Neo-Noir Hall of Fame

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LOL, I just realized that we went past the announced deadline *days* ago All this past month, I thought the deadline was the same as when the countdown starts (February 25), so my apologies. Trying to juggle too many things at once sometimes it's confusing. Anyway, let's keep the reviews coming until the 25th.
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LA HAINE
(1995, Kassovitz)



"How you fall doesn't matter. It's how you land!"

The above is a statement that is repeated often throughout the film. It's not how you fall, but how you land. The ironic thing is that it comes at the end of a monologue about a man jumping off a building; a situation where there isn't much of a choice as far as "how you land". But perhaps that is the underlying message in this French film.

Set in the middle of a string of urban riots in Paris, La Haine follows three friends from a poor neighborhood. When one of their friends is injured by the police, each of the three friends face try to see where they land and how to handle it. The hot-tempered Vinz (VIncent Cassel) wants revenge, while the more sensible Hubert (Hubert Koundé) just wants to avoid problems and leave the neighborhood with his family. Saïd (Saïd Taghmaoui) falls somewhere in between.

Things get more complicated when it is revealed that Vinz has gotten ahold of a revolver that was lost during the riots; something that he plans to use on the police if their friend dies, creating more tension with his two friends. The film follows them through the rest of the day and night as they encounter different groups and situations that will push them to see if they fall, but most importantly, how they land.

All three performances are pretty good, and although Cassel has the showier role, I appreciated the nuances in the performances from Koundé and Taghmaoui. There is a certain looseness to the story that I think works both in favor and against it. Some of the situations the friends find themselves don't work as well as others, but nonetheless, it is interesting to see them face and handle different characters and different types of pressure, all of which end up showing us who they really are.

When the film opens, it is Hubert the one sharing the story about the man that jumps off a building. The story goes that as the man fell past each floor, he kept reassuring himself "so far, so good", as if there was any chance or hope in how he would fall. The same can be said about the friend's journey through the film, where every step might lead them to think things are "so far, so good", not realizing they've been falling all the time. How much of a choice do they really have?

Grade:



I’ll at least throw up a quick review for my own choice. Glad to see most everyone enjoyed it, Siddon’s hatred notwithstanding.

Shallow Grave



Danny Boyle’s debut was a simple, fun, darkly funny little pulp flick that announced his arrival on the scene, and Ewan McGregor with him. The title tells you you’re likely in for a dark ride, but I always loved that structurally it builds to that darkness by starting out pretty much as a comedy. Three twentysomething flatmates – a reporter, an accountant, and a doctor - are in search of a fourth border. But they are such a snarky clique that they delight in playing games with the various candidates. Until the serious and nonplussed Bruno arrives. He doesn’t exactly seem like their type, but he is interesting enough that they rent him the room. It is not long before the quiet Bruno is not answering his door, so they burst in to find him dead. Not only dead, but they discover a suitcase positively full of cash. They decide to enter a devil’s bargain where they will dispose of the body and keep the money. They draw lots of who has to dismember the corpse, and after the identifying pieces are destroyed they bury the rest of the chunks in the woods.

Before the gravity of what they have done can really settle, a pair of men come looking for the border and that fortune. The accountant, David (Christopher Eccleston), who had to cut up the body is the first and most obviously effected, but that growing paranoia and coldness serves them well when he manages to overpower the intruders. More bodies for the woods! But now all of their personalities are changing, due to the murders and that lovely gold fever that sows so much untrust, quickly turning on each other. There are uneasy alliances, but eventually it descends into madness and blood.

The dark humor juxtaposed with the bloody crimes and twisting suspenseful betrayals makes it all worthy of the label “Hitchcockian”. Their fates are sealed the moment they decided not to call the police and turn in the money, but like most Noir protagonists they foolishly believe they can outsmart whatever darkness is always attached to a bag of money one did not earn. Like many wonderful movies it defies easy classification, but the deceit, betrayals, and darkness qualify it enough as a Neo Noir in my book. Whatever one calls it, the ride is a fun one.

GRADE: A-
FOR HALL OF FAME PURPOSES:


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"Film is a disease. When it infects your bloodstream it takes over as the number one hormone. It bosses the enzymes, directs the pineal gland, plays Iago to your psyche. As with heroin, the antidote to Film is more Film." - Frank Capra



I'm really happy that I was able to catch up with most of my reviews. I only need to write something about Body Heat, and then watch the two films I'm missing.



I understand Siddon's distaste for their snarky, obnoxious characters, though I find them amusing. What I would disagree with is that their character turns are too sudden or unearned. The distrust obviously goes back to the same primal currents that cut through a masterpiece like Treasure of the Sierra Madre, and that dismembering a human being shakes them out of their smug, sarcastic worldviews is, like, the point.

