Bogie bloopers

Leave a comment

Found this video on youtube, made me smile so I thought I would share it. Humphrey Bogart (along with Edward G Robinson et al) making a few uncharacteristic mistakes….

EDIT: Oops, embedding disabled! Sorry – Here’s the direct youtube link here

The Woman in the Window [1944] wallpaper

3 Comments

 

1920x1080 wallpaper

 

Woman in the Window was my first experience of Fritz Lang‘s American films. It’s not often that a film splits my opinion so much.

On the one hand, it’s a story of a gentle, intelligent, middle-aged man foolishly chasing youthful fantasy. Edward G Robinson perfectly portrays a man driven to an arguably justified murder, and as he attempts to cover it up he finds himself in a spiralling web of deceit. It’s a simple but satisfying suspense film of Hitchcockian proportions.

On the other hand, there is that ending. To write about it would ruin the experience for someone who has yet to see the film, so analysis is difficult. Needless to say the first twist ending is dripping in pathos and would be a beautifully dark poetic finish, but is marred, for me, by a second twist which leaves a slightly corny taste in the mouth.

Fans of Lang’s earlier works should not expect any of the trademark expressionist flair found in his UFA and Nero films, but can expect a well-crafted, well-paced suspenseful drama which raises some interesting ideas and captures a great mood. Well worth a watch even if the last couple of minutes sours the film a little.

Force of Evil [1948]

2 Comments

1920 x 1080 wallpaper

While it is easy to slot it into the noir bracket, there are a lot of aspects that set Abraham Polonsky‘s “Force of Evil” apart from the crowd. Perhaps most obviously, rather than focus on the underbelly of society and all the shades of grey therein, this is a film which shows the usual noir character flaws and tendencies and superimposes them upon the high-fliers, the lawyers and the bankers.

Also, where the majority of noir thrillers and dramas are content to dwell in melodrama and escapism, this is a pretty thinly-veiled political film condemning capitalist culture. The message is clear here – the money-men, lawyers, and wall street are written alongside gangsters and hoodlums, dragging the working man down into the gutter, and to their graves, for their own gain.

I’m not opposed to political films (I adore Punishment Park), but in a drama or thriller I appreciate a little subtlety and ambiguity. Sam Fuller’s “Pickup on South Street” for example, uses satire to poke fun at right-wing sensibilities without ever preaching or becoming overbearing. Force of Evil though is a full-on assault of capitalist values. This film in itself must have been pretty strong fuel for McCarthy to blacklist Polonsky (as abhorrent as HUAC ‘s processes were).

Message-making aside, this really is a technical beauty. Shot under the watchful eye of George Barnes (DP to films such as Hitch’s Rebecca and Spellbound), light and shadow are used beautifully to contrast between the luxurious offices, and the underground gambling banks. To add further distance to usual noir style, a few location shoots pepper the film, akin to the documentary-esque shots found in Jules Dassin’s “Naked City“.

The dialogue here is pleasingly sharp and biting, with many killer lines delivered through John Garfield‘s internal narration :

“A man could spend the rest of his life trying to remember what he shouldn’t have said.”

There are also a couple of stand-out scenes. One in particular – set to Beethoven – where we see Howland Chamberlain‘s nervous, innocent character brutally slain by rival gangsters, is a perfect harmonious marriage of emotion, image and music for about 60 seconds. This is also unfortunately where the emotional connection is lost though, as the only likeable character in the film is taken out of the picture.

The film’s pièce de résistance follows shortly after this scene. Two men against one, in a small, totally dark office, each wielding a gun. They are only feet from each other yet totally blind, no-one willing to take the first shot and give away their position. Dripping in tension, the scene is nail-bitingly exciting.

Taken individually, the aspects of the film would seem exemplary. Great dialogue, a densely plotted yet easy to follow screenplay, beautiful neo-realistic noir visuals, and a couple of great set-pieces ultimately do not add up to a masterpiece. The film’s lack of empathy due to its heavy-handed political assertions, and middle-of-the-road “safe” performances from the majority of its cast (including John Garfield) hold the film back. It’s still worth your time though, and essential for any fans of Martin Scorcese, being a film he personally champions and cites as a great influence.

The Public Enemy [1931] wallpapers

Leave a comment

Thought I would follow up yesterday’s Scarface post with a couple of 1920×1080 wallpapers for another great pre-code prohibition gangster story, “The Public Enemy” starring the legendary James Cagney in one of his most iconic roles. 3 are very similar, but I couldn’t make up my mind which one I preferred.

Scarface [1932] and its X motif

2 Comments

 

3 1920x1080 wallpapers

 

Howard Hawks’ Scarface is one of the quintessential classic gangster movies. A story of relentless hunger for power and wealth, carried out with violence, laughs and balls that could only come from a pre-code film. Scarface, helped in no small part by Paul Muni‘s portrayal of the maniacal Tony Camonte, has to be one of the most influential movies in cinema history.

