NOIRVEMBER Day 12 – FILM REVIEW – “Gilda”(1946)

NOIRVEMBER Day 12Time for another film noir classic for Noirvember! Today I’m recommending you all watch “Gilda”.

Gilda, are you decent?

Much like “The Maltese Falcon” was the film that made Humphrey Bogart the ultimate film noir detective, “Gilda” made Rita Hayworth one of the greatest femmes fatales. The movie somewhat consciously references “Casablanca”, which came out four years earlier. The eponymous heroine is stranded in Buenos Aires at the end of the second world war, trapped between her sadistic, middle-aged husband, the Nazi-sympathiser Ballin Mundson (George Macready), and her ex-lover, the cruel, amoral American adventurer, Johnny Farrell (Glenn Ford). Gilda herself is no saint either. The overall plot is arguably quite darker than was usual at the time. There is even some homoerotic subtext to the relationship between Ballin and Johnny! The ending might surprise some of the first-time viewers, especially those who mostly know about the movie from its iconic musical scene or the hair-flip moment.

Still, I have to say that the hair flip is arguably one of the most memorable character introductions in film history.

“Gilda” is notable not only for its story but, perhaps even more than that, for its style. Hayworth’s wardrobe is enviable, the staging of musical number is just phenomenal, and the photography is beautiful.

As was the case with other noir classics I wrote about before, it’s not a surprise that “Gilda” was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress for being “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant”. It goes without saying that you should definitely watch it!

Interesting fact: did you know that the black dress worn by Rita Hayworth in the “Put The Blame on Mame” scene has its own Wikipedia page? And that it was one of the inspirations behind the character of Jessica Rabbit from “Who Framed Roger Rabbit”?

What are your favourite noir classics? Do you have your own Noirvember watch list? Please share it in the comments!

NOIRVEMBER Day 11 – Film Noir Posters

The Art of Film Poster

In this Noirvember series I do intend to explore more than just noir films themselves. So today I want to look at something that sometimes we, quite unfairly, forget when we think about films – and that is film posters.

My motherland, Poland, is known in the international film community for its unique, artistic film posters. And I mean known. As BFI writes:

Established in 1947, the Polish School of Posters was a loose association of artists headed by Henryk Tomaszewski. Tomaszewski taught at Warsaw Fine Art Academy and encouraged his students to move away from posters created in western Europe, which he considered to be too commercial.

It was a bold undertaking but the breakthrough came at the 1948 International Poster Exhibition in Vienna (organised by Austrian graphic artist Victor Theodor Slama). Two thousand posters from 18 countries were exhibited, and Tomaszewski and Eryk Lipiński won 12 gold medals between them.

So in today’s Noirvember post I would like to show you some of my favourite Polish posters for various noir films.

Noirvember Day 11 - Polish Film Noir Posters

“The Woman in the Window”

Noirvember Day 11 - Polish Film Noir Posters

“Sunset Boulevard”

Noirvember Day 11 - Polish Film Noir Posters

“Rififi”

Noirvember Day 11 - Polish Film Noir Posters

“Elevator to the Gallows”

Noirvember Day 11 - Polish Film Noir Posters

“Chinatown”

Noirvember Day 11 - Polish Film Noir Posters

“Mulholland Drive”

Do you pay attention to film posters? Have you seen some of these before? Or maybe you have some favourites that I did not mention? Please write in the comments!

Are you enjoying this Noirvember series so far? Maybe you have some specific topics you would like me to write about? Drop me a line in the comments, via e-mail or on my fan page!

NOIRVEMBER Day 10 – Non-American Noir

Noirvember Day 10Hello darlings! In today’s Noirvember post I want to write a few words about noir films created outside the US of A. Noir seems like a very American genre, but in reality, it took inspiration from German expressionism and Italian neo-realism. What is more, many classic film noir directors (Robert Siodmak, Fritz Lang, Otto Preminger, Jules Dassin, Michael Curtiz) were in fact European immigrants.

