Film Noir : Neo-Noir Quest 2

Re: Branded To Kill (1967) aka Koroshi No Rakuin

If it were done by anyone other than Suzuki, "overly artsy" might be a fair criticism. As he has said in interviews, he makes up his own film language and doesn't really care about anything other than making interesting films. And if you're okay with that, the idea of any of his films having "shortcomings" is kind of a mute point. His films aren't known for their brilliant dialogue or biting social commentary, they are entertaining though.

BTK does have enough recognizable noir conventions to be of interest to most. The femme fatale is bizarre - she had one of her pierced birds hanging from her rear view mirror (which either presaged those air fresheners or was Suzuki's answer to the same) and had an affinity for water which left her glistening wet in most of her scenes. The camera direction is absolutely inspired and the expressionist style black and white film, very effective lighting, surreal widescreen images and confusing edits - make for a film that is beautiful to look at.

Nikkatsu probably did what was right for their bottom line when they fired Suzuki. Blacklisting him wasn't right though and this film pretty much finished Suzuki when he was at the height of his creativity. It would be ten years before he made another film for the big screen. But time loves a hero - and an artist - and Suzuki has been championed by film schools, directors and critics. This film is now considered a classic.

Re: Neo-Noir Quest 2

Ruang talok 69 Didn't expect that one on the list. Great little film. The filmmaker behind it got better over the years, but traded in more traditional crime stories for meditative and surreal romance dramas that just so happened to feature former criminals. Last Life in the Universe and Invisible Waves are two of the best films I've ever seen.

If you liked Ruang talok 69, I'd like to recommend the films of Japanese filmmaker Kenji Uchida, in particular A Stranger of Mine and Key of Life. His films usually start out as romantic comedies, but by the beginning of the second act, they reveal themselves to be more complex than they first appeared as additional plot lines are introduced, betrayals or bad intentions are revealed, and criminal ties become clear. He's really good at tying three to four different stories together in one satisfying conclusion, and there is a definite noir influence on his work.

The Black Dahlia (2006)

Directed by Brian De Palma (Dressed to Kill (1980), Body Double (1984), ). Written by Josh Friedman (screenplay), based on James Ellroy's novel "The Black Dahlia", part of his L.A. Quartet. Cinematography was by Vilmos Zsigmond (McCabe & Mrs Miller (1971). Music was by Mark Isham (The Public Eye (1992), Romeo Is Bleeding (1993), The Getaway (1994), )The film stars Josh Hartnett (Sin City (2005)), Scarlett Johansson, Aaron Eckhart, Hilary Swank, Mike Starr (Miller's Crossing (1990)), Fiona Shaw, John Kavanagh, Kevin Dunn, and Mia Kirshner.

First off, I've read all of Ellroy's "L.A. Quartet' but It's been so long ago since I've read "The Black Dahlia", I barely remember the plot. What I do remember is that the tale wasn't about the Black Dahlia case per se but it was about the relationship between officers Dwight 'Bucky' Bleichert (Hartnett) and Lee Blanchard (Eckart). So basically I'm saying I came at this with a clean slate. It took me about three full sittings to really appreciate the film. I've read that De Palma had to trim the story by about an hour, don't know if that's true but it does seem a tad bit rushed at the end.

Anyway, officers Bleichert and Blanchard have known each other since L.A.'s Zoot Suit Riots. They are partners and also boxers, Blanchard is sort of a semi-pro, Bleichert was ranked 7th in Ring Magazine in some up and coming article. For an upcoming vote on a bond proposal for new equipment and a pay raise, the L.A.P.D. brass wants to stage a match between them build it up as Fire (Blanchard) against Ice (Bleichert), the proceeds go to charity, the L.A.P.D. gets some good press.

The story revolves about the relationship between Kay Lake (Johansson) and Blanchard, which becomes a triangle when Bleichert enters the picture. At the police training gym Bleichert casually asks Kay something to the effect of, that shaking together with Blanchard "will cost him a stripe, where are the diamonds and the bassinet?" Kay knowing exactly what she is doing, answers directly, with one of those WTF statements women are noted for, "well you'd have to sleep together for that, Dwight". Dwight is slightly stunned, information overload and you can see the wheels turning in his head and the lust rising in his libido.

WTF did she just say? Does it mean what I think it means.
The big fight goes down and so does Bleichert with his top front teeth knocked out. The bond passes and Bleichert and Blanchard are assigned to warrants.

While on the early morning stakeout of a "f-pad" on January 15th, 1947, waiting to pick up an Okie *beep* kicker named Jr. Nash, Bucky and Lee get into a shootout with Nash and a black pimp's gang. Nash is killed along with a whore and a few of the pimp's gang members.

Meanwhile, nearby, a rising crane shot reveals that out back, along a frontage road, a lady pushing a baby carriage who comes upon a grizzly sight. A woman's nude body, cut in half. The woman has grotesque cuts to both sides of her mouth, and her internal organs removed. The press has a field day soon dubbing the murder "The Black Dahlia" a take on "The Blue Dahlia" a popular noir film recently released.

The woman is identified as Elizabeth "Betty" Short. Lee soon becomes obsessed with the murder (we later find out from Kay that Lee's own sister was killed and the murderer never caught). The sexual tension between Kay and Bucky escalate, with Kay teasing Bucky with peek-a-boo flashes.

Bucky pursues his own leads and soon discovers that Betty was doing screen tests and eventually starred in a stag film. Betty was also cadging drinks from lesbians at a nightclub. Bucky follows that lead to the nightclub and there meets the original Black Dahlia Madeleine Linscott (Hilary Swank). Madeleine is channeling Katharine Hepburn, and she does it convincingly. Madeleine is getting her kicks as a amateur hooker, parading herself along the boulevards turning hetero tricks, and cruising the lezbo bars. She uses the Red Arrow Inn as her hot sheet motel. Madeleine comes from one of the founding L.A. Families. She tells Bucky that she and Betty were very close, and that she will do anything to keep her name out of the papers. Bucky being a normal all American male takes her up on her offer.

Straight out of an even more warped Raymond Chandler "The Big Sleep" Sternwood Family type of scenario we get to meet the Linscott's. Emmett (Kavanagh), Madeleine's Father is a sleazy looking slightly zany housing czar who built L.A. firetrap subdivisions out of cheap used and rotting movie prop lumber. Ramona (Shaw), Madeleine's decaying mother is an old money heiress who is also a snobbish drunk. She rails against the lowlifes, hillbillies and Okies moving into L.A. Martha Linscott (Rachel Miner) seems to be the only truly sane member of the family but after meeting the rest of the loonies you expect her to be sniffing ether and posing for beaver shots for a porno mag a la "The Big Sleep."

Bucky finds out from Kay that Lee took off after a tip about a recently released convict, Bobby DeWitt. Bucky heads out to the location and confronts DeWitt in the atrium of the building. DeWitt is Blasted by Lee, who inturn is garotted by a man who comes up behind him. Lee fights with his attacker but has his throat slashed by a dark figure. Both Lee and his attacker fall down the atrium to their deaths.

Lee's death short fuses the Buck/Kay attraction and they make it explosively on the dining room table. The morning after Bucky accidentally finds loot from a bank heist in Lee & Kay's bathroom, Kay confesses that she was Bobby DeWitt's gal, and that he pimped her out to his friends. It was Bobby who robbed the bank and that Lee had rescued Kay and stolen DeWitt's swag. Lee had to bump off DeWitt before he spilled the beans. Lee splits pissed off that Kay would not have told him any of this until he found the cash. He heads back to Madeline and her kinky needs.

Bucky keeps assembling clues and soon it all descends down into a deviant Noirsville.

The Black Dahlia was an ambitious film, it looks great but the convoluted plot isn't for lightweights, it took me three watches to understand it all, there's a lot coming at you at once, perhaps it was more user friendly in the director's cut. It has other problems. De Palma should have gone the tried and true proven route of casting some lead actors with some better noir credentials. We get Harnett, Johanssen, and Eckart, all cold turkey to noir, but with repeated views they blend in enough. Only Hillary Swank pulls off her character convincingly from the get go, and her performance is aided by the cinematic memory of Katherine Hepburn. Her slutty Hepburn is a treat. The rest of the Linscott family is hilariously looney. The Linscott family tree has got serious heart rot. A shout out to Mia Kirshner, as Betty, a bit more with her would have only improved the film.

De Palma went the Classic Noir route and that was probably a mistake, aside from the brief stag film sequence, it was almost back to the old Hays Code, Kay is even depicted in "granny panties" in one shot. He should have went "bush" if he wanted to titillate and stay period. Noirs should always push the limits. The Black Dahlia is relatively tame in it's depiction of sexuality compared to say Dressed To Kill, so it probably disappointed some of his old fans and folks expecting a more daring film. The title also got negative reviews from those expecting a true crime story about the Dahlia case.

You almost have to approach these Neo Noirs from hindsight, there are a few gems and semi-precious jewels out there but they either got buried under the avalanche of whatever the popular genre trend was at the moment, or they stared relative (at the time) nobodies and fizzled in art house obscurity. It's only when looking at it as following a vein of Neo Noir can you discover and excavate them out.

Mark Isham's score is memorable and K.D. Lang's rendition of "Love For Sale" is the best I've heard. Not without flaws but entertaining. 7/10

Full review with screencaps here:

Re: The Black Dahlia (2006)

I thought this one to be not quite a complete mess, saved only by its gorgeous look, overall atmosphere and a few good set pieces. I think the problem is that it's a poor adaptation of Ellroy's book which takes a bit of an effort to keep up with itself.

They could have cut the zoot suit riots segment and dropped the Fire and Ice angle (what was the point of the boxing sequences?). The character of Bucky is much less interesting here than in the novel, possibly because a miscast Hartnett did not give a good performance. Madeleine Linscott is an interesting character as is the entire Linscott clan. Crazy. Hilary Swank was very good and looked fantastic in a double breasted pinstripe and fedora (beautifully accessorized with a gleaming switch blade). And she did get her kit off for a couple of frames in the motel scene with Bucky. If Scarlett Johansson had done the same it would have been the only thing redeeming about her performance - she was terrible.

I like De Palma and will forgive about anything from him, but he does have a reputation for some uneven scripts. Difficult source material and he may have tried to be too true to the book (the original cut was three hours). There is a great movie in the novel, but this isn't it.

Re: The Black Dahlia (2006)

Yea, I blame the density of Ellroy's novels. To be done properly they should all be mini series. But like I stated I haven't read The Black Dahlia in close to 15-20 years so I just went with the screenplay and noir stylistics.

The American Friend, Wim Wenders 1977

One of cinemas most enduring sociopaths, Patricia Highsmith's Tom Ripley, is played by Dennis Hopper in this 1977 adaptation of the third novel in the series, Ripley's Game.

Hopper plays Ripley as pretty much flat out crazy but in an upbeat, cheerful way - as only Hooper could. Ripley moves in the Hamburg art scene where he sells forged paintings to art galleries and auctions. The story's protagonist is a man named Jonathan Zimmerman (played by Bruno Ganz), who has a blood disease that could be fatal. Ripley and a French gangster manipulate him into doing a hit for which the Frenchman will pay him enough money to take care of his family after he is gone.