A great little artistic flourish that Hawks integrated into the set design is the “X” insignia visible when a body lies cold by the hand of Scarface Camonte . Whether the X is a signature of sorts – the bodies signed with an X to match Tony’s scar – or just a literal representation of a killer “X-ing” his victim is up for debate. Perhaps its a nod to journalistic practices at the time which used an X to show where a body lay in photographs. Whatever the reason, it’s a unique feature that has since been imitated and copied in countless other films. Here are a collection of stills which show the technique in effect. If you are planning to see this film any time soon, bear in mind some pretty big spoilers lie ahead.

First, the most important X of all. Tony’s scar:

Tony pays a visit to a victim in hospital, as the mark of death is cast as a shadow on the wall

Another victim of Camonte’s reign of terror lies under the crossed shadow of an undertaker’s sign.

A neon X sits high on a wall as Tony’s crew take out a rival’s car.

One of my favourites. 7 people are lined up against a wall in a representation of the infamous St Valentine’s day massacre. The camera pans up and we see 7 x’s in the roof struts


A beam of light forms a perfect cross on a body.

Here the X is used as a foreshadowing device. No killing takes place in this scene but the ominous X of light clearly shows Gaffney is a marked man.

Gaffney’s cards are marked, in more ways than one. After crossing off a strike on his scorecard, he is in turn crossed off in a bowling alley.

In a dancehall scene, Tony’s sister is the only girl with crossed straps on her back. Another foreshadowing X .

A desk-fan is strategically placed in the background as Tony takes down boss Johnny Lovo.


Two for one in this scene (a visual double-cross?) as Scarface takes down his own henchman Guino.

As Tony’s sister takes a bullet deflected by his shutters, a fallen lamp in the background provides the familiar motif.

I’ll leave you with the trailer, which again is pretty full of spoilers and should be avoided if you plan on watching this great film.

Crossfire [1947]

Leave a comment

Click the above image for full 1920×1080 resolution wallpaper.

IMDb summary : “Homicide Capt. Finlay finds evidence that one or more of a group of demobilized soldiers is involved in the death of Joseph Samuels. In flashbacks, we see the night’s events from different viewpoints as Sergeant Keeley investigates on his own, trying to clear his friend Mitchell, to whom circumstantial evidence points. Then the real, ugly motive for the killing begins to dawn on both Finlay and Keeley…”

More message-movie than conventional film-noir (is there any such thing?), this is a cracking detective story that tunes in to the anti-semetic sensitivities of 1940s America.

It is worth noting that while Crossfire makes a (rather obvious and heavy-handed) statement renouncing antisemitism, the book that the film is based on actually focused on homophobia. As the Hays Code forbade any kind of discussion or representation of homosexuality, and tapping into the zeitgeist of 1940s America (the film arrived more or less alongside the similarly-themed “Gentleman’s Agreement“), the film changes a homosexual victim to a Jewish victim, but in truth the film could be about any form of extreme prejudice and would arrive at the same conclusion.

There are still a couple of remnants of the original focus on homosexuality however. Armed with this knowledge it makes a lot more sense as to why a Jewish man would invite a young upset squaddie back to his room alone. It’s also clear why this young soldier would then go out looking for female company to assert his masculinity after this encounter with a Jewish man. While watching the film it isn’t really noticeable, but the pieces slot together even better when in hindsight you replace “Jewish” with “homosexual”.

With a simple plot and a strongly played message, Crossfire’s strength lies in the characterisation of its main players, none more so than the intelligent portrayal of Captain Finlay by Robert Young. The Oscar winning Gloria Grahame is earthy, sassy and alluring as card-girl Ginny. Robert Mitchum‘s character is solid, but as later stated by Mitchum himself, could have been played by anyone. Robert Ryan is utterly believable as a drunken war vet who seems to be covering something up. The fantastically well-written characters, a swiftly paced screenplay, some great acting and the noir-style visuals elevate the film above what could be a conventional message movie, into a very entertaining detective drama.

A great film. Big thanks to iluvcinema for another spot-on recommendation. To finish up, here is a great little propaganda trailer / teaser, which shows you just how it was perceived by audiences and the studios at the time.

 

“Twenty-four eyes” wallpaper

1 Comment

Click the above image for 1920×1080 desktop wallpaper.

What do the films Seven Samurai, Godzilla, and Sansho the Bailiff have in common? They were all beaten to the coveted Blue Ribbon award in 1954 by Keisuke Kinoshita‘s “Nijûshi no hitomi” a.k.a Twenty-four eyes. An achingly beautiful and tragic story spanning two decades, “Twenty-four eyes” is a study of the passing of time, the student-teacher relationship, and a moving commentary on how war is paid for by the lives of our children.

Along with the Blue Ribbon, this film is also the current holder of the (less coveted) “last film to make m00ch cry” award. Yeah go ahead, laugh it up. This is a heart-wrenching film and I defy anyone with a soul to not be moved by its tragedy and poetic story. The film is a reminder that we were all innocent children once upon a time, and will make you long for the naivety and blissful ignorance so intertwined with youth.

This is a solid 5-star film, and while it may sound pretentiously cliche, I can think of no better phrase to describe 24 eyes than a journey through life itself. Not to be missed.

Older Entries Newer Entries