Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Let's talk film noir.

 Hello, pals and gals! Guess who's out of her cave? (Me, not Rita Hayworth)

Well, it turns out Med School came back with a blow - a harder blow than I expected. To be precise, three exams in two weeks, each with over 150 pages to study. But, I don't believe in complaining and this is the path I chose, so, as my gal would say, press on! (If you are the new readers I just got, this is my gal and thank you so very much for following!)

As an apology for my extended absence, have this shot of yours truly looking into an aorta, no less, through the microscope. I look like a 5-year-old who wants to be a mad scientist. Considering I am an 18-year-old who wants to be a mad scientist, no surprises there.

Today I had a little time to spare, so I decided to come see you guys and, not only read about how the Classic Film blogosphere has been doing lately, but also to talk to y'all about film noir. As you probably know, I engaged in an experiment in the month of November: I decided to join the Noirvember movement, in which classic movie fans everywhere unite to dedicate the second-to-last month of the year to the genre of film noir. I watched ten noir classics and I am now here to share my thoughts.  

"I was born when she kissed me, I died when she left me, I lived a few weeks while she loved me.", says Humphrey Deforest Bogart, looking straight ahead, sitting next to a horrified Gloria Grahame, who shivers at his presence. Despite his strong and rugged exterior, Bogart was at the height of his sex appeal (being explored further and further by filmmakers since "To Have and Have Not", in 1954), and Gloria's character, despite being afraid of his inconsistent and aggressive behavior, could not stay immune. This scene, my friends, is the spirit of film noir. 

If there's anything I discovered about film noir is that it mixes two cinematic elements at opposite ends of the spectrum. Darkness and light, love and violence, attraction and fear. Hyper-masculine leading men who can't control their anger, but that also carry an absurd amount of allure and carry themselves in a nearly irresistible way, not only to his female co-stars but also to the women in the audience. This may be the Bogart lover in me talking (I'm not gonna lie, she is a huge part of me), but "In A Lonely Place" to me, represents the essence of my favorite type of male character, one that Bogart mastered like none other. I like to call them the "sexy bad guys". Maybe I should make a post about them like I did with the powerhouse ladies, what do you guys think? Post or no post, the truth is: these characters fascinate the hell out of me. How do they bring out such polarized emotions at the same time? I'm disgusted at their violence and intolerance, but I'm aroused by their strength and firmness. I'm terrified at their sick need to stay dominant, but I'm fascinated by their intelligence. They are not at all the type of men I would like to get associate with in real life (as if I, of all people, would ever be able to be with a misogynist) but they certainly are a fascinating bunch, and a psychological analysis of their behavior makes for a great discussion among film lovers. They are a consistent element of film noir. 

When it comes to story lines, I am no softie. To me, the longer it keeps me on the edge of my seat, the better. Of course, there are moods and moods in life, each one appropriate to one type of movie, and of course sometimes I love to kick it with a good old-fashioned screwball comedy, but noir, mystery and suspense are still my favorite genres. I couldn't help but fall in love with those plots, of intricate crime stories, passionate affairs and blood-curling twists. Like the plotting of her own murder that an invalid woman discovered over the telephone, pitch-perfectly materialized by Barbara Stanwyck, who has yet to show me a less than spectacular performance. The same actress portrayed the stone cold Phyllis Dietrichson, in her most famous role and rightfully so: Nothing short of chilling. Stanwyck certainly had a knack for film noir, and she plays both the victim and the villain with equal mastery. As far as other leading ladies go, I was also impressed by Rita Hayworth's femme fatale in "Gilda", who put the blame on mame with delicious unforgettability. Gloria Grahame and Mary Astor were very pleasant surprises, especially the latter, who reminded me of an older and more serious (wait for it) Lauren Bacall. Teresa Wright did a great job on Shadow of a Doubt, but that movie has only one name written all over it and that name is Alfred Hitchcock. 

Out of all these movies, if I had to pick the best, I would be in a terrible threefold dilemma: In a Lonely Place, The Maltese Falcon or Double Indemnity. All three, five out of five. I must say, however, that, I would not give any of these pictures less than a 4. All of them were wonderful, all of them made me glad I was watching them and any of them are worth your time. Once again, here's the list: 
1. Double Indemnity (1944) 
2. In a Lonely Place (1950)
3. The Maltese Falcon (1941)
4. Sorry, Wrong Number (1948)
5. Out of the Past (1947)
6. Suspicion (1941)
7. Gilda (1946)
8. The Roaring Twenties (1939)
9. Shadow of a Doubt (1943)
10. High Sierra (1941) 

Well, pals and gals, this will be it for this morning. I go on a short Christmas break on Friday, so expect to see more of me around here! Meanwhile, which one of these is your favorite film noir? What do you think of the ones I mentioned? Tell me all about it in the comments! 

So long,


  1. Nice to hear from you again! And you sure look excited in the picture. :)
    For sure men in noir fims deserve their own post, they're very rich characters.
    I have still three in your list to watch, and two others to catch a sequence in which I slept... (Don't blame me, noirs are exciting, but in high school times I was a sleep-deprived criature).
    If you liked Rita in Gilda, wait until you watch The Lady from Shanghai, she'll amaze you!

  2. Hi Marcela, noir is so hypnotic and I love the mysteries of the crimes but especially, the characters. Gilda has to be one of my favs and made me fall in love with Rita Hayworth and Glenn Ford. Would love to read a post on the film noir men.