There is a lot in the telling of the story that doesn't make sense and there is a sort of strange, artificial dimension to a lot of the characters that let's you know right away that this film is not an attempt at realism. It is very atmospheric in its photography, lighting, camera work and locations (some very unglamorous settings in NY, Hamburg, Paris and Munich). Everything looks a little murky which works perfectly with the unclear narrative.

It's very interesting that the (now five) actors who have played Ripley have chosen to portray him so differently. There has been a lot of debate among fans as to who is the best Ripley and there has also been the expected criticisms from Highsmith who lived to see four different actors play her character. Hopper is brilliant in this and Highsmith changed her mind on the performance (and the movie) after initially disliking it.

Nicholas Ray plays the art forger and Samuel Fuller plays an American gangster

Taxi Driver (1976) New York Neo Noir Masterpiece

Directed by Martin Scorsese (Raging Bull (1980), After Hours (1985), Goodfellas (1990), Casino (1995)), written by Paul Schrader (Hardcore (1979), Raging Bull (1980)), cinematography by Michael Chapman (Hardcore (1979), ), Music by the legendary Bernard Herrmann (Citizen Kane (1941), On Dangerous Ground (1951), Psycho (1960), Cape Fear (1962).

The film stars Robert De Niro (Raging Bull (1980), Angel Heart (1987)) as Travis Bickle, Jodie Foster (The Silence of the Lambs (1991)) as hooker Iris, Harvey Keitel (The Two Jakes (1990), Reservoir Dogs (1992), Bad Lieutenant (1992), Pulp Fiction (1994), ) as the pimp Sport, Cybill Shepherd (The Last Picture Show (1971)) as Betsy, Albert Brooks as Tom, Leonard Harris as Charles Palantine, Peter Boyle (The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1973), Hardcore (1979), Hammett (1982)) as Wizard, Harry Northup as Doughboy, Norman Matlock (Across 110th Street (1972)) as Charlie T, Martin Scorsese as Passenger Watching Silhouette, Steven Prince as Andy - Gun Salesman, Diahnne Abbott as Concession Girl, Bob Maroff as the Mafioso and finally New York City circa 1976.

The film and credits start with a cloud of steam hissing into the wet night on a Manhattan street. Bernard Herman's dual score begins with stylized discordant city sounds that slowly build tension, punctuated by a pulsing beat that's ratchet sprung. The pressure is getting jacked. A yellow Checker Cab glides through the frame, dispersing the vapor and exposing the city.

We see a closeup of a pair of observing eyes and then segue to what they see.

The score now changes to a classy brassy iconic motif for New York City it's along the lines of Alfred Newman's "Streetscene" a score that was reused for a handful of classic 20th Century Fox New York based Noir. Our view simultaneously changes we see a New York through Classic Hollywood "tinted" glasses in the subsequent sequences the city is a dreamscape of Broadway lights, chase lit theater marquee, and streetlamps floating through the blurry sheen of rain on a Checker windshield. Neon lights shine and reflect off wet pavement, passing vehicles and drops of rain on plate glass.

The film is full of gorgeously stylish musical interludes showcasing timeless impressions of New York City.

Travis Bickle is an alienated ex-jarhead who follows his dream and comes to New York, but New York isn't for everyone it's real not a fantasy. Travis is wound a bit too tight, he's a nut job, a psychotic, he can't quite go with the flow or melt in the pot. Pill popping habitually chills him out, and insomnia keeps him awake, he walks the streets guzzling peach brandy, he rides the subways, the busses, he crashes and burns in 24 hr porno grindhouse theaters. He figures that if he's doing anyway, he might as well get paid for it. Travis applies and becomes The Taxi Driver. In a contemporary semi-hard boiled manner Travis narrates the thoughts and feelings that he writes in his diary. His personality and the musical motifs, phasing from wistful dreamer to disgusted realist, are in mesmerising accompaniment to the triggering images that flow past his cab windows.

The tension continues to escalate, The days go on and don't end, the score transitions into the slow methodical haunting beat of an ancient war drum. You get the impression that when the drum stops you know something is going to happen.

Travis manages to find a relief valve is the form of a beautiful angel named Betsy. Betsy is dream girl, she's proper, looks like a sorority sister, a booster, a princess. She works for presidential candidate Charles Palantine in a temporary office. Travis is infatuated. Travis is obsessed.

It's his destiny, but he tries too hard, he comes on too strong. He volunteers or Palantine. Betsy is intrigued though, Travis knows what he wants and she is flattered. They meet then make a date.

Clueless Travis takes her to a pornflick, she balks at the box office but Travis tells her that it's not that kind of movie and that a lot of couples go. She goes in reluctantly. But it is that kind of movie. Betsy doesn't kink that way. Betsy dumps him on the sidewalk and leaves in a cab. Travis is distraught, he tries calling, he sends flowers, they come back, finally he stomps into the office for a final confrontation. He's asked to leave and he tells Betsy that she is like all the rest of them.

The war drum beat begins again. The daily grind. Travis is boiling. Travis is nearing a tipping point. He confides to Wizard that he has this irresistible impulse, he's going to do something. He's got bad ideas in his head. He's going to break bad. Wizard doesn't pick up on this feeble cry for help. In Travis's hate for Betsy he's fixating on Palantine. Assassinating him will hurt Betsy.

Travis gets a connected with a gun salesman from fellow cabbie Doughboy. Travis purchases a personal mini arsenal, a .44 magnum, a .38 snubnose, a Colt .25 automatic, and a .380 Walther. He also straps a knife with tape to his boot.

A new quasi outlet appears in the form of teenage hooker named Iris who climbs quickly into his cab one night in the East Village. Before Travis pulls out, Sport a pimp drags Iris forcefully out of the cab. Travis' new dream is to try to save Iris, to be her knight in shining armor. Travis begins to cruise the East Village watching for Iris. When he finally finds her he pays for her services but instead of sex he tries to get her to split from Sport. Iris is reluctant to leave, she doesn't want to go home frustrating Travis. He makes a date for breakfast the next day and he tells her that he may be going away for a while

Travis writes a letter to Iris at his apartment saying he will soon be dead, and the money he's putting in the envelope is for her to return home, but Travis's attempt to kill Palantine is aborted by the Secret Service, so he goes to plan two and heads for the East Village whorehouse to "save" Iris.

Of course it all goes Noirsville in a very twisted way.

The cast is perfect, De Niro's universal hayseed in *beep* Travis, is thoroughly believable. His fellow cabbies, Wizard (Boyle), Doughboy (Northup), Charlie T (Matlock) add touches of comic relief. Cybill Shepherd, is excellent the caste campaign worker Betsy. Jodie Foster nails the part of Iris, though she comes off a bit too gawky looking for a streetwalker. Harvey Keitel plays a believable Pimp. He as a sequence with Iris where he displays his sweet talking, silver tongued devil, charm to control her. Albert Brooks is Betsy's nerdy, flirting, fellow campaign worker.

Watch for the sequence with director Martin Scorsese as a cab passenger and fellow lunatic, who rants about killing his wayward wife to Travis. She is screwing a black man and they watch the suggestive silhouettes on an apartment window from the cab. As Scorsese talks the transformation on Travis' face as he recognizes a fellow traveler on the road to wingnut-ville is priceless.

Another great sequence is Travis unloading his feelings to Wizard it's shot in the Neo Noir classic red/green clashing color scheme, emphasising the unease. This color scheme is repeated throughout the film in segments where a traffic light shines green or red upon Travis while other light take the opposite color.

Taxi Driver is not the first Noir to employ a taxi driver as the protagonist, John Payne played an ex pug cab driver in 99 River Street (1953), whose wife is cheating on him with a jewel thief. There is also some quotes of Kubrick's Killers Kiss (1955) in the Times Square sequences and later the V.O. of a letter from Iris's father.

Enough cannot be said for the score. You can eliminated all the dialog and just watch the images accompanied by the music, to me it's New York distilled to its purest essence and on par with Gershwin's Rhapsody In Blue. Bravo 10/10

Fuller review with screencaps here:

Polisse (2011)

Hi Spike,after watching it a week or so ago,I watched this great Neo-Noir again,and found it to really stand up to a second viewing.


** This review may contain spoilers ***

Leaving the series half-finished,I recently decided to re-start my viewing of the gritty HBO series The Wire.Looking round for info on The Wire,I found out about a French Noirish title which had been called "The Wire:The Movie." After the odd spelling of the title led to it being a bit tough to track down,I got set to join the polisse force.

The plot:

Joining the Child Protection Unit (CPU) to take photos of the daily routine of the CPU, photographer Melissa gets the chance to examine the various routes the officers take to begin building a case against the alleged child abusers (almost all of which are later sent to other departments in the police to expand upon,which leads to the CPU (largely) not knowing the verdict from each case.) Whilst Melissa gets close enough to a cop to start an affair,CPU officer Fred decides to push Melissa out of the loop.

View on the film:

Basing each case featured on ones that a real Child Protection Unit handled,the screenplay by co-writer/(along with fellow co-star Emmanuelle Bercot) actress/director "Maïwenn" (who gives a touchingly shy performance as Melissa) reflects the real open-ended experience of each department,with the writers brilliantly leaving each verdict hanging in the air,as the cases go from the CPU to the legal department. Treating child abuse in a sensitive manner,the writers reveal that they are not afraid to put the cops with gritty dialogue under a Noir,rather than heroic light. Knitting the cops as a close,gallows humour bunch,the writers paint the blue line in blistering shades of grey,where disagreements over the best course of action leads to Film Noir frustrations being vividly expressed,as Fred (played with an excellent gruffness by Joey Star) openly keeps Melissa separate from the force.

Working as a photographer during her time with the real CPU, Maïwenn & cinematographer Pierre Aïm give the movie a Film Noir,documentary gristle. Keeping Stephen Warbeck's score to a low hum, Maïwenn digs into the daily grind with tapping keyboards and muttered words making the loudest noise,whilst coiled shots cut the tension in the interviews with a knife. Putting the cops up against a car chase and a child hostage taking, Maïwenn cuts any "Action" atmosphere from the set-pieces,via the tracking shots moving with a short,sharp,shock which unleashes the blunt take down by the cops across the screen,as Melissa joins the polisse.

Slam Dance (1987) Stylish Punk L.A. Neo Noir

Slam Dance was directed by Wayne Wang, and was written by Don Keith Opper, the beautiful cinematography was by Amir Mokri, with music by Mitchell Froom. The film stars Tom Hulce, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Virginia Madsen, Adam Ant, Don Opper, Herta Ware, Millie Perkins, John Doe, Lisa Niemi, Judith Barsi and Harry Dean Stanton.

C.C. Drood (Hulce) is a moderately successful L.A. offbeat single panel cartoonist/artist creator of "Drood's World". He drives a classic 1960 Buick LeSabre. He has recently gone splitsville from his wife Helen (Mastrantonio) for wetting his noodle where he shouldn't. Drood is batchin it in his rented downtown 4th floor artist loft. He has a very snoopy landlady (Ware) who intercepts, and removes items from his mail.

The cause of the separation was a seductive, blonde, floosie femme fatale, in the form of a hottie call girl named Yolanda Caldwell (Madsen), who we see in a flashback. She is wearing a wedding ring. Yolanda easily seduced a, three sheets to the wind, Drood at punk rock L.A. nightclub owned by his pal Jim Campbell (Ant). Drood is trying to repair the damaged marriage so that he can get back together with his wife and daughter "Bean" (Barsi).

