Monthly Archives: September 2013

Class Notes – 9/26/13

Film Noir – Themes and Narrative Strategies

— film noir a sdark mirror —
— Existentialism — alienation and despair — how well can and do characters know one another?
=– dark underbelly of society
—- does this in part through settings: THE NOIR CITY — shadows, corruption — but also moving between low and high places
— critique of capitalism –

HOMELESSNESS — transience
city as trap

law and order

corruption and power

issues of gender and power

Narrative technique and strategy

Shadow Play: Out of the past

During the last class we were asked to come up with a definition for Film Noir. In retrospect, our definitions seem a little narrow minded when compared to the film, Out of the past. In the film, unlike the others we watched, our “Gumshoe” isn’t really a detective per se. The movie starts with a man entering a small town, looking for a man named ‘Jeff Bailey’. To the townspeople, Jeff is just a stranger who turned up one day and pumps gas at the station. He works alongside his assistant, known only as “The Kid” (And I checked, there’s no name for the guy) a deaf young boy. But, as the movie goes on, we see there is more to Jeff and his companion. The movie goes back into the past without warning, giving us insight to the man Jeff really was. Before pumping gas, he worked as a private eye for a man named Jack. Jack’s partner, Kathy, has apparently skipped town with a large sum. However, he’s more concerned with finding her than he is the money. Jeff goes across the border to tail her. As quick as lightning, a relationship form between Jeff and Kathy and they run off to start a new life together.¬†Jeff thinks Kathy is a damsel in distress but it’s clear after she shoots another of Jack’s henchmen that she is actually our femme fatale for the movie. From there on out Jeff is stock between one trial after the other, ranging from fraud¬†to murder.¬†In the end, he¬†pays the ultimate price for finding a way out of it. This movie takes a break from some of the themes seen in the other movies while still being true to its genre.

Out of the Past

Out of The Past is the¬†favorite of the three film noirs that we watched so far. I won’t give an overview of the plot since we all watched it¬†and knows what¬†happens.¬†The characters are what really do it for me. Jeff is the typical noir detective but adds his own unique demeanor and witty personality. He’s calm no matter the situation, and is so suave and funny, you cant help but¬†find him likable. This makes us feel sorry when he does risk his life and job for a woman. Speaking of Kathie, she also turns out to be very likable. Yes, she is the femme fatale and yes, she does betray Jeff. But she is¬†extremely beautiful,¬†cute, and¬†did seem legitimately happy when she was¬†with¬†him. Their relationship was very believable. When she pulls off those adorable teary puppy-dog eyes and acts all innocent,¬†how can you not feel sorry for her when she gets slapped by Whit. Of course, this is part of her innocent-act to get guys as well as the audience to side with her so she can get her way.

Even the supporting characters like Meta and Whit were great. Whit was charismatic, always smiling, and wasn’t¬†made out to be a complete ass like most “antagonists” are. Meta was sweet and caring and wanted nothing more to be with Jeff. She even gave him a chance to¬†see Kathie one more time to see if he truly fell out of love with her. Meta trusted him enough to know he would do the right thing and come back to her. That¬†is true love¬†and Jeff did not deserve a¬†dame like that. I think he knew this which is why the blind kid nodded with she asked if Jeff was running away with Kathie. We know this wasn’t true but I feel he said yes anyway because the kid knew that Jeff didn’t deserve her after all he did and would want her to move on to someone better.

This film shares a lot of similarities with Double Indemnity. Both are told in flashbacks.¬†The main characters are smooth/witty talkers. They are clam under pressure. They fall for the pretty girl at first sight. The femme fatale starts off as an¬†innocent, happy woman then later states how much she hates her lover¬†and wants the detective to help in exchange for her love. We soon find out that killing is not a hard¬†thing to do for these ladies.¬†Both protagonists make a rash decision (that’s not totally out of character) to break the rules to be with her. At the end, the main character’s morality is tested when they have to choose between the right thing to do or stay with the beauty. Ultimately we find out that deep down they are a good person despite all the rules they broke and do the ethical choice by ending it with her. Walter Neff’s choice by framing her with Nino and then shooting her¬†to get himself off the hook is debatable whether that was the most “ethical” choice, but we can probably all agree that she deserved it.

