Saturday, June 13, 2009

Blast of Silence

The lost link between film noir, hardboiled pulp fiction, and do-it-yourself independent film.

This is a small film, both in running time and in scope. Over the course of 77 minutes, we watch as a Frankie Bono, low-level hitman, sets up and executes a job. On screen, Frankie appears withdrawn and detached, albeit professional. In contrast, the film's narration portrays him as antipathetic and confident. Rather than detract from the film this contrast adds depth to Frankie's charactor. The narration reflects his innermost thoughts and feelings, the lies (or truths) he tells himself to justify his actions, and how he sees himself in the face of his profession.

If you can find this, I highly reccommend it. Unavailable in any form for almost 30 years, it's finally available on DVD. I really enjoyed it, but it's worth seeing just for the awesome, completely over the top, second person narration.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Blade Runner (Final Cut)

Future Noir~

You know, I've now seen every version of this and none of them are especially engaging. The noir elements are interesting as is the meditation on what it means to be human. Unfortunately these take a back seat to some pretty cliche action sequences and overly pretentious dialogue. The extended dialogue sequences in this version help to flesh out the plot, but I ultimately like the idea of this film a lot more than the execution.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Bambi vs. Godzilla

This is surprisingly not a film noir. Regardless, it's amazing.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Touch of Evil

If we're being especially pretentious, this is one of the last examples of a "real" film noir.

Watching this as I work through The Wire, I was surprised as to the similarities between the two. The central conflict in The Wire is between the aspirations of the various characters and the limitations imposed upon them by a variety of institutions. The story of The Wire centers on what happens when these limitations are circumvented through some sort of moral, ethical, or legal compromise. I think a similar conflict is at the center of Touch of Evil. Orsen Welle's Hank Quinlan is not above planting evidence or framing suspects. On the other hand Charlten Heston's Ramon Vargas insists on following proper procedure.

The conflict of the film arises as Vargas questions the integrity of Quinlan's investigation into a car bomb on the Mexican/American border. Eventually it is revealed that Quinlan's investigation, while rife with evidence tampering and witness badgering, has led to the capture of the man who actually did commit the crime. However, this revelation comes only after Quinlan's downfall. Furthermore, Vargas' attempts to discredit Quinlan leads to his wife being captured and drugged. Both characters are arguably attempting to do the right thing, and the film does not hesitate to show the negative effects of the compromises required to do so.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Mulholland Dr.

If Memento is considered noir, than so is Mulholland Dr.

I can't say not too much about the plot of this, not because it would ruin anything, but because it is mostly incomprehensible. The story starts simple enough, with an attempted murder and a case of amnesia, but everything gets very strange very quickly. Mysterious figures begin manipulating the production of a feature film, there is an incredibly strange scene at a playhouse, and, by identitis and circumstances have fractured and recombined. I'm at a loss as to describe exactly what it all means. Maybe it's a bizarre treatise on acting, maybe it's all a critique of Hollywood, maybe the first two acts are a dream of the main character, maybe the whole thing is a dream (but of who exactly?).

I'm going out on a limb here, but Mulholland Dr. might just be the most surrealistic film ever classified as a noir. With that said, it has all the classic elements, the tone of the whole film is pessimistic, there are few noble characters, there is mystery, there are even detectives. Even if you aren't a fan of David Lynch, this is really worth seeing. It's weird, it's disturbing, it's mostly incomprehensible, but it really is an excellent piece of fimmaking.