Returning one night to his loft, he sees that the door has been jimmied open and that his studio has been tossed. He is slugged, ko'ed, and wakes up in the backseat of a speeding car. His attacker Buddy (Opper) asks him "where is it?" He answers "where's what?" and gets a fist in the breadbasket. He gets worked over repeatedly, the line of questioning revealing that "she gave" him something. Drood has no idea what they want. He manages to get the back door open and fling himself into the street almost getting run over by a semi in the process. He reports the incident to the LAPD and while there is taken into custody as a suspect in the murder of Yolanda. He is questioned by Detectives Benjamin Smiley (Stanton) and John Gilbert (Doe).

Released after police questioning he heads to his apartment. His landlady gives him a bulging manila envelope that arrived in the mail from Yolanda. He rips it open and looks at the photos. Some showing some kinky sex, a particular photo shows Yolanda in a water fountain surrounded by a group of men wearing scuba masks and snorkels, with their pants down the impression is that she is either about to perform oral sex on them or that she is going to be the recipient of a golden shower. The photos are marked with arrows and names.

Outside of his apartment, Buddy grabs the envelop and splits. Drood now begins his own investigation, searching Yolanda's apartment, and going over his affair with her (which we see in another flashback). He hits her speed dial numbers, etc., etc. He checks to county morgue to see if her husband picked up the body. He finds out that there is no husband. He calls the number he finds on a business card for Zeta Temporary Office Services to question a woman that was trained by Yolanda and a hooker Adrienne Schell (Nemi) shows up. Yolanda was a call girl who went by the name of Nancy Barron.

At the same time Detective Smiley is carrying out his own investigation, discovering a connection between Bobby Nye (Perkins) a wealthy L.A. philanthropist, Detective Gilbert, and Yolanda in a "sexfluence" scandal.

This really start spiralling down into Noirsville when Drood discovers a dead Adrienne lying naked with a bullet through her head in his apartment, and he recognises Gilbert as the driver of the car he was abducted in. He's being set up.

Slam Dance was a surprise, the cast was good, it held my interest, and it looked great, worth a watch for the cinematography. 6.5-7/10

Full review with NSFW screencaps here:

Journey into fears.

Hi Spike,with the 1975 Neo-Noir remake being an upcoming viewing,and you also giving the original a high rating,I hope you like my notes on Journey Into Fear

Btw,if you have Netflix,the pretty good John Carroll Lynch The Invitation is on the site.

Special thanks to Jess for setting me off on this unique viewing experience

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

May 2016:

Reading IMDb's Film Noir board,I found an excellent post about an Orson Welles-starring Noir.Looking for more info on the title,I found out that there were two cuts of the movie,with the "Euro" cut being vastly different to the US one. Finding more details on Welles sites about recent screenings,I was disappointed to learn that the "US cut" (whose presentation is on a long deleted French remastered DVD) was the only one around on US and UK DVD.Trying to find out more about the Euro cut,I spotted a post which revealed that the Euro cut has come out on DVD (as Estambul)in Mexico!

July 2016:

Crossing my fingers when the disc hit the landing that it was the Euro cut,it hit me that I had not picked up a disc of the US cut to compare it to. Glancing at downloads in order to do a quick comparison,the very first link I clicked on was forthe long out of print French remastered version,which led to me getting set for two journeys into fear.

The plot-


Entering the hotel,US ballistics expert Howard Graham (who wants to help re-arm Turkish ships) and his wife Stephanie are met by Kopeikin,who works for Howard's company.Wanting to talk business,Kopekin takes Howard alone to a night club.Unknown to the guys,a mysterious man looking across the streets follows them.During their chat,Howard joins a magician for his big set-piece.Dimming the lights,a loud gun shot is heard.Aiming for Howard,the stranger discovers that he killed the magician instead. Pulled from the club to the secret police headquarters,Howard is told of a Nazi plot designed to send a shiver of fear down his spine.

View on the film:

-Note:Due to how different they are,I will give both cuts separate reviews.

Reuniting with two fellow stars of Citizen Kane,co-writer/(along with Richard Collins/ Crime Without Passion director Ben Hecht & Orson Welles) Joseph Cotten gives a striking performance as Howard via skilfully blending Howard's wide-eyed, fish out of water Film Noir loner with a quick-wit, that gives Howard's battle against the underworld an espionage atmosphere. Hightailing in a year before she would break up with her co-star (and uncredited co-director) Dolores del Rio shakes the movie with a sassy purr as dancer Josette Martel,whilst Agnes Moorehead (who loses the most in the US cut) gives Howard's escape plans a frosty bite as Mrs.Matthews. Stomping round as Jack Moss's Peter Banat hisses in the corner, Orson Welles gives an excellent performance as Colonel Haki. Displaying a real relish in chomping out orders, Welles keeps a playful Noir cunning just under the surface of Haki's military march,which reveals itself on the murky dealings of the ships floor.

The US cut: 6/10.

Solely credited to Cotten,this adaptation of Eric Ambler's novel moves at a quick pace,partly caused by studio enforced dissolves.Going for a lighter.more comedic mood,the addition of a narration completely changes the perspective of the movie,due to it being made clear that Howard is talking about events from the past,which clips the Film Noir dread that setting it in the "present" allows the Euro cut to grip on.

Emphasizing the comedic elements with chainsaw editing,the relationship between the Graham's is limited to just two scenes.This leads to the movie being transformed into a cheerful man on the run caper, complete with large jumps in plot, (where does Howard get the gun from?) a lack of psychological depth into Howard's Film Noir nightmare,and an ending that is chopped off, with a misshaped happy coda that brings a character back from the dead.

The Euro cut:8/10

Pulling the narration,happy coda and focus on the comedic side,the screenplay by Welles/Cotten/Collins and Hecht open up the raw war time Film Noir paranoia,by smartly making Howard's attempt to escape from Banat on a ship,to sail onto fragile relationships,where doubt and mistrust is lit by the Film Noir troubled times. Taking place in the "present" the writers make Howard's relationship with Stephanie a beacon of light shining in the darkness,as Howard has to grasp at the smallest hope to send Stephanie a sign of life. Catching Banat lingering silently in the background,the writers bask the title in Film Noir dread,via giving Howard a raging fear over Banat's tune whirling down a brittle Film Noir street pelted with a haunting ending that leaves Howard melting in the Film Noir rain.

Turning the volume down on Roy Webb's energetic score, co-directors Norman Foster & uncredited Orson Welles and cinematographer Karl Struss ship Howard to a murky Film Noir world,diced via unbreakable shadows allowing Howard's fear of Banat appearing to fester. Running out of the gunfire,the directors give Howard's escape from Turkey a warm,dusty shine spun by stylish tracking shots which are looped onto the claustrophobic corridors of the ship,as Howard goes on a journey into fear.

Ripley's Game, Liliana Cavani 2002

The second adaptation of Patricia Highsmith's novel of the same name stars John Malkovich as Tom Ripley, now in his early thirties, a wealthy man who lives a comfortable life in an Italian villa with his also wealthy wife. He attends a party at the invitation of his neighbor Jonathan, a poor picture framer, who then proceeds to mock Ripley and his extravagances referring to him as a "vulgar American." Later, when an associate, British gangster Reeves, approaches him about killing someone for him, Ripley is again insulted (who does he think I am? Im not an assassin). The social slight and professional discourtesy are the catalysts for the construction of Ripley's game: a plan to bring both of the offending parties together in a complex web of manipulation and murder. When things go wrong and he has to step in, the game becomes even more interesting and more deadly.

This is much more accessible than Wenders The American Friend which came out of the Neuer Deutscher Film period of the 1970s. TAF is more than anything a New German Cinema film and has some strange characterizations, a narrative that is a bit confused and some very bizarre scenes to go with its artistic look, thick atmosphere and inspired camera direction. Hoppers Ripley was locked in an existential struggle with himself and the meaning of his strange life and was ill at ease with everyone he interacted with. Malkovichs Ripley has become more comfortable with himself by abandoning his conscience but remains the loner, even while being married. You might think, before watching the two films that Hopper and Malkovich would be over the top, scene chewing buzz kills. Not so, both performances were perfect for their two very different films.

This is a terrific movie with good performances by Dougray Scott as Jonathan and Ray Winstone as the British gangster. Lena Headey, who is always good (I still miss Sarah Conner), delivers a great performance as Jonathans wife and Malkovich seems born to play Ripley mixing the characters sociopathy/psychopathy with just the right amount of charm and charisma.

Chinatown (1974)

Chinatown (1974): Private dick Jack Nicholson gets caught up in a conspiracy to frame a Los Angeles city official who's blocking plans to build a dam for a water reservoir, despite a disastrous drought. When the city official ends up dead, and Nicholson finds out he's been used, he starts to dig deeper into the matter, with the help of the man's widow, Faye Dunaway. As he slowly unravels the plan, and gets closer to Dunaway, he also uncovers some unsuspected connections between Dunaway and the wealthy John Huston, a former partner of the dead city official.

There is something special about seeing a classic on the big screen. So when this one played in a local cinema over the weekend, I decided to revisit it. It didn't really change my opinion on the movie, but it did make me appreciate some aspects of it more. The art direction for one is amazing, the attention to detail and how all the interiors are carefully designed and propped up. Beautiful to look at. As is the cinematography by John Alonzo ('Scarface'), many of his shots could be framed for a poster. Stanley Cortez ('The Night of The Hunter') was initially hired to lens the movie but after director Roman Polanski ('Rosemary's Baby') didn't agree with his style of filming, he was replaced. Apparently a few of the scenes he shot are still in the movie tho.

I also love the performances of Nicholson ('The Postman Always Rings Twice') and especially Dunaway ('Bonnie And Clyde'), as well as the ending, which is as cynical as can be. I'm still not crazy however about the second plot dealing with Dunaway, her daughter and the involvement of Huston (director of 'The Maltese Falcon'), it feels forced in and doesn't quite add up for me. Still, it was a pleasure to watch this movie on a big screen, and it seemed I wasn't the only one who enjoyed it, as everybody in the room stayed until the credit roll was done. 8/10

Re: Chinatown (1974)

One thing any person appreciates greatly, arguably more than any aspect of the film, whether they realize it or not is the score, which is better than any and every film/neo noir score ever created.

All the of the plot points, however are fully accounted for to the point that any specific criticism would be refuted. And Noah Cross, thanks in large part to John Huston's gleefully imperious performance just dominates.

Re: Chinatown (1974)

I'm still not crazy however about the second plot dealing with Dunaway, her daughter and the involvement of Huston (director of 'The Maltese Falcon'), it feels forced in and doesn't quite add up for me.

I don't know. To me it was a typically complex, convoluted noir plot with interlocking schemes. The whole thing with Evelyn's sister/daughter and her evil father gave it the sleaze it needed to separate it from a straightforward crime drama. I mean Noah Cross was the film's antagonist, no?

Anyway, Huston had some great lines. When he told Gittes "You may think you know what youre dealing with, but believe me, you dont, he pretty much defines what it means to be a noir detective.

Have you seen The Two Jakes? Pretty much crushed under the weight of being the "sequel" to Chinatown, but not a bad movie it its own right.