The Third Man (1949)

The 1949 British film noir was directed by Carol Reed and written by Graham Greene. It stars Joseph Cotten, Valli (Alida Valli), Orson Welles, and Trevor Howard. The film takes place in post-World-War-II Vienna. It centres on Holly Martins, an American who is given a job in Vienna by his friend Harry Lime, but when Holly arrives in Vienna he gets the news that Lime is dead. Martins then meets with Lime’s acquaintances in an attempt to investigate what he considers a suspicious death. In 1999, the British Film Institute voted The Third Man the greatest British film of all time. It’s a true classic worth watching!

Interesting fact: the title music “The Third Man Theme” topped the international music charts in 1950.

Obsession (1949) (US Title: The Hidden Room)

This 1949 British film directed by Edward Dmytryk is based on the book “A Man About A Dog” by Alec Coppel, who also wrote the screenplay for the film, and turned the story into a novel. The movie is a slow-burning but pretty gruesome story of revenge. Dr. Clive Riordan, a psychiatrist, discovers that his wife, Storm (what a name, right?) is cheating on him. Soon, he resolves to kill his wife’s lover, an American diplomat.  “Obsession” was entered into the 1949 Cannes Film Festival.

Shoot the Piano Player (1960) (French Title: Tirez sur le pianiste; UK Title: Shoot the Pianist)

A washed-up classical pianist, Charlie Kohler/Edouard Saroyan, bottoms out after his wife’s suicide — stroking the keys in a Parisian dive bar. The waitress, Lena, is falling in love with Charlie, who, as it turns out, is not who he says he is. When his brothers get in trouble with gangsters, Charlie inadvertently gets dragged into the chaos and is forced to rejoin the family he once fled. The film is a strange mix of slapstick comedy and heartbreak. A man swears to his honesty on his mother’s soul, and the camera cuts away to dear old mom as she falls down dead in her kitchen. The movie is also interesting for its mix of filming techniques. The director, François Truffaut, uses many elements of French New Wave cinema: extended voice-overs, out-of-sequence shots, and sudden jump cuts. The movie references the style of Hollywood B movies from 1940s, as well as Charlie Chaplin, the Marx brothers and “Citizen Kane”.

Le Doulos (1962) (The Finger Man)

At the beginning of the movie, there is an information for the viewer, that the title refers to a style of hat or a police informant. Naturally, the film provides an abundance of both. As is very often with noir films, “Le Doulos” is based on a novel by Pierre Lesou. Writer-director Jean-Pierre Melville blends Lesou’s words with twists on symbols and staples of American noir. Quentin Tarantino cited the screenplay for “Le Doulos” as one of his personal favorite, and said it was a large influence on his debut picture “Reservoir Dogs”.

Elevator to the Gallows (1958) (French Title: Ascenseur pour l’échafaud)

Since it was the French film critics that gave film noir its name, it’s no wonder that this list contains so many French titles. The mood of American noir is clearly visible in French movies of 1950s and 1960s. Here, the director pays an homage homage to noir and subverts its structure at the same time. As for the plot, the movie is about a pair of criminals, Florence and Julien. They plan on murdering Florence’s husband, but their plan quickly falls apart when the Julien gets stuck in an elevator. The film also contains an unorthodox, experimental editing and somber, Miles Davis-performed jazz score.

So, have you seen any of these films? Or maybe you’ve got your favourite non-American noir films? If so, write them in the comments. For more ideas, check out this list of international noir films by Flavorwire.

NOIRVEMBER Day 9 – Film Noir Fashion Photoshoots

Noirvember Day 9Another day, another Noirvember post! Let me give you a little spoiler of the things to come later this month. Apart from movies, I am going to write about inspirations behind film noir and inspirations from film noir. I already talked a bit about the sound of film noir, but today I want to focus on the look of film noir.

A Dame to Kill For

Because film noir has such a strong visual style associated with clear emotions, it provides inspiration to fashion designers, photographers & other artists to this day! This is why today, I would like to give you a list of film noir-inspired photo shoots that I have already posted about in the past!

  1. Style Noir, Vogue Italia (2009)Noirvember Day 9 - Style Noir
  2. Thinking of a Glamorous Time, Vogue Italia (2012)
    Noirvember Day 9 - Thinking of a Glamorous Time
  3. Killers Kill, Dead Men Die, Vanity Fair (2007)
    Noirvember Day 9 - Killer Kill, Dead Men Die

Do you think this list is missing some iconic film noir-inspired fashion photo shoot? Share your favourites in the comments!

