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Archive for March 6th, 2009

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by Sam Juliano

The Landmark Loews Movie Palace in Jersey City was the scene for a Film Noir weekend of four genre standards, and the distinguished introductions and question and answer sessions by renowned film scholar Professor Foster Hirsch.  The Friday evening feature was Roman Polanski’s celebrated neo-noir Chinatown (1974), and, on Saturday, three films were screened at 3,00pm, 7.30pm and 9.30pm.  The noir masterpiece Night and the City was shown first, and Stanley Kubrick’s The Killing and Henry Hathaway’s Niagara combined for the evening double-feature.  I was unable to make Chinatown, but was in attendance for the three Saturday screenings.

Hirsch’s revised and updated new edition of what some consider to be one of the most definitive studies of film noir, ‘The Dark Side of the Screen’, was offered in the lobby at a $20 price point.  Says Hirsch:

I am struck by the potent attraction of noir’s visual repertoire.  An arrangement of light and shadow on a deserted, rain-swept night time street; a femme fatale languidly smoking a cigarette in a half-opened doorway; oblique low-angle shots in which space seems to be closing in on the characters; disorienting high angle shots that underline the vulnerability of victims racing toward doom; mirrors, banisters, bedposts, windowpanes and cars that create imprisoning frames within the frame; flashing neon lights that reflect the agitation of characters and circumstances; slanted shadows of Venetian blinds on practically every wall and surface – these never fail to elicit my admiration and enjoyment. 

As Hirsch stated after Night and the City concluded, “the film was created in great haste, being the final movie Jules Dassin made in the United States (it was actually shot in London, though) before being blacklisted DURING Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s communist witch hunt, and causing exile to France.”

Much of the filming on Night and the City was during the night, after midnight in fact, shooting in a London still shattered and skeletal from wartime bombings.  Dassin envisioned London as an urban nightmare with actual night shooting at a time when it was still difficult to generate sufficient light for extended night scenes, especially those filmed in long shot.  Dassin, however, was fortuitous in receiving the full co-operation of a number of city businesses who left their lights on to assist the filming.  The end result showcases Night and the City as one of the supreme examples of cinematic expressionism, which displays London as an urban hell, a place of dark shadows, desperate individuals and decrepit structures.  Various tourist landmarks, such as Trafalgar Square and Piccadilly Circus, as well as the city at large, were transformed into a dark, threatening world permeated by betrayal, fall guys and moral corruption.  (more…)

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by Allan Fish

(USA 1955 93m) DVD1/2

Leaning on the everlasting arms

p  Paul Gregory  d  Charles Laughton  w  James Agee  novel  Davis Grubb  ph  Stanley Cortez  ed  Robert Golden  m  Walter Schumann  art  Hilyard Brown  cos  Jerry Bos

Robert Mitchum (Harry Powell), Shelley Winters (Willa Harper), Lillian Gish (Rachel), Don Beddoe (Walt Spoon), Evelyn Varden (Icey Spoon), James Gleason (Birdie), Peter Graves (Ben Harper), Billy Chapin (John), Sally Jane Bruce (Pearl),

The Night of the Hunter truly is one of the weirdest movies ever made, but also one of the most wonderful.  It’s very hard to categorise and it’s easy to see how audiences didn’t respond to it at the time with all its pure symbolism.  Many films before and since had contained crooked or fallen preachers, but this protagonist is no Elmer Gantry.  Harry Powell is one of the most psychotically evil and self-righteous people in movie history and it could so easily have become pantomime in the wrong hands.  When Charles Laughton took Mitchum out for a drive to discuss the role, he told Mitchum that what he was looking for was someone who could play a despicable shit.  Mitchum just turned to him and said “present.” 

            Set in thirties Ohio during the depression, Ben Harper has just committed a robbery and the police are about to corner him.  He hides the money in his daughter’s small doll (though we don’t know this until halfway in) and is arrested, sentenced and hanged.  Meanwhile, evil preacher Harry Powell, who has become a bible-busting Bluebeard who kills widows for their money, is sentenced to a month inside for car thieving and overhears Harper whispering in his sleep about the stolen money.  Powell is released after Harper’s execution and sets off after his widow to find the money. (more…)

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