Re: Chinatown (1974)

I don't know. To me it was a typically complex, convoluted noir plot with interlocking schemes. The whole thing with Evelyn's sister/daughter and her evil father gave it the sleaze it needed to separate it from a straightforward crime drama. I mean Noah Cross was the film's antagonist, no?

The sister/daughter aspect is more along the lines of symbolism. It has to do with underscoring manipulation and extending control, how Cross manipulated his daughter and the city of L.A.

A patriarchal, paternal figure entrusted with protecting his child but raping his daughter and his lust for his other daughter accentuates how the trusted, well-respected pillars of the community are literally raping L.A. in a variety of ways.

Siesta (1987) - Lynchesque Film Soleil

"Somewhere, and I don't know where, I turned a corner and there was no turning back"

Siesta, a Film Soleil Noir was Directed by Mary Lambert. The Film stars Ellen Barkin (The Big Easy (1986), Sea of Love (1989)), Gabriel Byrne (Miller's Crossing (1990)), Jodie Foster (Taxi Driver (1976), The Silence of the Lambs (1991)), Martin Sheen (The Incident (1967)), Isabella Rossellini (Blue Velvet (1986), Wild at Heart (1990)), Grace Jones, Julian Sands and Alexei Sayle. Written by Patricia Louisianna Knop (screenplay) and based on the novel by Patrice Chaplin. Cinematography was by Bryan Loftus and the score is by Miles Davis and Marcus Miller.

Siesta is a updated version of a woman's noir. The story is told exclusively from a woman's perspective and in a non linear fashion. It's art house, experimental, surreal, symbolic, dreamlike, erotic, low rent Lynchesque, if you will. The film has got in-your-face style.

The film begins with what looks like a discarded manequin, clad in a red dress laying in a field of burnt grass. A jetliner zooms into the frame overhead and we see that we are looking at the end of a runway. The manequin is a scantily clad woman, Claire (Barkin) sucks in a deep breath and awakens from a siesta.

Claire eyes herself, her dress is dirty, torn, rumpled, and darkly stained, the stains look like blood. They are blood. She panics and pulls up her dress to examine her body. She is nude beneath but unmarked. Another jet screams down to land on the runway and Claire jumps up and begins to run. She stops next to a drainage ditch with running water. The water is muddy but she strips off the dress and rinses out the blood. She washes the dirt and mud from her body and then lays down to sun dry. Jet planes are replaced by spiraling vultures.

Dryed off Claire runs to a nearby road and flags down a taxi. While riding in the back seat Claire trys to remember what happened and with flashbacks, flashforwards, and jump cuts, we the audience, and Claire, begin to piece the past five days together.

We discover that Claire for the last seven years has been a professional daredevil, her slogan is "Claire On A Dare". She is married to her promoter Del (Sheen) and they live in a airplane hanger. They are planning a 4th of July stunt in Death Valley a skydive into a burning net, but Claire after receiving a letter from her old lover Augustine (Byrne) who is living in Spain, gets a wild hair up her ass and decides to take off for Europe five days before the stunt.

Claire looking over the bruises on her body and remembering the blood on her dress begins to believe that something terrible may have happened. She thinks she may have killed somebody, but has no idea who. She continues to flashback.

Arriving in Spain, we see various episodes in Claire's life that occured during the last five days, or did they, are we seeing actual events, wishful daydreams, or acid trip hallicinations. The characters she encouters are odd, twisted, slightly off. The quirky taxi driver with metal teeth. The shaggy maned Julian Sands as Kit, a jaded artist and his sugar momma Nancy (Jodie Foster) sporting a British accent. Byrne playing a Spaniard is also interesting and convincing. I'm reminded of Charleton Heston and Marlene Dietrich playing a Mexicans in Touch Of Evil.

Claire tracks down Augustine but discovers that he has recently married Marie (Rossellini). Claire is unperturbed and boldly approches Augustine who initially pushes her off but finally relents. The result is catostrophic.

This is a gutsy performance by Barkin, who is both mesmerising and compelling as the obsessed amnesiac searching for the events of her life during the past five days. The film is odd, whacky, atmospheric, and mind tripping. It's full of religious symbolisim and ancient mythology. It definitely needs to be watched more than once to fully appreciate it. Each character Claire encounters are more than they seem.

The end has a twist but most of us will sort of guess it in advance, I know that I did. Miles Davis performs the haunting score. Sex And Death - Siesta. It is available on an R2 DVD from Germany in English. Worth a watch especially for Barkin fans, a 6-7/10.

Full review with extremely NSFW screencaps here

Requiem For A Heavyweight (1962) New York-Boxing Neo Noir

"Sport? Are you kidding? If there was headroom they'd hold these things in sewers."

Requiem For A Heavyweight easily slips into Pantheon of the Great Boxing films and additionally to the select few that are also Noirs, i.e., The Set-Up (1949), Champion (1949), The Harder They Fall (1956), Killers Kiss (1955), Bio Noir, Somebody Up There Likes Me (1956), Body and Soul (1947), and Bio Neo Noir, Raging Bull (1980).

The story originally debuted as a teleplay in 1956, with Jack Palance in the lead, it also had an uplifting ending. This 1962 big screen version is decidedly darker and melancholic. The 1962 film opening sequence is a fighters bar called a "Graveyard" the denizens are glued to a TV, we hear a prisefight, this segues into a POV of the fight in progress the camera against Cassius Clay, an homage to Robert Montgomerys Lady In The Lake (1947), and Dark Passage (1947).

Jakie Gleason is great as Maish the pragmatic sketchy heel who you feel a bit of empathy for, Gleason even throws fans of The Honeymooners a few bones during his card playing sequence with Mickey Rooney doing a Ralph Cramden and Ed Norton vibe.

Mickey Rooney shines as the melancholy, cutman with a heart, and Julie Harris is playing her regular schtick, a spinster, (at least for me, since that is the role I've usually seen her play), albiet one with a heart of gold. Her sequences with Quinn are both touching and disheartening.

Madame Spivy, is uniquely off putting as an obese froglike lump in mans clothes who rules the bookmaking world with a cadre of goons. You get reminded of the great Shirley Stoler.

All said and done you get the feeling that the actors actually did train and fight together for 17 years, their relastionships are that believable. 10/10

Full review with more screencaps here

The Missing Person (2009) The Soft Boiled Detective

Brilliantly directed and written by Noah Buschel (Neal Cassady (2007), Glass Chin (2014), The Phenom (2016)). The film contains some interesting cinematography by Ryan Samul (Cold in July (2014). It also has a great jazz score compiled by Jim Black.

The film stars Michael Shannon as P.I. John Rosow, Frank Wood as Harold Fullmer, Amy Ryan as Miss Charley, Linda Emond as Mrs. Fullmer, John Ventimiglia as cabbie Hero Furillo, Margaret Colin as Lana Cobb, Paul Sparks as NYPD cop Gus Papitos, Yul Vazquez as Don Edgar, Paul Adelstein as attorney Drexler Hewitt, Kate Arrington as Jane Rosow. The great Joe Lovano appears doing a sax solo.

The Missing Person is one of the best Detective Films to come along in years. The story is smart and original, with a witty sense of humor. The dialogue crisp.  It's partly a fish out of water story as NYC native John negotiates Southern California, and partly a psychological drama. The film is also an entertaining riff on past detective films, The Narrow Margin, Murder My Sweet, The Big Sleep, the later Harper, Marlowe and even Pulp Fiction. There is there's also a nod to Edward Hopper's classic oil, New York Movie, 1939.

It's a fresh, realistic tack that this detective tale takes. This is exactly the kind of film that actually advances our Classic Hardboiled Detective into a believable place in today's world, it renews and resets the genre. He's not the P.I. on steroids. He's not the perfect knight in shining armor, he's damaged, jaded, anxious, weary, bordering on melancholia. The weight of some hidden world seems to be upon him. Our modern small time P.I. is also a bit of dinosaur around the new technology, he's an ex NYPD cop, and an alcoholic. Our updated P.I. is pickled and has soft boiled cool.

The Missing Person is a gem, another Noir lovers wet dream. The film is highly stylized and nicely accented with jazz pieces throughout. The mood and atmosphere created by director Noah Buschel is a marvel. I'll be sure to check out the rest of his films.

Michael Shannon is extraordinary as Rosow, his performance is understated as the haunted, damaged hero, who still retains a modicum of "cool". The rest of the supporting cast is excellent. The screencaps are from the Strand Releasing DVD. 9/10 

Full review with screencaps here

Re: The Missing Person (2009) The Soft Boiled Detective

I hadn't heard of this film, so your review definitely grabbed my attention. I see it's available on Amazon streaming, so I'll be watching it soon.

Re: The Missing Person (2009) The Soft Boiled Detective

You'll be pleasantly surprised, I was.

Lenny (1974) Bio Noir

A Bio Noir directed by Bob Fosse (Sweet Charity (1969), Cabaret (1972) All That Jazz (1979), Star 80 (1983), and Chicago (2002)), a former variety show dancer, a musical theatre choreographer, a screenwriter, and an actor. Julian Barry's Oscar nominated screenplay for Lenny was based on his 1969 hit play Lenny. The incredibly strikingly crisp Black & White cinematography was by Bruce Surtees (Tightrope (1984).

Music by Ralph Burns and Miles Davis.

There is a very small sub genre of Classic Film Noirs and also Biographies or "true story" based films that have a quasi noir vibe, I call them Bio Noir's such as Dillinger (1945), Young Man with a Horn (1950), I'll Cry Tomorrow (1955), The Wrong Man (1956), Somebody Up There Likes Me (1956), The Bonnie Parker Story (1958), I Want To live (1958), Baby Face Nelson (1957), In Cold Blood (1967), The Honeymoon Killers (1970), and Raging Bull (1980). Lenny easily slips into this lineup, and takes top honors.

The film stars Dustin Hoffman as Lenny Bruce, Valerie Perrine as Hot Honey (Harlow) Bruce, Jan Miner as Sally Marr, Stanley Beck as agent Artie Silver Rashel Novikoff as Aunt Mema, Gary Morton as Sherman Hart, and Guy Rennie as Jack Goldman and an outstanding cast of other supporting players.

The film is non linear, events are portrayed out of chronological order combined with the use of Classic Noir style flashbacks and new wave jump cuts. The film bounces about between recorded interview footage of Honey Bruce (Perrine) and agent Artie Silver (Beck), depictions of their various biographical milestones, live performances of Lenny Bruce's comedy shtick (during his dive bar days, his prime when he was riding a wave of popularity, and when he was burned out and on the skids, obsessing on stage over his court transcripts), the sexy stripper routines of Hot Honey Harlow, the heroin junkie shooting galleries and the various court appearances of Bruce for flouting obscenity laws. He was a social commentary comic way before his time, talking about and poking fun at the extremely taboo subjects of religion, race, and sex. He was doing his shtick against "The Man", and got squeezed out of mainstream show business by insider pressure and silenced by outside threats put upon the operators of small venues that held the liquor licenses.

Lenny is not only a Bio Noir but you can equally call it a Show Biz Noir. It's an insightful, informed depiction by Fosse of the show biz of small clubs, bars and lounges, with house jazz bands, and traveling comics and strippers that replaced traditional Burlesque and flourished in the late 40s through the early 60s. Lenny contains up front one of the most Noir-ish and beautifully choreographed stripping routine performed by Valerie Perrine.