Out of the Past

Here we find a case where the protagonist of the story cannot seem to run away from his past, thus the movie title “Out of the Past”. Jeff Bailey (really Jeff Markham), is a man who after trying to escape from his past, ends up confronting it until his last breathe. After being found by his original boss Whit, Whit tells Jeff that he must do one more job, in addition to his dark past. His job is to find a woman named Kathie Moffat (Whit’s ex-girlfriend), and bring her back to Whit. She also had a dark past where she shot Whit and stole $40,000 from him and ran away. As Jeff meets Kathie, Jeff falls for Kathie and soon enough, they run away together getting into more shenanagans. It got to the point where Jeff fought his own partner protecting their secret relationship, and Kathie ends up shooting his partner. Kathie runs away while Jeff cleans up the murder he is not responsible for, and finds a deposit check of $40,000.

At another point, Whit has another job where once again, Jeff meets Kathie where she tries to make him fall in love again, but if fails. This new job in the end causes another person to die, which is the person who was framing Whit of tax fraud, as well as framing Jeff as the killer. Finally towards the end, Kathie kills Whit, and Jeff tries to run away and continue his life with his current girlfriend Ann. However, Kathie stops him and gives him two life decisions, he can either leave and will be framed for the deaths, or he can runaway with her. Choosing to leave with Kathie, he informs the police of her on a secret phone call and the police stop them later on when they leave. Kathie in anger, kills Jeff as the police begin shooting the car.

This is a story where there wasn’t really a true “hero” of the story because every main character had a dark past. What makes this noir different from the others is the fact that Jeff tried to make the best decisions rather than the right ones to get out of a situation. At the end, the best decision Jeff could make at the time is to completely stop Kathie by calling the police even though he was killed. In a way, knowing that Kathie will continue to pursue him, he instead sacrificed himself to end the double faced, Kathie.

Out of the past.

In the film “Out of the past” we see yet another detective getting involved in a case he has to solve. It starts out with our detective Jeff in a small town actually living a false life going under a different identity His past catches up to him and now he has a new objective. To retrieve certain information for his old client who he double crossed. In the is noir film we have Jeff the hardboiled detective who actually attempts to escape his terrible decision. The femme fatale in this film I believe is the most corrupt from all three films we have watched so far. Kathie did not hesitate to kill anyone and every time she appeared in the film it meant some kind of trouble for Jeff. The relationship with the femme fatale starts much like the other 2 noir films. Jeff was called in and given a case to find her and bring her back. The reward was high enough to warrant the thought of going after her. Once Jeff met the femme fatale it was all downhill from there. She convinces Jeff to run away from Whit, the reward and be with her. Jeff is so infatuated he does just that. We can see that this is the classic noir film femme fatale set up. The private investigator tosses aside his case to get the girl.

In this film we see that Jeff is not interested in the femme fatale anymore but he cannot seem to escape her and her web of lies no matter what he does. He is also less morally corrupt than the other main characters. He made a mistake accepting the femme fatale and he tried to get away and lead a completely different life with a new woman. Instead of the main character looking for trouble the trouble finds him and does not want to let him go.

Shadow Play: Double Indemnity

During our last class we viewed the film Double Indemnity, based on the book of the same name. Though there are several differences between the book and the film, the key characters are basically the same. We have two character types that appear in Noir film, the femme fatale, Phyllis and the not so good protagonist, Huff.The film had its share of controversy, taking 8 years before getting made. The main themes of the novel/film include infidelity, murder, and suspense.

Neff/Huff is a insurance salesman that goes door to door. The trouble begins when Neff/Huff meets Phyllis. In the movie she appears slightly under-dressed. In the novel she is in pajamas. Either way, from his narrations it is clear he has more than her husbands auto insurance on his mind. Soon, he is accusing Phyllis. Neff uses the situation to enact his wish of getting over on his insurance company. However, it is clear that he is merely a puppet in Phyllis’ plan. As we learn from her step daughter Lola, Phyllis most likely murdered Lola’s mother.

Double Indemnity

The story and film of Double Indemnity circle around the proclaimed protagonist of Walter Nuff, who is an insurance sales man and little did he know his life would change once he met Phyllis. Phyllis is portrayed as the femme fatale towards Nuff and both of them come to the conclusion of killing her husband by making it look like an accident, but with Nuff’s knowledge he knows the best way to gain more for their dirty deed. The book and the film both have a different way of telling the story, such as the death of Phyllis and how Nuff got shot for example. The Noir film describes an intense story between emotion and fear of getting caught. The femme fatale played a huge role to the influence of Huff because of her beauty he was blinded in making the right decision on what is good. The conclusion due to the femme fatale, holds Nuff to the despair end of no women, no luck and no life in the film, and leaves the viewers thinking he’s on the blink of death. Still in the book his end, is Keyes his friend in the company or the justice in the story, decides to let Huff live with what he did and send him off in a ship with Phyllis.