NOIRVEMBER Day 8 – Are you in a film noir?

noirvember

It’s a new week of Noirvember! I can’t believe how quickly time goes by! But fear not, I still have many things planned for this month, so keep coming back for new content 🙂

Today I want you to think very hard about one thing – are you actually, at this moment, in a film noir? If you’re not sure, below you will find a chart to help you.

Illustrated by Brendan Ternus.

Illustrated by Brendan Ternus.

The chart was published at College Humor in 2014.

By the way, did you take a chance to watch any noir movies so far? Do you have a specific subject you would like to hear me talk about? Please, share your thoughts in the comments below or on my fanpage!

NOIRVEMBER Day 7 – FILM REVIEW – The Maltese Falcon (1941)

Noirvember Day 7I cannot go through Noirvember and not write about one of my favourite films. Not just noir films, but films in general. So here goes!

A guy without a conscience! A dame without a heart!

It is tough to summarize the plot of “The Maltese Falcon”. The film’s protagonist is a private detective, Sam Spade. He is hired to handle a simple case for a Miss Wonderly. He quickly finds himself in the middle of a complicated intrigue, full of betrayal and murders perpetrated by adventurers obsessed with finding a legendary precious figurine.

Released in 1941, “The Maltese Falcon” was not the first adaptation of Dashiell Hammett’s novel The novel, which to this day is a hard-boiled classic, originally appeared in parts in pulp magazine “Black Mask” in 1929. Hammett’s style of writing was an influence for many other crime writers, such as Raymond Chandler, John Le Carré or Sara Paretsky. Hammett was one of the first to take the “crime” part of whodunit novels and place it on the streets. Gone were the closed spaces, train compartments, drawing rooms of Agatha Christie stories. Due to its popularity, the novel was quickly adapted into a movie in 1931, which achieved moderate success. The second, more comedic adaptation (“Satan Met A Lady”, 1936) received even poorer reviews despite having Bette Davies in it. But the third time’s a charm! At first the 1941 film was planned simply as a remake of the first adaptation. Soon after its release, this version became the most popular one, thanks to great casting and production.

The stuff that dreams are made of

“The Maltese Falcon” was the movie that put writer-director John Huston on the Hollywood map. It showcased Humphrey Bogart’s talent and proved he could be a successful leading man. Although it’s clearly Bogart’s feature, the supporting cast is wonderful as well. Mary Astor is convincing as the innocent but dangerous Brigid O’Shaughnessy. Peter Lorre plays the sleazy, effeminate Joel Cairo. The others – Sydney Greenstreet, Lee Patrick, Jerome Cowan, Gladys George – are great too. They brilliantly transferred their novel characters to the silver screen. In fact, the chemistry between Bogart, Lorre and Greenstreet was so impressive that they appeared together in two more movies (“Casablanca” and “Passage to Marseille”).

The influence of “The Maltese Falcon” on the following movies is undeniable. The archetype of private detective was forever changed with the antiheroic, cynical Sam Spade. Bogart’s delivery of the dialogue became iconic. The visual style was a result of Huston combining elements of German expressionism with classic Hollywood techniques. The interplay of light and shadows matches the dark plots and shady characters.

What I really, really like about this movie is how seamless it seems. There are no unnecessary shots, no extra scenes. This is impressive, considering it was Huston’s first full-length film. The story is that he prepared for it meticulously, planning the shoots with sketches and instructions for camera setup. As a result, the final version of the movie retains almost all dialogue from the original shots. Of course, some elements from the original novel had to be removed due to the restrictions of the Hays Code. Nevertheless, it’s really no wonder that, like “Double Indemnity”, the U.S. Library of Congress deemed the movie “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”, and thus selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry in 1989.

Should you watch it?

Yes, yes, a thousand times yes! Since it’s my first time participating in Noirvember, all the movies I’m recommending are real classics, so if you are unfamiliar with film noir, I highly recommend you watch the ones I’m going to write about this month. And don’t forget that you can watch “The Maltese Falcon” on Netflix!

NOIRVEMBER Day 4 – Moving pictures

noirvember
Well, hello there! Are you enjoying Noirvember so far? Have you watched any noir films yet?