There's only a small string of films that I can rattle off, Gilda (1946), Armored Car Robbery (1950), The Glass Wall (1953), Girl On The Run (1953), The City That Never Sleeps (1953), The Man With Golden Arm (1955), The Big Combo (1955), Beyond A Reasonable Doubt (1956), Screaming Mimi (1958), Two Men in Manhattan (1959), Satan In High Heels (1962), Angels Flight (1964) and Marlowe (1969). All Noir/Neo Noirs that either under the Hayes Code, hinted at stripping Rita Hayworth's routine in Gilda, had supporting characters in the biz, Adele Jergens in Armored Car Robbery, Robin Raymond in The Glass Wall, Mala Powers in The City That Never Sleeps, Helene Stanton in The Big Combo, Kim Novak in The Man With The Golden Arm, Barbara Nichols in Beyond A Reasonable Doubt, Michèle Bailly in Two Men In Manhattan, and Rita Moreno in Marlowe) or were actually about strippers/burlesque, Rosemary Pettit and Rene De Milo (an actual stripper) in Girl On The Run, Anita Ekberg in Screaming Mimi, Meg Myles in Satan In High Heels, and Indus Arthur in Angels Flight. These last three mentioned actually doing routines at small clubs very similar to those that Lenny Bruce and Honey Harlow actually performed in.

The best of them actually featured complete or large parts of routines, and as we got further away from the 1940's and with the crumbling of the Hayes Code the more realistic they got. The top three are Rene De Milo's suggestive performance during the production code in Girl On The Run, and I'll give a tie to Rita Moreno glamour strip performance in Marlowe with Valerie Perrine's noir strip in Lenny. Perrine's routine being probably the best benchmark for what a Classic Film Noir striptease might have looked like if we had never had the Hayes Code.

Bob Fosse and Bruce Surtees do for a striptease what Robert Wise and Milton R. Krasner did for the boxing prizefight in The Setup (1949). The juxtapose the action with the crowd reactions.

Both Dustin Hoffman and Valerie Perrine were legitimately Oscar worthy. Hoffman brilliantly performs Lenny Bruce's material (it's still relevant and has the potential to shock) and gives us some insight through his acting ability into Bruce's obsessive personality, which clues us to, in a backhanded manner, the reasons for his collapse and death. You get the strong impression that it wasn't caused by just his legal harassment.

This film is Perrine's high water mark, she shows quite a bit of range going from hard core stripper, to cute young wife, to swinging bisexual, to crumbling hophead. Her stint as a Las Vegas showgirl combined with Fosse's choreographic background pushes her eye popping strip performance into the Noir stratosphere. It"s a true shame that the subject of the film prevents it even now from being seen by wider audiences

Jan Miner plays Sally Marr Lenny's live and let live attitude Jewish mother who got Lenny started in the biz. She was a borscht belt comic and emcee, Rashel Novikoff as Lenny's Aunt Mema during the family time sequences is hilarious. Stanley Beck is entertaining as his slick agent Artie Silver.

What was the real Lenny like, we'll probably never know completely. I'm sure the film had to sugar coat and skirt a lot of details to get made. Check out the Albert Goldman-Lawrence Schiller biography, "Ladies and Gentlemen, Lenny Bruce!!" 10/10

NSFW Screencaps with full review here:

Re: Lenny (1974) Bio Noir

Great! I must check this out. Lenny Bruce was truly one of the strangest but most interesting personalities of the last century.

Now with the other movies you mentioned, we may have a new category: Strip Noir. You can add Hell Bound to that list.

Jessica Rabbit
"I'm not bad. I'm just drawn that way."

Re: Lenny (1974) Bio Noir

Never heard of Hell Bound, where did you see it.

Re: Lenny (1974) Bio Noir

I bought it on Amazon. It's really quite good, I wrote a review a few weeks ago. As it is from 1957, of course the striptease is mild.

Jessica Rabbit
"I'm not bad. I'm just drawn that way."

Re: Lenny (1974) Bio Noir

I was in Miami must have missed it, I'll go back and check it out.

Lost Highway (1997) Bizarre Noir from the Twilight Zone

R rated for BIZARRE, VIOLENT and SEXUAL CONTENT and for Strong Language, a blue screen MPAA film rating at the beginning of David Lynch's Lost Highway, pretty much enticingly sums up one of the best of the 1990s Neo Noirs.

Directed by David Lynch (Blue Velvet (1986), Twin Peaks (19901991 TV series), Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (1992), Wild at Heart (1990), The Straight Story (1999), Mulholland Drive (2001), written by David Lynch and novelist Barry Gifford (Wild at Heart (1990)). The captivating cinematography is from Peter Deming (My Cousin Vinny (1992), Mulholland Drive (2001), Twin Peaks (TV Series, (2017)) and the unsettling mood Music is from the great Angelo Badalamenti (who has collaborated with David Lynch on many projects since Blue Velvet).

The film stars Bill Pullman (The Last Seduction (1994), Zero Effect (1998), The Killer Inside Me (2010)) as Fred Madison, Patricia Arquette (True Romance (1993)) as Renee Madison/Alice Wakefield, Balthazar Getty (Natural Born Killers (1994)) as Pete Dayton, Robert Loggia (Somebody Up There Likes Me (1956), Naked City TV Series (19581963), Scarface (1983)) as Mr. Eddy/Dick Laurent, Robert Blake (Black Hand (1950), In Cold Blood (1967), Electra Glide in Blue (1973)) as The Mystery Man, Gary Busey as Bill Dayton, Pete's father, Lucy Butler as Candace Dayton, Pete's mother, Michael Massee as Andy, Richard Pryor as Arnie, Natasha Gregson Wagner as Sheila, John Roselius as Al, Louis Eppolito as Ed, and Jack Nance (Hammett (1982), Blue Velvet (1986), Wild at Heart (1990), The Hot Spot (1990)) as Phil.

Psychological Noirs have always been part of Classic Film Noir, the best know one is 1950s In A Lonely Place. Lost Highway is vaguely similar to one of its predecessors 1966's Mister Buddwing, Lost Highway is a powerful psychological, anxiety, filled noir, though where Mister Buddwing dealt all externally with the story, in Lost Highway it is all internal. In this case we get a clue straight up front, from the credit sequence. A powerfully graphic image of headlights speeding frantically down a dark highway, each dashed centerline flashing like fragments of thoughts. This sequence is accompanied by David Bowie's haunting "I'm Deranged" with a tinkling discordant piano, we are not dwelling with a "normal" world. We are observing a surreality through the eyes of an insane man, it's frightening, the ultimate noir, life as a lost highway in a void, with no map, and no way back.

I like to remember things my own way. How I remember them; not necessarily the way they happened.

Fred Madison (Pullman) jazz saxophonist. Club Luna. Married to a red haired Bettie Page channeling ex-porn star Renee (Arquette). Hollywood Hills minimalist homestead. Fred jealous. Fred stressed. Fred bummed out. Fred can't get it up. Renee restless. Renee straying off the reservation.

Fred calls home to check on Renee, no one is there to pick up the phone. While Fred blows sax, round heels Renee is too, probably doing her own virtuoso playing the skin flute. Sleazeball lounge lizard Andy (Massee) and Mr. Eddy aka Dick Laurent (Loggia) are the suspects.

A videotape shows up with the mail. It's a tape that would be physically impossible to shoot, but it shows Renee and Fred in bed in their womb colored bedroom.

More mysterious videotapes arrive compounding Fred's anxiety.

Fred already at the edge goes off the deep end when at a party at Andy's house he "meets" the "Mystery Man" (Blake) dressed in black. It's not quite what it seems, the music dies out and Fred has a conversation with him, it's probably all in his head and the Mystery Man is possibly the personification of evil sparked by jealousy.

There is a lot of speculation as to the nature of the Mystery Man, one interpretation is that Fred's uncontrollable jealousy invites EVIL into his "house" i.e., his head. He could also be the personification of Fred's insanity.

Soon Fred finds himself just like in the last video tape in his bedroom next to the bloody, dismembered corpse of Renee and then sitting in solitary on Death Row watching the lights flicker as another fellow inmate is electrocuted.

The second half of the film is either a dream or a hallucination. Fred imagines another scenario, another life. He becomes Pete Dayton (Getty), the jail guards find Dayton in the cell that held Fred Madison, who has apparently vanished into thin air. The guards let Dayton go. Dayton works as a mechanic in Arnie's (Pryor) garage, he has a girl Sheila (Wagner), and lives with his folks (Busey & Butler). A gangster Mr. Eddy (Loggia) is a regular patron at the shop. He like's Pete for his expertise in taking care of his cars, a Mercedes and a Caddy.

One day Mr. Eddy shows up with Alice (Arquette) his mistress, who this time is in blond bombshell (a combo Marilyn Monroe, Jane Mansfield, Diana Dors) mode. Pete is awestruck, mesmerized, and soon with accelerated encouragement from Alice they are screwing feverishly on a regular basis in hot sheet motels.

From both the Madison and Dayton versions of reality we learn that Renee/Alice was most possibly a prostitute who met Andy at a club, and that Andy worked for Dick Laurent/Mr Eddy recruiting women for his porn film business. One day Andy approached Alice about a job. She was given an address and when arriving told to wait in the foyer. When she was finally admitted into the house she found herself at what looked like a private party of a dozen or so male guests run by Mr. Eddy. She was made to strip at gunpoint and we last see her on her knees before Mr. Eddy.

It's not surprisingly left to the imagination, in a perverted sort of updated Classic Noir Hayes code homage, but she apparently serviced the group, and when Pete asks her how come she didn't leave or call the police, Alice doesn't deny to Pete that it was because she liked it. Even these revelations don't deter Pete who is apparently been as they say "f-ed stupid" by Alice, and when she greedily proposes a heist of Andy's house so that she can escape Mr. Eddy he's down with it.

The details of recurring characters saying the same lines, the fact that both Renee and Alice are in the same photographs and porn films, constantly reinforces the derangement of Fred Madison in his alternate realities, nothing is ever spelled out. You just don't quite know what's what and this results in endless interpretations of the film.

Lost Highway is filled with Neo Noir stylistics, flashbacks, Dutch angles, low key lighting, extreme closeups, shadows, and monochrome, muted, and contrasting colors.

Bill Pullman has a deer in the headlights, fatigued, Dan Duryea/Zachary Scott vibe in this. Michael Massee does a great, pencil thin mustache sporting, greasy looking sleazeball, his demise is unforgettably Lynchesque. Robert Loggia's Dick Laurent/Mr Eddy as a slightly odd ball gangster with a hair trigger personality is entertaining. Robert Blake as the Mystery Man is very creepy. Patricia Arquette is wonderfully decadent as Renee/Alice the films duplicitous, psychotic, sweet and sour Femme Fatale.