But to each their own. I loved it in 1994 and still find it a blast.



Siddon went all-in with that one

Y'know it's just one of those films that the first time you watch it you don't like it but you can move on. This is now the third time I've had to watch this film also I nominated a film that was just like Shallow Grave in an earlier Hall called the Last Supper.



The trick is not minding
Shallow Grave


It starts off as some fun, Weird game for them. Three flat mates interview for another flatmate, but spend the time harassing and insulting them and making them uncomfortable with bizarre questions.

Eventually they settle on Hugo. After what seems to be after only one night, they find him dead or of drug overdose, and a case full of money. They decide to dispose of the body, split the money, any nor speak of it again. Little do they know that two others are looking for Hugo and the money.

Things get even more tense when David, who is the more timid of the three, becomes more paranoid and dangerous.

The film set up nicely for the final act, and the acting is ok, as is the direction. Of particular note is the use of the couch. It’s used for the potential flatmates but as the detectives arrive and question them, they each take their turns on the couch, the tables turned on them. It gets flipped completely when Juliet and David announce a partnership of sorts and Ewan McGregor is now on the couch alone, facing them, aware of how much the dynamic has changed between them

Good pick!



Yay, Wyldesyde is the third one to finish! C'mon, people. Let's bring those reviews and ballots



I forgot the opening line.


Red Rock West - 1993

Directed by John Dahl

Written by John Dahl & Rick Dahl

Starring Nicolas Cage, Dennis Hopper, Lara Flynn Boyle, Timothy Carhart & J. T. Walsh

Red Rock West is a real throwback to the film noir classics of old - it has all of the elements working in much the same way. The capable, lone wolf stranger from out of town that's out of his depth, the femme fatale who is both alluring and trouble, lots of money, a hit man, mariticide, a hidden treasure and a plot that is unraveled one piece at a time before some final revelations make it all sensible and understandable. Characters aren't who they seem to be, and then after we're surprised by learning who they really are, there's still huge rug-pulls as to who they really, really are. It has something of a Western flavour to it as well, and includes many a country & western song on it's soundtrack - the end credits playing Dwight Yoakam semi-hit "1,000 Miles from Nowhere", while also having him play a small part in the film - his first appearance in a feature.

Nicolas Cage plays Michael Williams as a nice guy with a hangdog-like manner - he's looking for work, but refuses to hide the fact he has an injured leg from prospective employers. He's just that honest - and Dahl gives him the opportunity of taking someone's money when he's desperate for cash, which he duly doesn't do. Character established - nice, honest, dependable and always does the right thing, our Michael. When he gets to the town of Red Rock, he meets Wayne Brown (J.T. Walsh) - a bar owner who thinks Michael is actually "Lyle" from Texas (where Michael comes from) and assumes he's here to pull off the hit Wayne has taken out on his wife. $5000 - which is tempting to someone who has just spent his last $5 on the gas to get there, so he pretends he is indeed Lyle. Of course, he's about to become embroiled in a deadly situation. Michael goes to warn Wayne's wife, Suzanne (Lara Flynn Boyle) that her husband wants her dead - and Suzanne offers Michael double the money to kill Wayne.

Heading into this situation is the real hitman, played by Dennis Hopper. Hopper has this annoying brashness he gives the character - less menace than sheer objectionable unpleasantness. He was great in the mid-80s, and I loved him in Blue Velvet, but mid-90s Hopper didn't have the power and complexity to make Lyle the dark menace he should have been. I thought it was this film's weakest link - the Hopper performance. He's coasting on his name alone. Lara Flynn Boyle doesn't have what Barbara Stanwyck or Rita Hayworth had either - I didn't buy the fact that she could seduce Michael into doing incredibly stupid things, considering the chemistry between the two characters was negligible. Cage is great though - and he's the one that manages to keep Red Rock West afloat, along with J.T. Walsh, who definitely has the menace that Hopper's Lyle is desperately missing.

Red Rock West's best feature though, is it's screenplay - the credit for which is shared between John and Rick Dahl. Wonderfully paced, and like a good downhill skier, it knows exactly when to twist and turn. Situations keep developing, fast enough for the viewer to be often caught by surprise. The locations, in Montana along with Willcox, Sonoita and Elgin, Arizona, give the film a Western feel - the vastness swallowing up our collection of desperados and wrongdoers (Michael excepted of course) as the dust threatens to do the same. The soundtrack of country and western songs reinforce that earthy feel to proceedings, with Johnny Cash, Shania Twain, Kentucky Headhunters and Toby Keith joining Dwight Yoakam on the roster of artists who at times burst forth and remind us of where we are.

