Monday, August 04, 2008

Top 5- The Dark City

August has officially been dubbed "Film Noir" month, and there's no shortage of writings about this genre around the blog-o-sphere. Probably the most famous will be taking place at Movie Zeal wherein they'll write about one noir a day. How's that for dedication?

And if American film noir doesn't float your boat and you live close to New York, then the esteemed Film Forum theater will be displaying 38 "French Crime Wave" films in their five week series. Yes, that's me drooling just a bit. I've seen 25 of the films, but damn it'd be awesome to see them on the big screen.

So, pretty much all I can contribute is a short top 5 list of my favorites. I'll keep it confined to American films, or else Jean Pierre Melville would probably come in with all five. Also, pre-1975 because... well because I can and that post 1975 list is something altogether different.

1. Chinatown (1974)- I've said it before, but the script by Robert Towne and direction of Roman Polanski in "Chinatown" result in a perfect film. I only say that about two films- this one and Hitchcock's "Vertigo". And beyond that, its a noir without the slightest sense of chic or self reflexiveness. Superb on every level.

2. The Killers (1946)- Robert Siodmak's noir starring Burt Lancaster and Edmond O' Brien is the textbook of noir. Shadow compositions, a narrative that works backwards, tense and stuffy camerawork that makes every bit of sweat seep through the screen- if you really wanna know what "noir" embodies, this is it.

3. Out of the Past (1947)- Jacques Tourneur's film is yet another example of the straight characteristics of the genre, but this time with a much more stringent attention to finance. Tourneur was always a B movie auteur, and "Out of the Past" continues his minimalist streak without shirking any of the genre's best details. Robert Mitchum is the schmo this time, reminiscing about how he got to a certain point. Of course, there's a femme fatale who helped. This is a striking work whose mood of corruption is suffocating.

4. Kansas City Confidential (1952)- Yes, I could very easily put another classic heist film on this list- "The Killing" of course or certainly "The Asphalt Jungle"- but I've only seen Phil Karlson's "Kansas City Confidential" once several years ago on TCM and its a film that stuck with me. Maybe it was the documentary style of its aesthetic which seemed groundbreaking for a film in 1952, or the way the film methodically deconstructs the robbery of an armored car, but either way, "Kansas City Confidential" is a highly underrated masterpiece of the genre.

5. Kiss Me Deadly (1955)- A noir with real balls... Robert Aldrich's "Kiss Me Deadly" is popular now for all the wrong reasons (*cough Tarantinoandhisrippedoffbriefcaseidea *cough), but its still a nasty, nihilistic, paranoid noir.

(apologies for such a cut and dry post, but Blogger is not allowing me to upload photos right now.)


Joseph said...

When I first watched Chinatown I came away not liking it that much. But man, the more I watched it the more I love and appreciate it.

Probably due to watching it all the time in screenwriting class last year. :)

Joseph B. said...

Good choice for a screenwriting class. I couldn't see studying any other script.

I bought this on DVD last week. I went to watch it one night, realized I'd either lost my copy or just assumed I had it, and was in for a disappointment.