Lost Highway is Lynch at his most audacious. It's lovingly been referred to as a psychogenic fugue," an elaborate ellipse, or a ride on a Moebius Strip rollercoaster. The score by Badalamenti, the various soundtracks, and the sound design all complement and greatly enhance the films eerie, nightmarish, disturbing atmosphere. A prime time Twilight Zone for adults. 10/10

Fuller review with screencaps here:

Re: Lost Highway (1997) Bizarre Noir from the Twilight Zone

I watched this one recently, great movie, and most definitely BIZARRE, VIOLENT and SEXUAL, as well as CREEPY. The first half of the movie genuinely spooked me, it's incredibly creepy, also because of the way Lynch uses the camera and shadows. And it just gets more bizarre after the transformation.

Patricia Arquette is fantastic as usual, she has something special about her. Even in this unique movie she still manages to stand out.

As an aside, seeing former hardcore punk singer Henry Rollins in random movies & TV series (and even a noir documentary) never fails to amuse me. He plays a prison guard here (he's the younger one in the prison screenshot on mgtbltp's excellent blogpost).

Re: Lost Highway (1997) Bizarre Noir from the Twilight Zone

Thanks for the review, reminds me that I should watch this again. As for Lynch, compared to Inland Empire this film is downright accessible. I've seen it several times whereas I'm not even tempted to watch IE again (although I have watched the Nina Simone end credits number on Youtube).

It cant be easy to act in a Lynch film, his characters often undergoing an identity switch or some sort of schizophrenic existential crisis. It would be interesting to see one of his marked up scripts (or whatever it is he works from) or his instructions to his actors as they set up the scene.

I'm with you on Patricia Arquette. I loved her in this film; Renee/Alice is one of the great femme fatales of the neo era.

Lynch seems to have lost his mojo a bit, hopefully Twin Peaks will be worthy of the time it has taken to get it completed.

The Manchurian Candidate (1962) Cold War Noir

It's amusing to imagine the audience reactions to the film when it first premiered during the Cuban Missile Crisis. A film about an embedded communist assassin effecting a presidential election campaign with the world on the brink of a nuclear holocaust must have additionally upped the anxiety levels of many. I never saw the film when it was first released. I was too busy doing air raid drills, hiding under my school desk with my head between my legs getting ready to kiss my a$$ goodbye.

Directed by John Frankenheimer. The screenplay was written by George Axelrod and is based on the 1959 novel The Manchurian Candidate by Richard Condon. Cinematography was by Lionel Lindon. Music was by David Amram, film editing was by Ferris Webster and production design by Richard Sylbert.

The film stars Frank Sinatra (Suddenly (1954), The Man with the Golden Arm (1955), ), Laurence Harvey (BUtterfield 8 (1960), Walk on the Wild Side (1962)), and Janet Leigh (Act of Violence (1948), Rogue Cop (1954),Touch of Evil (1958), Psycho (1960), Harper (1966), ); co-starring are Angela Lansbury (Gaslight (1944), ), Henry Silva, James Gregory (Nightfall (1956), The Big Caper (1957)), John McGiver, James Edwards and Khigh Dhiegh.

Korean War. US Platoon. Bennett Marco (Sinatra), Captain, Italian. Raymond Shaw (Harvey), Sergeant, goes by the book. Loner. Mama's boy. *beep* Has a stick up his ass. Seven other G.I.'s . Out on recon. Led into trap. Captured by Chinese/Soviets. Drugged, Brainwashed. Several days later they cross back to US Lines, all have same story. Shaw saved their lives. A Bad Ass. Single handedly wiped out a Chinese company. Big hero. All platoo survivors have same praise "Raymond Shaw is the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being I've ever known in my life."

Shaw is awarded Medal Of Honor. Marco is promoted to Major. Marco and rest of platoon all have a crazy recurring nightmare, they are attending a Ladies function at a hotel listening to a lecture about hydrangeas, but the nightmare/flashback keeps switching between the lecture and a small amphitheater full with Chinese, Soviet, and communist brass and medical personnel. What frightens them the most is that they see a conditioned Shaw brutally murder, machine like, without any emotion, the two platoon members who didn't make it back.

Marco is hipped. The brainwashing not quite complete. He goes to Army Intel. He describes the nightmare/flashback. Allen Melvin another platoon member has same recall. Intel investigates. Marco and Melvin identify some of the men in the dream as leading figures in communist circles.

Raymond Shaw's mother, Mrs. Eleanor Iselin (Angela Lansbury), has big plans. She's a cold hearted schemer. In a nod to McCarthyism, her plan is to make her chowderhead, red baiting, husband Senator John Yerkes Iselin (James Gregory), who sees communists embedded in all branches of government, President of the United States.

Mrs. Iselin is in reality a card carrying commie. Her plan involves using Raymond who is now a communist trained assassin, to murder the presidential candidate during his acceptance speech at the convention, thereby having her husband (the vice presidential candidate) lead the ticket.

Raymond is triggered into various actions by a Queen Of Diamonds playing card. When displayed he obeys instructions, and has no memory afterwards. Shaw is overseen by Chunjin (Henry Silva), a North Korean agent who is employed as his houseboy.

As Marco gets closer to the truth and Mrs. Iselin eliminates, using Raymond, all obstacles to her plans the the film escalates to an exciting conclusion

The film is both a thriller and a somewhat of a political satire. The communist brainwashers are juxtaposed against right wing buffoons.

Laurence Harvey is outstanding as the mama's boy/assassin, he's always struck me as phony, unreal, a douche, nobody really talks like that normally, but it all feeds into and builds the story. Sinatra is good as Marco the haunted Major who breaks the case. Angela Lansbury steals the show as Mrs. Iselin a duplicitous bitch. James Gregory is entertaining as he sanctimoniously spouts baloney. Henry Silva and Khigh Dhiegh play the villains well. The only disappointment was Janet Leigh's Eugenie Rose Chaney a character that seems to be just a tacked on love interest for Marco.MGM special edition DVD 9/10

Full review with screencaps are here:

Hotel Noir (2012)

Hotel Noir (2012): Los Angeles, late 50s. Police detective Rufus Sewell ('Dark City') steals a suitcase full of money from a group of robbers who just did a successful heist. He holes up in a hotel room while trying to think of his next move. In the course of the night he comes into contact with a string of people including shower door installer Danny DeVito ('L.A. Confidential'), nightclub singer Carla Gugino ('Sin City') and cleaning lady Rosario Dawson ('Sin City'), and as the movie progresses, all the links between the various characters become clearer and tighter.

Written and directed by Sebastian Gutierrez ('Gothika', 'Judas Kiss') this neo-noir somehow went under the radar and wasn't even theatrically released?! The cast above is well-known as is, but it also includes other well-known faces like Robert Forster ('Mulholland Drive') and Kevin Connolly ('Entourage') In any case, it's a shame as this is clearly a labor of love. The movie plays out in a non-linear fashion with a lot of flashbacks, voice-over narration (by different persons) and people telling their side of things so gradually more and more information is revealed and how each person fits into the overall story. It's a neo-noir through and through, but it also stands out in many ways. Filmed in gorgeous black & white the movie starts off focusing on DeVito, before turning to Sewell or is it really Gugino's story? Or someone else's? Because of the way it is told, paying attention is required, as well as sticking with it Things are fairly slow at first because all the characters need to be introduced somehow, including some which do seem a bit redundant and don't add a lot to the end result. But as the pace of revealing information increases, so does the movie's level. It's not a perfect movie by any means, but a fairly unique neo-noir all the same and well worth watching. 7/10

Available on Netflix (or so I read, I don't have Netflix myself), I saw this on a German blu-ray release (there's also an Australian release I think, but it's still not released elsewhere it seems?!) I have no idea why distributors haven't picked this one up yet?! Crazy

Straight Time (1978)

A lot to appreciate here. The film is a great character study of a man (Dustin Hoffman) who has been in and out of jail since he was 12. Now he is out on parole and wants to live a decent life but he locks horns with an inefficient and sadistic parole officer which puts him back on the path of crime.

The film boasts of some really tense heist scenes. And some realistic car chases. A lot of scenes are shot around fast food joints, cafes and bars.

Theresa Russell is easy on the eyes as the jailbird's square girlfriend. Gary Buesy, Harry Dean Stanton and M.Emmet Walsh form the stellar supporting cast. A young and attractive Kathy Bates plays Busey's wife. Hoffman plays the tough hero in his own unique way.

I love the sentimental score by David Shire.

I read in the trivia section that Michael Mann worked on the script. I wonder whether the book inspired Thief. I have read the novel by Edward Bunker - No Beast So Fierce on which this film is based. It was also quite good.

I have a soft corner for films like Straight Time and Sherry Baby where the protagonist is out of jail and trying to fit back into society.


Re: Hotel Noir (2012)

Thanks for that. I'd absolutely love to see this film. In b/w too. I'll try to track it down.

Jessica Rabbit
"I'm not bad. I'm just drawn that way."

Re: Hotel Noir (2012)

I think you'd really like it one. Please do share your thoughts on this one when you manage to watch it.

Re: Hotel Noir (2012)

Unfortunately not on youtube or Dailymotion. I'll have to track it down. Don't have Netflix.

Jessica Rabbit
"I'm not bad. I'm just drawn that way."

Re: Hotel Noir (2012)

Re: Hotel Noir (2012)

Hi XHC,I hope I don't offend you and Jess by joining both of you in the locker room?!

Tough Guys Don't Dance (1987)

I reread Mailer's book recently. So I decided to check out the film too. Tough Guys Don't Dance begins with some great establishing shots of the beautiful seaside American small town called Provincetown. It is very much a film of place.

Mailer has played with the novel's structure while making the movie. Ryan O Neal is not very convincing as Tim Madden. In the book, Madden was a lot more funnier. Debra Stipe as Patty Lareine was also miscast. Wings Hauser looked the part of Alvin Luther Regency but fails during the climax scene. Anyway, it was wonderfully over the top with Mailer retaining some of the hilarious and dirty dialogs (He has the biggest prick in Christendom!) from the book.

There were issues with lighting with too many scenes using way too much light. Mailer gives a lot of attention to the film's supernatural elements. I wish somebody would remake the film. Coppola was the executive producer maybe he should have a go at it. Or maybe David Lynch ought to do it. It would be as interesting as Twin Peaks.

(7/10) - mostly because I love the novel and could understand what was actually going on.

Re: Hotel Noir (2012)

But dahling, the more the merrier.

Jessica Rabbit
"I'm not bad. I'm just drawn that way."

Re: Hotel Noir (2012)

Wonderful. :)

Jessica Rabbit
"I'm not bad. I'm just drawn that way."

Re: Hotel Noir (2012)

Thank you for the superb review (which I've ticked) XHC,and looking on Amazon I find it funny that the German Blu is cheaper than any DVD version! Recently seeing her in the far better than expected 4th wall breaking Horror Comedy The Final Girls,I was wondering how you found Malin Akerman to be?

Re: Hotel Noir (2012)

She definitely brought the femme fatale looks to her part, but I felt she missed the mark on the femme fatale feel.

Payback (1999) Point Blank Redux

Payback is the third interpretation of Donald E. Westlake's novel The Hunter (1962), written under the pseudonym Richard Stark. A crime thriller novel, the first of the Parker novels. The other films are John Boorman's Point Blank (1967), starring Lee Marvin and Ringo Lam's Full Contact (1992), starring Chow Yun-fat.

Payback was directed by Brian Helgeland and written Brian Helgeland (screenplay) and Terry Hayes (screenplay), (theatrical cut). Cinematography was by Ericson Core, and music was by Chris Boardman.