Since I plan on infecting all of you with my love of film noir, today I decided to share a collection of my favourite gifs from noir films. Because everyone needs a good reaction gif, and these old movies are absolutely full of wonderful shots!

Rita Hayworth in “Gilda” (1946) gif by mattsko.wordpress.com

“Gilda” is actually full of really good shots, but I think this one fits as a reaction gif best 🙂

Paul Valentine in “Out of the Past” (Tourneur, 1947) gif by littleplasticthings.tumblr.com

Humphrey Bogart in “The Maltese Falcon” (Huston, 1941) gif by bellecs.tumblr.com

Dick Powell in “Murder, My Sweet” (Dmytryk, 1944) gif by ??? (if you recognize the author, please let me know!)

Lauren Bacall in “???” gif by rphelper.tumblr.com

Barbara Stanwyck in “Double Indemnity” (Wilder, 1945) gif by charlottecamillevale.tumblr.com

Humphrey Bogart in “The Big Sleep” (Hawkes, 1946) gif by ??? (if you recognize the author, please let me know!)

This might also be my favourite quote from the movie!

Gloria Grahame in “The Big Heat” (Lang, 1953) gif by filmnerdsunite.wordpress.com

Rita Hayworth in “The Lady From Shanghai” (Welles, 1947) gif by grafixandnoirandgarage.tumblr.com

The last one probably isn’t a good reaction gif, but it was just too good not to share…

Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall in “The Big Sleep” (Hawks, 1946) gif by bellecs.tumblr.com

Do you have your favourite film noir gifs? Please share them in the comments!

NOIRVEMBER Day 3 – Noir films you can watch on Netflix now!

Noirvember Day 3

It’s day 3 of Noirvember! We started talking about specific noir films so I wanted to prepare a list of recommendations to watch on streaming services such as Netflix (as this is the one I personally subscribe to). Unfortunately, their current offer available in Poland is not very rich when it comes to film noir 🙁 Nevertheless, I decided to list films that are, in my opinion, absolutely must-see.

The Maltese Falcon

Maltese Falcon on Netflix Polska

Double homicide? Call a spade a spade. Unless it involves unusual suspects, then call cool-as-ice P.I. Sam Spade. Humphrey Bogart stars as private eye Sam Spade in this noir classic that finds the sultry Miss Wonderly seeking protection from a man called Thursby.

L.A. Confidential

L.A. Confidential on Netflix

It’s 1950s L.A., where politics, Hollywood and cops collide. No one’s off-limits and no one’s secrets are “hush hush”. Three wildly different cops form an uneasy alliance to ferret out corruption in this Oscar-winning whodunit set in 1950s Los Angeles.

Sin City

Sin City on Netflix Polska

Revenge, passion and fear are the threads that connect these intertwined stories in a pitch-black world. In these intertwined stories, an ex-con avenges a hooker’s death, a gumshoe gets mixed up with dangerous vixens, and a cop saves a dancer from a rapist.

Do you agree with this list for Noirvember? Have you found some other films that you think would fit here? Let me know in the comments!

NOIRVEMBER Day 2 – FILM REVIEW – “Double Indemnity” (1944)

Noirvember - day 2

Classic Film Noir

Now that you are familiar with the concept of Noirvember, I thought it only appropriate to start with a review of one of my favourite noir films. “Double Indemnity” is a fascinating, tragic story of an insurance agent and a bored housewife.

No, really 🙂

The movie is a thrilling story about greed, heartbreak and human weakness. Walter Neff, an insurance agent, sits in his office, wounded, and records a story for his boss, Barton. It all started with the Dietrichsons. He recounts going to their house to discuss an insurance policy and instead of Mr. Dietrichson, he meets his wife, flirty, beautiful Phyllis. They both immediately take a liking to each other and Phyllis loudly wonders about the life policy of her husband. It doesn’t take long for them to come up with a plan that will not only free her from her married status, but also get them a nice lump sum of $100,000. With such an amoral plot, it can’t all end up happily, can it?

On rewatching the movie I was captivated by how the feeling of impending doom was conveyed since the very first scene. We know from the very first moment that this is not going to end well. Walter narrates his story bleeding from a gunshot wound, so we know there are going to be consequences for him. Wilder used this flashback device, telling us the ending from the very start, in his other famous film noir, “Sunset Boulevard”. I think it is a vital element of the gloomy mood of noir. What hooks us is how the plot to kill Phyllis’s husband is going to go wrong.

