Friday, April 21, 2006
Friday Movie Review
Here's what a film fan wrote about film noir:
Film noir films (mostly shot in gloomy grays, blacks and whites) showed the dark and inhumane side of human nature with cynicism and doomed love, and they emphasized the brutal, unhealthy, seamy, shadowy, dark and sadistic sides of the human experience. An oppressive atmosphere of menace, pessimism, anxiety, suspicion that anything can go wrong, dingy realism, futility, fatalism, defeat and entrapment were stylized characteristics of film noir. The protagonists in film noir were normally driven by their past or by human weakness to repeat former mistakes.
Film noir was marked by expressionistic lighting, deep-focus camera work, disorienting visual schemes, jarring editing or juxtaposition of elements, skewed camera angles (usually vertical or diagonal rather than horizontal), circling cigarette smoke, existential sensibilities, and unbalanced compositions. Settings were often interiors with low-key lighting, venetian-blinded windows and rooms, and dark, claustrophobic, gloomy appearances. Exteriors were often urban night scenes with deep shadows, wet asphalt, dark alleyways, rain-slicked or mean streets, flashing neon lights, and low key lighting. Story locations were often in murky and dark streets, dimly-lit apartments and hotel rooms of big cities, or abandoned warehouses. [Often-times, war-time scarcities were the reason for the reduced budgets and shadowy, stark sets of B-pictures and film noirs.]
Narratives were frequently complex, maze-like and convoluted, and typically told with foreboding background music, flashbacks (or a series of flashbacks), witty, razor-sharp and acerbic dialogue, and/or reflective and confessional, first-person voice-over narration. Amnesia suffered by the protagonist was a common plot device, as was the downfall of an innocent Everyman who fell victim to temptation or was framed. Revelations regarding the hero were made to explain/justify the hero's own cynical perspective on life.
I have a shorter definition: Film noir movies show that life is a very dangerous place and the good and bad are equally likely to get screwed by a lying woman.
My favorites are: Out of the Past and The Maltese Falcon. Neo noir films include Chinatown, Miller's Crossing (the movie most directly referred to by Brick), Body Heat and LA Confidential.
He was hard to recognize but the lead guy, Brendan, was played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt who was the child actor on the TV show 3rd Rock From the Sun. He's all grown up now but is still playing a teenager. The other child star grown up but still stuck in child like roles was Lukas Haas, the little kid in Witness. I can't see him becoming a major star and he is 30, but he is working a lot. He plays the supposedly crippled Pin, as in Kingpin. It was good to see Richard Roundtree, the original John Shaft, still getting work.
There was a problem with appending the hard as diamond tough talk of noir films onto modern High School slang--it became incomprehensible. There was the same problem setting a complicated drug/murder private investigation in a High School. I mean, could you stop the investigation of tough guys by tougher guys to get to 3rd period language lab? It came off a little silly.
I have one question (I know what Laura whispered to Brendan)--was the Brain an imaginary friend of Brendan?
Despite the stretches of plot and dialogue, I had a good time, and with the near complete lack of Hollywood movies worth watching lately, you could do a lot worse than Brick.