The film stars Mel Gibson as Porter, Gregg Henry as Val Resnick, Maria Bello as Rosie, Lucy Liu as Pearl, Deborah Kara Unger as Lynn Porter, David Paymer as Arthur Stegman, Bill Duke as Detective Hicks, Jack Conley as Detective Leary, John Glover as Phil, William Devane as Carter, James Coburn as Fairfax, Kris Kristofferson as Bronson (Theatrical Cut), Sally Kellerman as Bronson (Director's Cut), Trevor St. John as Johnny Bronson (Theatrical Cut), Freddy Rodriguez as Valet, Manu Tupou as Pawnbroker.

The film is not without controversy "although credited as director, Brian Helgeland's cut of the film was not the theatrical version released to audiences. After the end of principal photography, Helgeland's version was deemed too dark for the mainstream public. Following a script rewrite by Terry Hayes, director Helgeland was replaced by the production designer John Myhre, who reshot 30% of the film. The intent was to make the Porter character accessible. The film's tagline became: "Get Ready to Root for the Bad Guy." A potentially controversial scene which arguably involves spousal abuse was excised and more plot elements were added to the third act. After 10 days of re-shoots, a new opening scene and voiceover track also were added, and Kris Kristofferson walked on as a new villain." (Wikipedia)

I've seen both versions. The best film version in my opinion would be roughly, the theatrical release with the narration and blue tint up to the killing of Carter (exorcising most of the Lucy Liu/Tong revenge angle) then go with the director's cut (but keeping the blue tint) to the ambiguous end. I'd keep the beating also.

The film looks great in a Noir-ish way. It homages beautifully classic noir with it voice over narration, the heavy use of stylistics and locations that evoke cinematic memory. Gregg Henry is impressive he evokes the spirit of Dan Duryea.Unfortunately the film goes somewhat slowly off the rails with various scenarios, i.e. Porter cutting a gas line under a an 80s Lincoln which would be physically impossible to do, you can't squeeze under that type of car, no way, and the unneeded extraneous additions of dominatrix Pearl (Liu ) and the Chinese Tong machine gun battle where it veers off into Action film and touches on Tarantino land, when it didn't have to, a shame. The majority of Films Noir were simple stories when you overload then with action sequences you tip the film past the noir tipping point it becomes more of the Action Genre, for me anyway.

Give it a fair shake your personal noir tuning fork may accept it more than mine does. Watch also the Film Soleil adaptation of the novel, Point Blank (1967), for a comparison, same story set in California. I haven't seen Chow Yun-fat's Full Contact (1992). Screencaps are from the Paramount DVD. 6.5-7/10

Fuller review with screencaps here:

Re: Payback (1999) Point Blank Redux

A late reply, but I just got this on blu-ray a few days ago, which has both versions. I had previously only seen the theatrical version, and watched the director's cut last night. It does 'miss' the blue tint (altho the slightly muted and grainy look is also not too bad) but I do prefer this much grimmer and unforgiving version (it doesn't even attempt to make Gibson/Porter likeable). A combination of the best of both worlds would be ideal, as you say.

The blu-ray has (aside from commentary and a few featurettes) a short but cool interview with author Donald E. Westlake. He wrote the Parker novel on which this movie was based under a pseudonym, Richard Stark (I didn't realize he wrote many Parker novels). He mentions how the name Richard Stark came about, stark because that is the style he wanted to write the first parker novel in, and Richard because that was the first name of one of his favorite actors, Richard Widmark! I thought that was funny :)

Jessica Jones (2015-)

Jessica Jones (2015-): Krysten 'Jessica Jones' Ritter works as a private eye in NYC, trying to keep a low profile, as she's got superhuman strength which she doesn't care about sharing with the world. However, she also has another reason to keep a low profile, an ex-boyfriend of hers, David Tennant, who has a superpower of his own, he can command anybody he wants by simply talking to them. With this power he also made Jessica do terrible things in the past. When Tennant returns to NYC and causes a young woman to kill her parents in front of Jessica, she realizes she can't hide anymore.

It might be weird to write about a Marvel superhero TV series on the Film Noir board, but just like the great and unfortunately cancelled 'Agent Carter' series, Jessica Jones is not yer average superhero. This series is quite different from 'Agent Carter' however, it is really dark and gloomy and Jessica is as far removed from a Captain America styled superhero as can be. She's a misanthropic, mean-spirited and bitter anti-hero whose main mistake from her past, hooking up with David Tennant, comes back to haunt her in many ways (including a tragedy in the past of bartender, and also superhero keeping a low profile, Mike 'Luke Cage' Colter that she had a hand in). Tennant is the homme fatal here, using his mental powers to play god and terrorize Ritter. David Tennant, a former Dr. Who, is awesome and incredibly creepy in this series, and some of the ways he uses his powers to protect himself are both clever as well as downright terrifying. Ritter is also great, her Jessica Jones is not likeable (on the surface) as she's also not above using others for her own reasons but you can still somewhat understand her. There are several more important characters introduced in this series who all add to the overall story, and some of which also end up dead (without giving away too much, Tennant has no qualms instructing people to kill themselves if it suits his needs).

The only negative of this series to me is the involvement and backstory of a beat cop who is initially controlled by Tennant but ends up wanting to kill him, and who was once part of a secretive army unit experimenting with performance enhancing drugs. It is a bit too much. That might sound weird considering this is essentially a superhero TV series, but within the context of this series I found it distracting and too much of a 'coincidence'.

Each episode is directed by a different director, which occasionally shows, as some episodes suffer from a lesser defined atmosphere (this series is more about mood and atmosphere than action). One director is especially noteworthy here, as it's John Dahl who directed 'The Last Seduction' and 'Red Rock West'. Needless to say, his episode has no problems in regards to tension and creepiness. All in all, it took me a couple of episodes to really get into this series, but now I'm hooked. There's only one season so far, but there should be a second season next year. It's not a neo-noir TV series in the vain of True Detective or the Scandinavian series that are endlessly ripped off, but it's dark, gritty and not what I expected (it's way better!). Highly recommended! 8+/10

Trance (2013)

Trance (2013): Auctioneer James McAvoy has a gambling problem, and owes night club owner and loan shark Vincent Cassel a lot of money. When an expensive Goya painting comes up for auction, they come up with a plan, and successfully steal it. McAvoy gets a little too enthusiastic however, and Cassel knocks him unconscious during the heist. However, the painting is gone, and McAvoy was the last to see it. But the blow to his head gave him amnesia. Cassel and McAvoy turn to hypnotherapist Rosario Dawson to recover his memory of what happened. Dawson discovers the real identity of McAvoy however and wants in on the deal in exchange for helping them.

The plot unravels as it goes along, so not everything outlined in the plot above is immediately clear. And there are plenty more twists and turns to follow. In essence, the noirness of this movie lies in the characters, they all try to lie, cheat and double-cross one another. Just when you think you have a character figured out, something changes. Funnily enough, despite the movie centering around a painting worth over 25 million pounds sterling, there is almost zero mention of a police investigation into the heist. The movie focuses squarely on the back&forth games between McAvoy (young Professor Xavier in the X-Men movies), Cassel ('Public Enemy No 1') and Dawson ('Sin City'), who are all excellent here. They don't trust each other but they have to. The movie also doesn't try to lighten the mood, it's grim, bloody and violent where it has to be, and never humourous or playful, adding to the noir feel. Cassel has several of McAvoy's fingernails pulled before he believes McAvoy really has amnesia for instance. And for once, there's a full frontal nude shot (of Dawson) that actually has some significance to the plot, but it's not explained until much later into the movie (the lead up to this shot also offers a clue in itself, heh).

The movie was directed by Danny Boyle and shot by Anthony Dod Mantle, who worked together on movies like 'Slumdog Millionaire' and '28 Days Later'. They give the movie a slightly over-exposed dream-like look to coincide with McAvoy's amnesia, regularly showing/obscuring things through cloudy windows and with lamps shining directly into the camera, which also serves to make the viewer weary of what they're seeing, whether it's reality or what a character sees/experiences while hypnotized. But during the grimmer scenes they're also not afraid to display a grittier cinematography, creating a stark contrast between scenes that helps with the tension. It's a good movie that leaves you guessing right until the end. It maybe offers a few too many twists along the way, but it's well worth watching and not just for a nude Dawson ;) 7+/10

Re: Trance (2013)

A superb review Xhc for one of my favourite Neo-Noirs.Your comment on the "slightly over-exposed dream-like look" perfectly sums up the pristine appearance of the title,with this being what I wrote,after seeing it on the big screen in 2013:


Whilst I have to admit that I originally confused him for Emile Hirsch when I first saw the poster for the movie,James McAvoy gives a brilliant distinctive performance that no one could ever mistake of being a duplicate,with McAvoy showing Simon's business exterior to shatter into a thousand pieces that reveal a scrambled mind which is becoming destroyed by the shady gangster,grim Neo-Noir world that Simon has unwittingly trapped himself.

Contrasting McAvoy's psychologically melting performance, the beautiful Rosario Dawson's extremely subtle performance gives a number of "innocent" scenes in the film a completely new meaning on a repeat viewing.

With Dawson (who also bravely does a number of scenes completely naked,that are gradually revealed to be connected to Simon's desperate attempt in remembering where he hid the art work)initially making Elizabeth appear to be the only ray of light in Simon's Neo-Noir world,when in fact,Elizabeth is actually doing everything she can to keep her past in the shadows and also keep away from being dragged back into a grim world that Elizabeth barely pulled her deeply wounded body out from.

Showing that the movie is far more than a mere "lap of honor",director Danny Boyle stylishly covers the film in glass,which along with showing that none of the characters in the film can trust the imagines that they see before their eyes,is also cleverly used by Boyle to hypnotize the viewer into seeing double vision reflections,that only reveal their true selves once the trance has been broken.

Along with the reflective images,Boyle also dazzles the movie in a Neo-Noir atmosphere by scattering the screen with stylised neon lights,which along with allowing the darkest corners of Simons's mind to be glimpsed at,also shows the darkness of the characters lives,as each of them go to more extremes in pushing Simon to remember the location of the long forgotten panting,which makes Trance a transfixing Neo-Noir that no viewer will want to be snapped out from.

Re: Trance (2013)

Ah, I'm sure it must've looked great on the big screen, it's definitely is a visually beautiful movie! Great review btw, browsed through the review pages so I could send you a tick, hah

Have you seen 'Stay' (2005)? Not a neo-noir, but in some ways it's a 'similar' movie where the visuals (and the editing) compliment the character's mind. If you've not seen it yet, I can recommend it.

Harper (1966) Hired by a bitch to find scum

Ross Macdonald is the main pseudonym that was used by the American-Canadian writer of crime fiction Kenneth Millar (December 13, 1915 July 11, 1983). He is best known for his series of hardboiled novels set in Southern California and featuring private detective Lew Archer.

Harper was the adaptation of Ross Macdonald's first Archer novel "The Moving Target" published in 1949. The film was directed by Jack Smight (The Twilight Zone (TV Series), Naked City (TV Series), The Alfred Hitchcock Hour (TV Series)), and was adapted for the screen by novelist William Goldman (No Way to Treat a Lady (1968)). Cinematography was by Conrad L. Hall (The Outer Limits (TV Series)).

