Author Archives: Jon_Burcin

Chinatown’s Score

I just had to come on and say that the title track for Chinatown by Jerry Goldsmith is a brilliant piece of work to match a brilliant movie. I can safely add that its one of my newest favorite themes, up there with Star Wars. It perfectly matches the mood of the film, especially when it plays during the heartbreaking ending.

Just listen to it; how haunted and somber it leaves you.

There’s not much I can say, It speaks for itself:

Brazil and 1984

There are plenty of similarities between 1984 and Brazil. TV’s are present everywhere in the movie, similar to the telescreens from the book. Also in the film, there are ministries like the Ministry of Information and Ministry of Defense. Along with the guns and weapons being displayed in a public place where kids and even nuns don’t mind them, there are signs that say “The Truth Shall Make You Free”, “Be Safe, Be Suspicious”, and “Information Is The Key To Prosperity”. These sound ¬†just like the sayings of the Party from 1984: “War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.”

Security guards, security machines, and cameras are seen everywhere just like the thought police could be anywhere and anyone. Children mimic the actions and want to be just like the police in both the movie and book. The people are always being watched. Danger is something that is the norm to both societies. Whether there’s bombs exploding on Oceania or at a restaurant with Sam and his mother, both medias show that the people are so accustomed to these disasters that they just ignore it.

Sam Lowry and Jill Layton are obviously akin to Winston Smith and Julia, both pairs having very similar traits. Sam and Smith are both passive, shy men but also very smart and sympathetic and only become more lively when they meet their respective “femme fatale”. They also both dream about her and of being free. Jill and Julia are strong-willed, courageous, loud mouthed, rebels while also being kindhearted.

I also noticed some similarities between this movie and the other noirs we’ve watched. The wide-angle lens shots are similar to those from The Set-Up¬†to portray the awkwardness and uncomfortableness of certain characters. Dream states are a big part of this film as well as Murder, My Sweet. There are also the gritty, ugly settings of the streets vs. the classy, rich, elegant settings of the higher class society; themes that are always present in noirs, although the ones in Brazil¬†are much more exaggerated of course.

The Set-up

Let me start off by saying this film has beautiful cinematography. The uncomfortable close-ups of the blood-thirsty audience, the tense fight scene, the emotional train scene with Julie, the eerily quiet part when Stoker is trying to escape Little Boy’s goons, and especially when Stoker is backed against the wall with the criminals closing in; the scenes really create the distressing feelings and tension that embody the noir genre. The movie also knows when to add silent moments with no music or dialogue to engross the audience in the moment so we can think about what the characters are thinking and take in the environment.

¬†The Set-up¬†also tackles a lot of themes. Greed is introduced early when we see the young paper boy take over the old man’s spot and start selling papers. And of course there’s the greedy manager Tiny who creates this whole set-up predicament by not telling Stoker about the deal to lose on purpose. Tiny even scams Red (who looks strangely similar to Mickey from Rocky, coincidence?)¬†out of some of the cut when he tells him the deal was 30 bucks instead of 50.

There are also the themes of age, youth vs. aging. We saw that with the paper boy and the old man but it’s most prominent with Stoker in the locker room. We see the nervous newbie on his first fight, the cocky experienced fighter, and the middle-aged, almost washed-out veteran who is Stoker. He’s too prideful to give up on the fight even after seeing that Julie didn’t show up and finding out it was a set-up all along. He wants to leave his mark. He wants to prove to people and himself that he isn’t too old. Stoker doesn’t want to face the fact that he is aging.¬†He wants to believe that he is Luther Hawkins (the african american boxer), the youthful, strong, handsome athlete on the top of his game. They both say similar lines like: “I can feel it” and “It only takes one”. There’s also the more obvious symbolism showing this: when he gets knocked out, opens his eyes and see’s an advertisement for medicine saying “Are you over 35?”.

A great deal of the noir city is shown off. The dingy, gritty bar where drinking, lust, money, and dirty deals Рthe main subjects of the genre Рare all introduced. As Julie walks through the neighborhood, we see her getting hit on, a shabby arcade, tattoo parlor, scamming salesmen, playful teens, dark alleys, couples, graffiti, clubs, and more bars; all the places present in the rough area of any city.

There’s a ton more topics about this movie worth mentioning but I’ll just save those for the our next essay.

P.S. Remember guys, plagiarism is bad!

