it stars Joan Crawford as the title character. She’s a hardworking woman who, after leaving her husband, is forced to work as a waitress. She works hard and make good money, but she has to keep this ‘working class’ job a secret from her snobby and boujee daughter who demands only the finest things. Mildred eventually meets the son of a wealthy family who she marries to help give her daughter the high class life she yearns for. However, things don’t go as planned when her new husband ends up dead and Mildred is the one being questioned.   Mildred Pierce  is more of a crime drama with hints of noir, then a straight forward film noir. However, it’s use of black and white photography with the cynical undertones of the film give it the raging atmospheric noir mood that’s found in any great nori of the 40s and 50s!   4.5/5    WATCH: Criterion Channel

MILDRED PIERCE

(dir. Michael Curtiz)

From the director that brought us Casablanca, Michael Curtiz orchestrates one of the most moving film noirs of the era with Mildred Pierce!

Mildred Pierce is a more unconventional noir, in that it doesn’t follow the traditional route of following a man living in a life of crime. Instead, it stars Joan Crawford as the title character. She’s a hardworking woman who, after leaving her husband, is forced to work as a waitress. She works hard and make good money, but she has to keep this ‘working class’ job a secret from her snobby and boujee daughter who demands only the finest things. Mildred eventually meets the son of a wealthy family who she marries to help give her daughter the high class life she yearns for. However, things don’t go as planned when her new husband ends up dead and Mildred is the one being questioned.

Mildred Pierce is more of a crime drama with hints of noir, then a straight forward film noir. However, it’s use of black and white photography with the cynical undertones of the film give it the raging atmospheric noir mood that’s found in any great nori of the 40s and 50s!

4.5/5

WATCH: Criterion Channel

OUT OF THE PAST     (dir. Jacques Tourneur)   Jacques Tourneur was a legend in black and white cinema, and his film noirs are among the most talked about!   Out of the Past  stars Robert Mitchum as Jeff Bailey, a small gas station owner who receives a visit from an old friend from the past. This reuniting forces Bailey to dive into his shady past as a New York PI who was hired to kill a woman that he wound up saving instead. Now, the man who sent him after the girl wants to see him.  Robert Mitchum, with his broad stature and succinct voice, seems to have been  made  for film noirs.  Out of the Past  is not only one of the best performances in Mitchum’s lengthy filmography, but as a whole, it is easily one of the best film noirs ever made. Tourneur takes this rather complicated story and infuses it with the perfect side of style and mood to create one of the textbook examples on ‘Noir Cinema.’    5/5     WATCHL Putlocker

OUT OF THE PAST

(dir. Jacques Tourneur)

Jacques Tourneur was a legend in black and white cinema, and his film noirs are among the most talked about!

Out of the Past stars Robert Mitchum as Jeff Bailey, a small gas station owner who receives a visit from an old friend from the past. This reuniting forces Bailey to dive into his shady past as a New York PI who was hired to kill a woman that he wound up saving instead. Now, the man who sent him after the girl wants to see him.

Robert Mitchum, with his broad stature and succinct voice, seems to have been made for film noirs. Out of the Past is not only one of the best performances in Mitchum’s lengthy filmography, but as a whole, it is easily one of the best film noirs ever made. Tourneur takes this rather complicated story and infuses it with the perfect side of style and mood to create one of the textbook examples on ‘Noir Cinema.’

5/5

WATCHL Putlocker

RAW DEAL     (dir. Anthony Mann)   Like  Stranger on the Third Floor ,  Raw Deal  was seen as a little B-movie, but it still harnessed all of the powerful qualities of the film noir movement and more!  The film follows Joe Sullivan, an escaped convict who goes into hiding with his girl and a female social worker who falls for him. Sullivan’s on his way to collect $50,000 that belongs to him, but the only issue is that the people who owe him the 50 grand, don’t want him to have it.  The film’s cinematography, manned by the legendary Joe Alton, has been praised as being the ‘richest cinematography in noir outside of Orson Welles’  Citizen Kane .’  The film’s story lacks in areas and is mainly held together by it’s fluidity and excitement, but after all that’s one of the greatest traits of the film noir genre!    4/5     WATCH: Putlocker

RAW DEAL

(dir. Anthony Mann)

Like Stranger on the Third Floor, Raw Deal was seen as a little B-movie, but it still harnessed all of the powerful qualities of the film noir movement and more!

The film follows Joe Sullivan, an escaped convict who goes into hiding with his girl and a female social worker who falls for him. Sullivan’s on his way to collect $50,000 that belongs to him, but the only issue is that the people who owe him the 50 grand, don’t want him to have it.

The film’s cinematography, manned by the legendary Joe Alton, has been praised as being the ‘richest cinematography in noir outside of Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane.’

The film’s story lacks in areas and is mainly held together by it’s fluidity and excitement, but after all that’s one of the greatest traits of the film noir genre!