The film stars Paul Newman (Somebody Up There Likes Me (1956), Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958), The Hustler (1961), Hud (1963)) as Lew Harper, Lauren Bacall (The Big Sleep (1946), Dark Passage (1947), Key Largo (1948)) as Elaine Sampson, Julie Harris (The Haunting (1963), Requiem For A Heavyweight (1962)) as Betty Fraley, Arthur Hill as Albert Graves, Janet Leigh (Act of Violence (1948), Rogue Cop (1954), Touch of Evil (1958), Psycho (1960)) as Susan Harper, Pamela Tiffin as Miranda Sampson, Robert Wagner (A Kiss Before Dying (1956)), as Allan Taggert, Robert Webber (Highway 301 (1950), 12 Angry Men (1957), Alfred Hitchcock Presents (TV Series), Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (1974)) as Dwight Troy, Shelley Winters (Larceny (1948), Cry of the City (1948), Johnny Stool Pigeon (1949), The Raging Tide (1951), The Night of the Hunter (1955), The Big Knife (1955), I Died a Thousand Times (1955), Odds Against Tomorrow (1959)) as Fay Estabrook, Harold Gould (The Satan Bug (1965)) as Sheriff Spanner, Roy Jenson (The Harder They Fall (1956), Al Capone (1959)) as Puddler, and Strother Martin (The Asphalt Jungle (1950), Scandal Sheet (1952), Kiss Me Deadly (1955), Brainstorm (1965)) as Claude.

"The Moving Target" was set in 1949, Harper moves the action up to the 65-66 (present at the time), with the only throwback to the 50s being the robin's egg blue 1955 Porsche 356 A Speedster that Newman drives, which I also see as a nod to 1955's Kiss Me Deadly opening sequence with Meeker driving a 1950 Jaguar XK 120 Roadster.

This film is in the Classic Hollywood style of P.I. flicks, Newman's Harper is almost in the same mold as Sam Spade, and Philip Marlowe. Harper has that same quality of wisecracking cool, that's essential for your classic P.I. Though Harper doesn't drink a lot or smoke, he's more of a habitual gum chewer, the various ways he disposes of his wads are good for a few chuckles.

The local is also Chandleresque, Southern California with its beaches rising up to yellow burnt grasslands, oak savannas, chaparral, and pine hillsides that are populated with millionaires, movie folk, sleazy lawyers, lustful lassies, jazz junkies, kooks, and weirdos.

One of the classiest parts of Harper is the opening credit sequence which depicts Harper as a less than successful private eye living in a combo office/crash pad. He's got a desk, a convertible sofa bed, a small fridge, a hot plate and an adjoining bathroom with toilet, sink, and shower. He wakes up, soaks his head in ice water, and boils water to make coffee, only to find he's out of coffee, so he snatches up yesterday's filter paper and used grounds out of the trash. Café avec des ordures, Starbucks it ain't.

Harper is on his way to a gig laid on him by his shyster pal Albert Graves (Hill). The client is Elaine Sampson (Bacall) a rich woman whose husband is missing. Rounding out the household is Miranda Sampson (Tiffin) the **** daughter who we first see jiggling about in a skimpy bikini, and Allan Taggert (Wagner) the family's private pilot.

When Harper first meets Elaine the dialog in the film pokes a bit of fun at the genre.

Elaine Sampson: Drink, Mr. Harper?
Lew Harper: Not before lunchtime.
Elaine Sampson: I thought you were a detective.
Lew Harper: New type.

Elaine is concerned because when Ralph Sampson gets drunk he does silly things the latest is giving away a mountain top to a dubious looney holy man (Martin).

Elaine Sampson: Los Angeles is the big leagues for religious nuts.
Lew Harper: That's because there's nothing to do at night.

The plot is very convoluted but not confusing. It's got quite a few Classic Noir actors to provide some cinematic memory. If the film has one fault it's that it doesn't quite go Noir enough. Looking back Harper is a little too old fashioned for its own good, it's got a classic Hollywood score by Johnny Mandel that's too flaccid for the material, it's honestly a bit of a snoozefest. There are also a few segments that feature what's supposed to be rock bands with folks dancing to what sounds like your typical generic hollywood hip gogo elevator music track, completely disregarding what instruments are being played on screen. This is a case where I'm spoiled by today's easy use of the real recording artists of the time used in period films.

The music also, is more reminiscent of what you would hear in that time periods comedies, so that, along with the presence of Robert Wagner just back from his signature The Pink Panther performance gives the film a bit of an off genre vibe. Had Wagner built upon his bad boy persona from his noir debut in A Kiss Before Dying with similar hardboiled fare, it may have been different. There are also some lite comedy sequences between Harper and his estranged wife Susan (Leigh).

Combine all of the above with the ambiguous ending and Harper is at best soft boiled and noir lite. 7/10 The full review with more screencaps here:

Re: Harper (1966) Hired by a bitch to find scum

Lately I've been reading all the Ross Macdonald novels, and re-reading Margaret Millar too, but somehow I've never seen Harper. Don't know why. I will definitively track it down now. The screen shots look great.

Jessica Rabbit
"I'm not bad. I'm just drawn that way."

In Cold Blood (1967) A Noir/Neo Noir Masterpiece

You'll know it when you see it. Just like you know a Noir when you see it. In Cold Blood is a Masterpiece and it's a Masterpiece of Film Noir, to boot, no doubt about it. It was made right at the end of Black & White film production and that format, along with the Classic Noir look/aesthetic couldn't have gone out with a bigger or more powerful bang.

Masterfully directed by Richard Brooks (Deadline - U.S.A. (1952), Blackboard Jungle (1955), Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958), Elmer Gantry (1960), Looking for Mr. Goodbar (1977)). Written by Richard Brooks whose previous credits include (The Killers (1946), Brute Force (1947), Crossfire (1947), Key Largo (1948), Mystery Street (1950), Storm Warning (1951), Deadline - U.S.A. (1952), Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958), Elmer Gantry (1960)) and based on Truman Capote's book "In Cold Blood"

The incredibly crisp and strikingly artistic cinematography was by Conrad L. Hall (The Outer Limits TV Series (19631965), Harper (1966), Cool Hand Luke (1967), Black Widow (1987)). Editing was by Peter Zinner (The Professionals (1966), The Godfather (1972), The Godfather: Part II (1974)). The film also has an excellent score by Quincy Jones (The Pawnbroker (1964), In the Heat of the Night (1967), The Getaway (1972)).

In Cold Blood stars Robert Blake (The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948), Black Hand (1950), Naked City TV Series (19581963), Electra Glide in Blue (1973), Lost Highway (1997)) as greaser Perry Smith. Scott Wilson (In the Heat of the Night (1967)) as farm boy Dick Hickock.

The film has a plethora of Classic Film Noir veterans, John Forsythe (The Captive City (1952), The Glass Web (1953), ) as Alvin Dewey the lead investigator for the Kansas Bureau of Investigation (KBI). Paul Stewart (Johnny Eager (1941), Champion (1949), The Window (1949), Edge of Doom (1950), Appointment with Danger (1951), Deadline - U.S.A. (1952), Loan Shark (1952)) as Jensen, the reporter. Gerald S. O'Loughlin (Cop Hater (1958)) as Harold Nye KBI. Jeff Corey (Somewhere in the Night (1946), The Killers (1946), Brute Force (1947), The Gangster (1947), Scene of the Crime (1949), Once a Thief (1965)) as Dick's father, Charles. Charles McGraw (ten Classic Noir under his belt) as Perry's father Tex. Vaughn Taylor (The Lineup (1958), Screaming Mimi (1958), Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958), Party Girl (1958), Psycho (1960)) as the Good Samaritan. James Flavin (High Sierra (1941), Laura (1944), Mildred Pierce (1945), The Spider (1945), The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946), Nora Prentiss (1947), Nightmare Alley (1947), Armored Car Robbery (1950), The Naked Street (1955) ) as Clarence Duntz KBI. Will Geer (Johnny Allegro (1949), The Tall Target (1951), Seconds (1966)) as Prosecuting attorney. Jim Lantz as Officer Rohleder, John McLiam as Herbert Clutter, Paul Hough as Kenyon Clutter, Ruth Storey as Bonnie Clutter, Brenda C. Currin as Nancy Clutter, Donald Sollars as Clothing Salesman and John Gallaudet as Roy Church fill out the rest of the cast.

In Cold Blood is both intensely horrific and starkly beautiful at the same time. The incredibly random violence visited upon a Kansas family triggered by an off hand remark to Dick Hickok from a prison cell mate, should send shivers down your spine. The film is an electrifying reenactment (in the actual locations) of the brutal murder of the Clutter Family near the town of Holcomb, Kansas on November 14, 1959, the subsequent six week flight of Perry Smith and Dick Hickock to Mexico, and their final track down by law enforcement in Las Vegas.

The film is stylistically nonlinear in format and there are multiple time jumps and flashbacks to Perry's and Dick's past, giving you quasi insights as to the why. There are occasional daydreams and escapist sunken pirate treasure fantasies that sometimes just add to the mystery and other times add to the explanation of what tipped the incident into brutal hideous murder in cold blood.

An interesting take away from the film is that neither Perry or Dick by themselves singly would have committed the murders, but together they formed a third sort of super personality that fed off the weaknesses of both of them and canceled any inhibitions they may have had.

It's not until the trip with the two fugitives back towards Holcomb do we get to hear Perry's confession with a flashback that reconstructs the fatal events of the night. What we don't see is actually far more suggestively appalling in Brook's skilled direction. The isolated farmhouse. A howling prairie wind. A foreboding interior darkness stabbed crazily about by erratic flashlight beams. Pleas for mercy cut off by gun blasts. Muzzle flash, juxtaposed with eerie silences. The actual massacre of innocents is solely in your imagination.

Perry Smith: It doesn't make sense. I mean what happened. It had nothing to do with the Clutters. They never hurt me. They just happened to be there. I thought Mr. Clutter was a very nice gentleman I thought so right up to the time I cut his throat.

The film takes you along with the marauders on their getaway in their 1949 Pontiac Chieftain, excellently weaving their backstories with the various objects, encounters, and incidents that trigger the aforementioned revealing flashbacks. It's almost jarring upon reflection in the way that we get to know, and on some level, even feel some sympathy for the killers. Traditional Hollywood would have either painted these two murderers all in basic black or glamorized them, but Brooks shows us that despite their having no moral compass, there is still some modicum of humanity even in these two deplorables.

I can't emphasize enough the powerful performances of Robert Blake and Scott Wilson, they make these two sleazeballs BONAFIDE. Combined that with the vivid realism of the direction, the artistry of the cinematography, and the score from Quincey Jones and you have a film for the ages. This is undoubtedly Robert Blake's best performance, and I was also deeply impressed with the supporting work of Charles McGraw as Perry's grizzled, broken down and out, cowboy father Tex, living in what looks like the back of derelict box truck, outfitted with a bed pallet, a hot plate, wrangler gear, festooned with rodeo posters, horse blankets, and lit by kerosene lanterns, setting in a auto junk yard.

The film was nominated for four Academy Awards: Director, Original Score, Cinematography, and Adapted Screenplay. It should have nominated Blake and McGraw also, and it should have won all of them. It's chilling 10/10.

Full review with screencaps here: