Friday, February 15, 2008
Joe's Top 5's - Film Noir
#1. The Asphalt Jungle – John Huston created the quintessential film noir. The underworld provides the backdrop for a heist gone wrong, corrupt business, the ultimate moll (in the form of Marilyn Monroe), and a farm? Sterling Hayden proves he owns this genre as the only anti-hero. And Jean Hagen as Doll provides the only woman that could make you forget that Marilyn Monroe was in the previous scene.
#2. Thieves’ Highway – It’s official: I hate Lee J. Cobb! It won’t take you two minutes to agree with me. Pay attention to the composition of the apples-rolling-down-the-hill shot. Beautiful. Four words about Valentina Cortese: Soft hands… Sharp nails. Yet another reason the blacklist was blasphemy, Jules Dassin rocks!
#3. Deadly Is the Female (re-named Gun Crazy) – Bonnie and Clyde without the slo-mo bloody gunfights. A fun romp as these two fight the law and each other. The bank robbery shot from the car is inspired filmmaking. One shot. One take
#4. Port of Shadows (Le quai des brumes) – The two French critics Borde and Chaumeton coined the phrase flim noir to describe American films from 1941-1953, so it seems only natural to have the French open and close something only they could coin. Marcel Carne quite arguably defined the genre with this masterpiece starring Jean Gabin. This has all the earmarks of the ideal with a bad guy hero and his damsel/moll in distress. But the other bad guys just won’t let him go good. And the best part is the see-through trench coat…
#5. Hands Off the Loot (Touchez pas au grisbi) – Jacques Becker closes the genre with the anti-film-noir. Jean Gabin embodies the death of noir as the aging thief who has just pulled off the final heist of his career. We don’t see the heist and the majority of this film is focused on the normal living aspects of people living abnormal lives. Ten minutes devoted to brushing teeth and putting on pyjamas! Never has a genre been killed so entirely, and yet so lovingly, by one film. Gabin closes the door he opened sixteen years earlier with a performance that will leave you wanting more, but there is no more. No more film noir.