franzeska: (Default)
[personal profile] franzeska
Last year, I bought the first Film Noir Reader and set out to watch the noir canon. I didn't get very far before getting distracted, but the idea has been rattling around in my brain ever since. Noir isn't really a genre, particularly not one defined by plot content, and it wasn't a movement; nobody making noirs at the time would have called them that. Even defining what noir is is tricky, never mind figuring out which films count. Everybody watches the dozen most famous films and stops there. Bogie, private eyes, and a bad ending: That's noir, right?

Well, sure, that's one thing noir was, but there are noirs that aren't about cops and PIs at all, and lots of them don't star any big names. Tons of them were short, trashy B movies nobody watches these days, and I think that's a pity. That's why I picked The Madonna's Secret. It's not really very good, but it provides a great look at what was going on in the styles of the time. (Ok, ok, I confess: it's also quite short and available on Netflix instant view. Ahem.)

The Madonna's Secret )

My overall verdict: Freud soup with a great lighting director.

What are your favorite noirs? What dead lady portrait movie should I watch next?

Does anybody else have the Film Noir Reader series? (I highly recommend them.) Any other favorite books and blogs on noir?

I think this particular "gem" is ripe for remaking, preferably with a more naturalistic acting style and more focus on the supposed serial killer motive. Do you have any classic noirs you'd love to see them remake? And what's up with that Johnny Depp Thin Man? (Can we hope it will be more like a faithful adaptation of the novel and less like a hideous murdering of the movies?)
onyxlynx: Winged Duesenberg hood ornament (1920)
[personal profile] onyxlynx
 I got into '30s movies by happenstance; there was a glut of ghosted autobiographies of that era's stars, the magazines Modern Screen and Photoplay on rainy afternoons, and a paperback copy of the life of Louis B. Mayer.  (I did not know then the autobiographies were ghostwritten.)  I became fascinated by the rich descriptions of these movies, and when I could, I sought them out on TV, although some, like Grand Hotel, were only shown at 3:00 AM.

(Sorry; I keep doing that.)

Eventually I noticed that the films of the Depression had, er, problems.  There was the relegation of actors of color to servant roles.  There was a certain amount of handwaving around class.  There was the way women's roles were contorted into specific shapes.  (Other issues exist, but this is not a term paper.)

OK.  The Women.  Certain things were dictated by the 1934 Production Code; a number of movies have their characters divorce, but the divorce disappears when the original characters get back together, or find themselves in court the day the decree is supposed to go into effect.  Similarly, Joan Crawford's character's parting shot is occasioned by the inability to say 'bitch' on screen.

Where was I?  Oh, right.  The Women is fast-paced in the manner of classic screwball comedy; actually the slower portions meant to show emotion are pretty snappy.  The sound was slightly muddy, which meant that when the lines were layered over each other, they were unintelligible.  There's a fashion show in the middle (because in a movie about women, there must be fashion), in color, with some items that would still look good now, and some that  would require a funeral pyre to destroy even the memories of ugly.  

Then there's the ending.

Which we can spoil now.

A choir?  As she runs to meet offstage Steven?  And the look on her face...

By the way, even though there are no men appearing on-screen, this movie would still fail the Bechdel test.

Links laid on in the morning; also, slightly edited for clarity because I know better than to write at 1 am...


Classic Film: for the discussion of great cinema

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