I had fun watching Red Rock West - I was genuinely surprised by the events that transpired as they transpired, and Nicolas Cage probably doesn't get enough credit for simply being a great actor - instead recognized more for giving over-the-top, crazed performances. He really anchored this neo-noir thriller, and without him it wouldn't nearly have been as good. It's a film that gets it's honest, working-class protagonist lost in the wild expanses of the United States, and snagged on deadly conspiracies while caught up with murderous characters. It doesn't impose itself with it's hour and a half runtime, and is very economical. Turns out Red Rock is a damned hard place to leave once you find yourself there - for all manner of reasons. I'm not too keen on going there myself - it's a pretty common name for a town out in the American expanses, so I'm just scratching them all off my list.

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Latest Review : Aftersun (2022)



I forgot the opening line.


Le Circle Rouge - 1970

Directed by Jean-Pierre Melville

Written by Jean-Pierre Melville

Starring Alain Delon, André Bourvil, Yves Montand & Gian Maria Volonté

We miss nothing in Le Circle Rouge - Jean-Pierre Melville takes us on a very deliberate, step-by-step process which lingers on each fated step his characters take. They exist in a very muted, dark-toned wintery world - away from the light, with all of the coldness that implies. Three criminals - Corey (Alain Delon), Vogel (Gian Maria Volonté) and Jansen (Yves Montand) eventually come together in the red circle as the film's epigraph defines it : "Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha, drew a circle with a piece of red chalk and said: "When men, even unknowingly, are to meet one day, whatever may befall each, whatever the diverging paths, on the said day, they will inevitably come together in the red circle."" Both the way they eventually come together, and what they do once they become a trio of thieves about to commit a heist is patiently explored in this film.

At the start of this film, Corey, Vogel and Jansen are as far apart as you could imagine. Corey is in prison, just about to be released - and through that process he's tipped off about the big-time jewellry shop he'll eventually target once free. Vogel is going through the inverse process - caught by the law, he's being transported by train to his eventual incarceration, guarded by Inspector Mattei (André Bourvil), but manages to escape. Chased through the countryside, he loses the team searching for him and ends up hiding in the trunk of Corey's car - leading to their chance meeting. Once it's established that the pair will pull off the heist at the jewellry store, Corey gets in contact with Jansen, who is suffering from the DTs due to his alcoholism. Despite that, Jansen will pull himself together to perform the needed feats of markmanship and find a fence for the goods they're about to steal. For that, he sees Corey as a personal saviour.

To get the most out of Le Circle Rouge you have to be in the moment, and admire the style and the composition of each shot and every scene as it plays out - the pace very purposely lets us soak it in. The overall rhythm of the film is perfect, and enjoying the cinematography is pretty darned easy - because it's absolutely beautiful and breathtaking. It manages to capture the dark and shadowy aspects of early film noir, all the while using a colour pallet that's full of muted greens, greys and dark blues. Director of photography Henri Decaë pulls off some marvelous shots - the slow zoom back from the moving train, the perfect line of police searching for Vogel, the spherical eye-glass shot of Delon through the door, the pool table from directly above and the silhouettes from on top of the jewellry shop building are a few that come immediately to mind, but the entire film is simply a visual treat for a cinephile, and draws from the extensive experience of Melville and Decaë.

Eric Demarsan’s score also goes for an old-time film noir atmospheric feel, with a very sedate jazz style of accompaniment to much of what goes on. Lots of saxophone and other brass along with a little percussion and wind instruments (to heighten tension) keep the slow pace of the action rooted into that relaxed, easy rhythm of film. Much of the film plays out in a very quiet way, with only sound effects and dialogue for us to keep our attention rooted upon - and sometimes the score will slip in almost inaudibly before slowly ramping up a little, but never overwhelming the cool mood of whatever scene it's being used sparingly in. The jazzy style is easily amplified when our characters step into the nightclub the film spends moments in, with the very nice visual element of dancers adding spectacle that gives a little feel of how so many heist films have that connection to nightlife, drinking and cabaret. The heist itself plays out nearly silently.

The heist - yes, it's the centerpiece of nearly every film that's like Le Circle Rouge, and here it runs for around 27 minutes, during which the film is completely free of dialogue. There's the odd ticking of a clock, footstep or dull thump depending on what's going on - but the scene is tense enough to make us forget about anything else, and not even realise just how quiet this portion of the film is. I love how characters can sometimes converse dialogue free - one swift turn of the head says "oh no" or "what's happening?" One outstretched arm means "be careful". I also like how the sound department also adds an almost imperceptible jangle to the jewellry being put into the thieves' bags. I don't know if it's the quietest cinematic heist ever, but if not it'd come close. The film becomes a completely visual cinematic experience, with every move the characters make intensified - especially considering the risks and circumstance.