Compared to The Maltese Falcon, they both do portray the Femme Fatale as a strong influence to the protagonist and they both give off this tension of what could possibly happen next. I believe both gave off the perfect sense of a Noir Film and both were highly up on the interest.

Class Notes – 9/19/13

Defining Film Noir — what is film noir?

Group 1 (Infanit, Gin, Perla, Magaly, Carol, Stacey-Ann)

“A genre of film in which the lighting, characters, music, and overall theme has a dark undertone. Major characters portrayed are shady and the roles which are usually distinct in other genres are muddied and not easily differentiated. Storylines usually encompass some kind of mystery, which is solved at the end of the movie. Some film use flashbacks as a method of creating mystery.”

Group 2 (Krystine, Gladys, Veronica, Christian, Mike)

“A film that uses light and shadows. Usually a crime drama that focuses on a particular character or story with questionable motives.”

Group 3 (Kimberly, Andy, Gianpaul, Simon, Jonathan)

“Film noir is a drama that incorporates elements of shadows, darkness, tension, and mood to create a gritty atmosphere. Within this world are ambiguous characters, who could become good guys, bad guys, or something in between. The protagonist is usually associated with the femme fatale, who usually gets him into some kind of trouble.”

Group 4 (Andrew, Xavier, Danielle, Limmer)

“A noir film is a motion picture which uses shadows to create a dark ambiance throughout the film, along with a mystery to be solved. A femme fatale is usually involved and there is always a sense of tension in the air as the film progresses.”

Group 5 (Martin, Xiu Lan, Ya Zhi, Emmanuel, Melissa)

“Film noir are black and white films that use shadow-work to portray mysterious undertones. These films are crime-based and contain femme fatales, detectives, and the main protagonist who is slick and is always led into danger by the femme fatale.

Group 6 (Ebony, Sofia, Jonathan C, Malik)

“A genre of film style involving a lot of dark moods and negativity. The movies are very dramatic — crime stories. Generally framed around a femme fatale. And the films use shadows to tell a story of their own.”

Where is good to be found in the film noir?

Mysteries – solved
Maltese Falcon
Who killed Spade’s partner
What was the Maltese Falcon
who had the M.F.
Find out whether the protagonist will do the right thing?

where is good in the film noir?
— “in the emotions felt by the protagonist as well as the actions that were done by specific characters”
— “no good, just perceived as good”
— DI –

— KEYES (moral person) vs. NORA (innocent)

protagonist at the end usually winds up making the morally BETTER (not necessarily good)

Justice is served by end of film (?)

Double Indemnity – as book and film — differences
— something about movies, films that demands diff types of endings, portrayals, etc?

Double Indemnity

In the film Double Indemnity, was exactly about the topic we discussed in class, femme fatale. From the¬† notes we¬†took¬†it completely described one of the main characters who was¬†¬†Phyllis Dietrichson. The femme fatale of this movie was a beautiful woman who had a plan, not only one who she planned with the main character but also another which was one of her own plans. Just like any femme fatale she lead the main character believing they will end up together happily but it only cost the main character into danger and finding out the real truth. After they both finished their plan of killing Mr. Dietrichson, the main character, Walter Neff was expecting a plan within him and Phyllis, but Phyllis had a different plan of her own which she betrayal Walter an her own stepdaughter. After Walter found out that Phyllis was seeing her stepdaughters boyfriend behind her back and he went to confront Phyllis explaining why she betrayal him and she said it was only to persuade Nino into killing her stepdaughter due to jealously. In¬†this particular scene you can see Phyllis again pulling her femme fatale¬†to¬†get things her way. In the end¬†the¬†“Femme fatale”¬†that Phyllis has been portraying did not work out for her because¬†she¬†did¬†not¬†get things her way¬†and died.

In conclusion I find both the Maltese Falcon and Double Indemnity similar due to the femme fatale characters played in each movie but unfortunately they both did not get the things they wanted their way.