4/5

WATCH: Putlocker

ACE IN THE HOLE     (dir. Billy Wilder)   Hollywood legend Billy Wilder took a pretty unconventional route to the film noir like  Mildred Pierce  did. However, unlike  Mildred Pierce , Wilder kept all the cynical qualities of the film noir, but took it out to New Mexico.  Kirk Douglas stars as Chuck Tatum, a hard-nosed reporter who will stop at nothing for a story. His motto after all is “Bad News is best, because Good News is no news.” While in New Mexico, he finds a man trapped in a cave, and instead of doing all he can to help the man, he prolongs the excruciating pain of the poor man in the cave just so he can have a story to tell for a full week.  While most noirs took place in places like LA, San Francisco, New York, and such, Billy Widler approached the darker side of man by using Kirk Douglas as a reporter out in New Mexico. Wilder showed that while the film noir genre is visually idiosyncratic, there are a lot more pieces to the puzzle.    5/5     WATCH: Criterion Channel

ACE IN THE HOLE

(dir. Billy Wilder)

Hollywood legend Billy Wilder took a pretty unconventional route to the film noir like Mildred Pierce did. However, unlike Mildred Pierce, Wilder kept all the cynical qualities of the film noir, but took it out to New Mexico.

Kirk Douglas stars as Chuck Tatum, a hard-nosed reporter who will stop at nothing for a story. His motto after all is “Bad News is best, because Good News is no news.” While in New Mexico, he finds a man trapped in a cave, and instead of doing all he can to help the man, he prolongs the excruciating pain of the poor man in the cave just so he can have a story to tell for a full week.

While most noirs took place in places like LA, San Francisco, New York, and such, Billy Widler approached the darker side of man by using Kirk Douglas as a reporter out in New Mexico. Wilder showed that while the film noir genre is visually idiosyncratic, there are a lot more pieces to the puzzle.

5/5

WATCH: Criterion Channel

PICKUP ON SOUTH STREET     (dir. Samuel Fuller)   Samuel Fuller, one of the most revered directors of all time, shook the industry up with  Pickup on South Street , one of his most memorable films.   Pickup  stars Richard Windmark as Skip McCoy, a New York City pickpocket who lands himself in a world of trouble when he accidentally pockets secret communist plans for nuclear devastation from a young lady in the subway.  The film garnered quite a bit of controversy, especially from J Edgar Hoover who was adamant in his dislike of Samuel Fuller and his films. Many found  Pickup on South Street  to be unpatriotic and in France, the whole theme including communist plans was dubbed out for their safety in a country with prevalent communism. However,  Pickup  did go on to influence many more than it turned away. It’s believed that Robert Bresson’s masterpiece art film  Pickpocket  was inspired and influenced by Fuller’s film.    5/5     WATCH: YouTube (FREE)

PICKUP ON SOUTH STREET

(dir. Samuel Fuller)

Samuel Fuller, one of the most revered directors of all time, shook the industry up with Pickup on South Street, one of his most memorable films.

Pickup stars Richard Windmark as Skip McCoy, a New York City pickpocket who lands himself in a world of trouble when he accidentally pockets secret communist plans for nuclear devastation from a young lady in the subway.

The film garnered quite a bit of controversy, especially from J Edgar Hoover who was adamant in his dislike of Samuel Fuller and his films. Many found Pickup on South Street to be unpatriotic and in France, the whole theme including communist plans was dubbed out for their safety in a country with prevalent communism. However, Pickup did go on to influence many more than it turned away. It’s believed that Robert Bresson’s masterpiece art film Pickpocket was inspired and influenced by Fuller’s film.

5/5

WATCH: YouTube (FREE)

KISS ME DEADLY     (dir. Robert Aldrich)   Robert Aldrich’s noir  Kiss Me Deadly  is easily one of the greatest noirs ever made and came towards the end of this very influential era.   Kiss Me Deadly  stars Ralph Meeker as Mike Hammer, an LA Private Investigator who gets wrapped up in a nuclear plot after picking up an escaped woman in his car one night. After the girl he picks up, played by a young Cloris Leachman, turns up dead, Hammer goes on a journey to discover the truth. Unfortunately, three henchmen, a strange doctor, a load of double crosses, and a mysterious glowing suitcase stand in his way.  This film has created so much influence for future filmmakers and traces of  Kiss Me Deadly  can be seen in the works of David Lynch, Quentin Tarantino, Steven Spielberg, and more!    5/5     WATCH: YouTube (FREE)

KISS ME DEADLY

(dir. Robert Aldrich)

Robert Aldrich’s noir Kiss Me Deadly is easily one of the greatest noirs ever made and came towards the end of this very influential era.

Kiss Me Deadly stars Ralph Meeker as Mike Hammer, an LA Private Investigator who gets wrapped up in a nuclear plot after picking up an escaped woman in his car one night. After the girl he picks up, played by a young Cloris Leachman, turns up dead, Hammer goes on a journey to discover the truth. Unfortunately, three henchmen, a strange doctor, a load of double crosses, and a mysterious glowing suitcase stand in his way.

This film has created so much influence for future filmmakers and traces of Kiss Me Deadly can be seen in the works of David Lynch, Quentin Tarantino, Steven Spielberg, and more!

5/5

WATCH: YouTube (FREE)