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Mr. Arkadin

Film Club November 2016: Noirvember

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Welcome to Noirvember!

Following on from SCARLET STREET, we're devoting the whole of the month to watching noir films. By "noir," we mean an American film movement spanning from 1941 to 1958 which mingled German Expressionism and strands of hardboiled storytelling in an expression of postwar American disillusionment.

I don't think there's a more vital subset of cinema. Noir is ferociously existential. It's lightning in a bottle.

Selections are mostly TBD, but know that any noir films you seek out on your own initiative can be discussed here.

Our first "official" selection is THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI, that wild, labyrinthine fever-dream from Orson Welles. It's as good a starting place as any.

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Considering it was released by Criterion a few months ago, and that I'm planning to pick it up when I get to Barnes and Noble later this week, I'd like to suggest In a Lonely Place as our second film after The Lady From Shanghai.

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IN A LONELY PLACE is one of the best films ever. I wouldn't object!

I watched Siodmak's CRISS CROSS on Friday. I preferred it to his other noir classic, THE KILLERS, which has a similar thematic essence. CRISS CROSS has one of the best-staged endings I've ever seen in a film.

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Just finished The Lady from Shanghai. That finale is incredible. But that accent...also incredible, in a different sense of the word.

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In a Lonely Place: There aren't many films I'd outright call "a masterpiece" on the first viewing, but this is one of them. I consider Casablanca a personal favorite, but this could be Bogart's best performance I've seen.

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In a Lonely Place  is one of the only films I was willing to give 5 stars to on a first viewing, and rewatching it last night, it was even better than I remembered. The sense of fatality which builds throughout is incredible, and the way it plays on the inherent, unchanging natures of its characters is tragic and chilling.

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I watched The Asphalt Jungle, and have mixed feelings overall. The heist story is interesting enough, and the film navigates a large cast of characters fairly well, but the performances--especially Sterling Hayden's Southern hooligan--felt pretty stilted and underwhelming. In terms of noir films featuring a lead character named Dix, In a Lonely Place is far and away the better film. 

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In a Lonely Place - what a lean and mean script...Dix Steele couldn't have written it any better.  Curious about what I read about the ending: is it possible to see the original ending that Ray scrapped? Which of the 2 endings would be considered the more "conventional noir" ending?

Ryan H, I'm intrigued by what you said about the existential nature of noir. Can you flesh that out a bit more? In what ways is the genre existential, and what is it about the existential piece that really grabs you? I am quite uninitiated with noir, so count me as a student taking notes. 

 

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On 11/28/2016 at 1:14 PM, Brian D said:

In a Lonely Place - what a lean and mean script...Dix Steele couldn't have written it any better.  Curious about what I read about the ending: is it possible to see the original ending that Ray scrapped? Which of the 2 endings would be considered the more "conventional noir" ending?

Ryan H, I'm intrigued by what you said about the existential nature of noir. Can you flesh that out a bit more? In what ways is the genre existential, and what is it about the existential piece that really grabs you? I am quite uninitiated with noir, so count me as a student taking notes. 

 

I don't think the original ending is visible anywhere, but it sounds so much less effective than what they did come up with. The original ending was artificially tidy. The revised ending is electric and shocking.

Noir is deeply existential because it is so primal: it is about characters struggling to survive, living on the very boundary of life and death, of order and chaos.

Every great noir film is a spiritual story. Here, desire is everything, leading some to a Holy Grail, but many more to a poisoned chalice. Noir is a space where a gunshot rings out with its brutal finality, where the fragility of life is keenly felt.

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Thank you! 

As we contemplate noir films, I am reminded that Scott Derrickson led a session on noir films at the Glen Workshop a few years ago.  Did anyone attend this?  I am eager to hear more about the films chosen for that series, and to hear more about how Derrickson connects with noir.

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I ended up going over my intended budget at the Barnes & Noble Criterion sale by picking up In a Lonely Place.  Money well spent!  Great performances here.  I thought it got off to... well, not exactly a rocky start... but what seemed a little heavy handed and rushed in the introduction of Dix. I think I would have appreciated the rough edge of his character more, had it not been so completely introduced in the first couple of minutes. 

 

On 12/5/2016 at 11:02 AM, Brian D said:

As we contemplate noir films, I am reminded that Scott Derrickson led a session on noir films at the Glen Workshop a few years ago.  Did anyone attend this?  I am eager to hear more about the films chosen for that series, and to hear more about how Derrickson connects with noir.


I didn't see Scott at the Glen Workshop, but I did get to see him introduce both Kurosawa's Stray Dog and Alan J. Pakula's Klute at a double bill a few years ago, where he did address some of the noir aspects of both those films.

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