Murder, My Sweet – A Noir That Played With Itself

Murder, My Sweet is an interesting¬†film noir¬†as it¬†presents new elements¬†that we haven’t seen in the ones we’ve watched so far. It starts off with the usual private eye (Philip Marlowe) who is accused of murder and we go into flashback to see how he got into this predicament. All the classic material is¬†present: bright lights of the noir city, the fast-talking, witty, money-grubbing, playful-at-times¬†protagonist, the beautiful yet manipulative femme fatale, dingy workplace,¬†shadows; it’s all there.

However, new aspects are also introduced: our protagonist didn’t commit any¬†crime this time (although¬†he still agreed to kill a man), and we¬†finally see a happy ending where he¬†gets the girl.¬†Something else that¬†I noticed¬†was when Philip is¬†passed out in the bed, this is the first time we see¬†a noir¬†“hero”¬†sick and¬†in such a vulnerable state. He actually¬†loses his mind and goes crazy. We are caught off guard because we’ve always known our protagonist as being¬†smooth and calm no matter the situation.

Other such¬†aspects are¬†the “black pool” transitions when Philip gets knocked out and the “spider web vision” he sees when he’s in a daze. There is also the dream sequence where he’s hallucinating¬†walking through doors and falls down a black hole (which reminded me of that scene from Vertigo). This almost seems out of place in a noir film because we’ve never seen these stylistic choices done before. This film wasn’t afraid to play around with the genre – hence the title – and¬†stray from the¬†norm just a bit enough to¬†see what it was capable of. And good thing, too, because we probably wouldn’t have such modern classics as Sin City and Watchmen. It’s interesting to see where these ideas stem from, even as early as 1944.

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.

Double Indemnity – Femme Fatale

Since we talked mostly about femme fatales in class, I focused mainly on the one introduced in last week’s film,¬†Double Indemnity. We described a femme fatale as being beautiful, one who leads the main character into danger, and feigns naivete or weakness to hide manipulative goals. Phyllis Dietrichson¬†had all of these characters and then some.

In the beginning of the movie, we are introduced to her with nothing on but a bathrobe. She doesn’t try to hide her seductive nature, even with Walter Neff, a stranger, in the house. Later on, she starts making Walter as well as us – the audience – feel for her as she talks about how lonely she is and how worried she is about her husband. Phyllis uses this pity to gain the insurance agent’s trust. When she hints at the idea of a scam to get insurance for her husband without him knowing, Walter catches right on, and leaves, distraught. She, of course, comes back all innocent to apologize and kisses him to regain his trust. The woman knows this agent is her only chance to get what she wants and she cant let him get away that easy.¬†Once she does gain his trust back, she immediately changes her story to say that her husband abuses her, and leaves her alone constantly. Apparently, she cares nothing about him now. When Walter decides to help commit the murder Phyllis agrees with no hesitation; “straight down the line”.

After the crime is successful, Walter becomes more and more paranoid and guilty as time goes on. Deep down he still has a heart and killing someone is eating him up inside. Phyllis, on the other hand, feels no remorse or guilt at all. She goes on just wanting to be with Neff like nothing happened. Eventually when Walter thinks they’re going to get caught, he tells her that they need to pull out and forget the money. Phyllis then completely changes character and drops the innocent, sweet girl act. She becomes¬†conniving, wanted to bring Walter down with her if he doesn’t go through with the original plan. Another man she supposedly “loves” and she’s ready to betray him at the drop of a hat. When Walter finds out about her “meetings” with Nino, he decides to back out and frame them instead. Phyllis hears his plan and points a gun on him. We see that she has grown somewhat attached as she cannot pull the trigger. This makes it even more saddening when he eventually has to shoot her and turn himself in, as we know they both loved eachother by the end.

This shows another great film noir convention as it can create characters that we can feel sorry for but also possess ambiguous qualities. Qualities that we typically relate to the “bad guy”.¬†They can be either the antagonist, protagonist, or both depending on the audience’s view.

Maltese Falcon Conventions

As we saw in The Maltese Falcon,¬†this movie showed a lot of the conventions of film noir that helped define the genre. ¬†Since “noir” literally means black in French, the most important aspects are the use of black and white and striking shadows. These create the stylized look and feel as well as helps set the mood for the rest of the film. Some more apparent ones: taking place in a detective’s office with the “wild and unpredictable” smooth-talking, womanizing detective, a murder mystery ensuing, most of the main characters becoming suspects, the heavy dialogue, and added love stories.¬†A few subtle conventions can also be seen that are built upon in later movies. For example; the use of window blind shadows, and the bright lighted/neon signs in the background at night.

While we are on the topic of conventions, I wanted to discuss the difference between conventions and clichés. Is there a difference? If so, could conventions ever become a cliché?