Another element of the film breaking up the convention is the lack of good – as in, sympathetic – characters in this film. Walter has no qualms about seducing a married woman and is quite ready kill her husband, both for love and the money. Cold Phyllis is almost a psychopath, motivated by little more than boredom. Barton, Walter’s boss is presented as the honest guy, dedicated to his work, but also kind of pretentious and charmless (although the father-son relationship between him and Walter is probably the one positive relationship in the movie). Phyllis’s doomed husband is rich, boorish and utterly dull. Nevertheless, the drama that ensnares them all is immediately captivating.

The movie itself is a collaboration of titans. Based on a novel by James M. Cain, with the script written by Raymond Chandler and Billy Wilder, and directed by Wilder, it truly set a standard for many films of the genre. The same goes for the look of the film. It takes place in the City of Angels, and if a scene takes place outside, it’s almost always night. If it’s inside, it’s dimly lit, with sunlight coming in through the blinds, exposing dust in the air.

The only exception is Barton’s office. That’s because Barton, despite his lack of charisma, is the moral center of the film. He is, however, too blind to see that the person he is looking for, the accomplice in the murder of Mr. Dietrichson, is his friend of 11 years, someone “close – right across the desk […]”. “Closer than that” he says to Neff quietly. Neff smiles, and struggles to light up a cigarette. Barton takes the lighter from him and lights up the cigarette. There is tenderness in this exchange that enhances the tragic heroism of the story.

Does it stand the test of time?

To me, absolutely. It’s a must-see for any fan of not just film noir, but classic cinema in general. The movie did not gain universal acclaim when it first came out. Despite its popularity, many people were uncomfortable with its theme and saw it as too immoral. At the 17th Academy Awards in 1945, “Double Indemnity” received seven Oscar nominations, including one for Best Film, but did not win any. Its appreciation and popularity, however, grew in time. In 1992 the U.S. Library of Congress deemed it “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”, and thus selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry.

Interesting tidbit about me – I once wrote a 10-page paper about just one scene from “Double Indemnity” for a film study class. It was about the first meeting between Walter Neff and Phyllis Dietrichson, starting with her descending from the stairs. Remember when the camera first focuses just on her anklet? That’s an introduction of a sensual femme fatale!

NOIRVEMBER Day 1 – What is it all about?

NOIRVEMBERIt’s Noirvember! And no, that’s not a typo 🙂

This year I decided to take up the challenge and make a series of posts related to the area of film noir, which is a subject near and dear to my heart (wouldn’t you guess, with that pseudonym).

What is Noirvember?

It’s a month-long celebration of film noir! The idea started back in 2010, when social media specialist Marya E. Gates decided to catch up on top noir films and tweeted on the experience using the hashtag #noirvember. It quickly became popular and today it’s celebrated all around the world as the month of appreciation for the moody, nostalgic film.

What can you do to celebrate Noirvember?

Watch movies, of course! But Noirvember can be a celebration of all things noir-related, be it music, literature, art, make up or fashion, etc. I am definitely planning on writing about more than just movies, so stay tuned!

But what is noir anyway?

Traditionally film noir is a style (rather than genre) of movies of the 1940s and 1950s. They are usually noted for the fatalism of stories as well as a literal and metaphorical darkness. Noir films are full of worn-out detectives and dangerous femmes fatales, murder, greed, corruption, violence, exploitation, adultery and treachery – all the things we hold near and dear to our hearts. I say “traditionally”, because movie critics argue about the definition of film noir to this day. The term itself was coined by critics rather than film makers, which means even the creators of the handful of movies that is universally agreed on as the film noir canon, didn’t know they were doing noir. Opinions also differ on whether noir ended in the 1950s or whether we can still find noir (or better yet, neo-noir) movies today.

I could write a lot more about the subject (it’s not like I wrote a thesis on it… or did I?) but there’s a whole month in front of us to explore what noir is and can be. Let’s get to it! Come back tomorrow to see what I write about!

bonus points to you if you recognize the quote I used in this post 🙂