When you add it all together it's a moody, great looking film which pulls you into the world it's characters seem destined to inhabit without question, just as they seem destined to meet each other and share their ultimate fate. It's a world of deceit, nerves, patience, swift movement and fast-thinking. It's an impressive movie whichever way you look at it - worthy of being one of the last movies Jean-Pierre Melville would ever make. I feel that watching it only once does it a little disservice, but take my word when I say I'll be watching it again - it takes a little while to get used to that slow rhythm and find what the movie wants you to focus on. It's a film of perfected techniques, carefully crafted story and cool, calm, characters - professionals at what they do. They have a certain mastery that can only be attained by a lifetime of practice - but when it's the police versus the crooks - one party must lose. Cinematically though, this film is definitely a winner.




And with that, PHOENIX74 becomes the fourth one to finish.

@GulfportDoc, @Holden Pike, @Siddon, and myself. Let's try to wrap this up in or before February 25 (two days).

I still need to finish the last 40 minutes or so of Le Cercle Rouge. Had to go to the hospital last night with one of my kids, so you know, priorities. I also need to get to Sin City, but I've seen it before so if the pressure's on, I can go from what I remember and write something quick.



La Haine (1995)

A gritty social thriller set in the projects near Paris. The picture captures the ethos inherent in inhabiting the projects’ way of life, which is similar in any big city. It’s juxtaposed with the outside community that creates a constant tension and resentment. With not much plot, but more of situations, it has a documentary feel, and its portrayal of the subject of outcasts in society is just as timeless today as it was then.

Written and directed by Matthieu Kassovitz, and keenly photographed by Pierre Aim, the film became the number one highest grossing box office hit in France.



Thanks to GulfportDoc for finishing the Neo-noir Hall of Fame!

Ok, only Holden, Siddon, and myself left to finish. I only need to rewatch Sin City, which I will probably do tonight. I also owe my review of Body Heat.






Tightrope(1984)

When is a Dirty Harry film not a Dirty Harry film...when Eastwood has a pair of kids and a bunch of dogs in this sex crime cop film. Richard Tuggle didn't do a lot of work, his IMDB resume is pretty light this movie makes me wonder why. The film is basically about a masked serial killer going after sex workers in New Orleans. The film has a dirty estentic however you have to give props to the casting because the women are all very affractive.

The killer spends the first half of the film hunting Eastwood and murdering the people who he comes into contact with. The film doesn't really connect with the first half and the second half. We never really get a handle on the killer we're only told about him it's a shame because I was digging the film for a while. The audience should feel like Eastwood could be the killer but that never really connects on screen and that's the biggest issue with the film. Eastwood never feels like he could be the killer so that's the biggest flaw of the film. Still for about an hour I was enjoying this one quite a bit. Good nom

B-






Tightrope(1984)

When is a Dirty Harry film not a Dirty Harry film...when Eastwood has a pair of kids and a bunch of dogs in this sex crime cop film. Richard Tuggle didn't do a lot of work, his IMDB resume is pretty light this movie makes me wonder why. The film is basically about a masked serial killer going after sex workers in New Orleans. The film has a dirty estentic however you have to give props to the casting because the women are all very affractive.

The killer spends the first half of the film hunting Eastwood and murdering the people who he comes into contact with. The film doesn't really connect with the first half and the second half. We never really get a handle on the killer we're only told about him it's a shame because I was digging the film for a while. The audience should feel like Eastwood could be the killer but that never really connects on screen and that's the biggest issue with the film. Eastwood never feels like he could be the killer so that's the biggest flaw of the film. Still for about an hour I was enjoying this one quite a bit. Good nom

B-
I agree with so much of this. Well put.



I just finished Sin City, so I'm basically done. Just need to write my 3 final reviews.





The Red Circle (1970)

I think of Melville as the french Tarantino, both made about a dozen films and while the series of films have ups and downs both are finishing their careers with epics...and this is a noir epic. Now most of you know I hate boring movies but The Red Circle manages to never bore me. Part of what makes it so good is that the film is told in chapters, each scene/set piece is 15-20 minutes long and they are fantastic. This film is a master film maker giving up his opus to say everything he needs to say about the genre.

The look of this film is just breath taking, the best movies are films where you feel like you are walking through an art gallery. Quiet moments in 60's apartments, the dawning of new technology, and the pasterial and dirty farm lands of France. Everything looks amazing. Alain Delon is just three years removed from Le Samurai but he's aged himself. This is a world weary man who is still cool but now he knows he's near the end of his run.

I do agree that the character work could be better and that the theifs don't really have much personality. However I didn't mind it's a different take on the genre...and yeah I'm pretty sure Michael Mann lifted a bit of this one for the movie HEAT.

A





Body Heat (1981)

Laurence Kasdan was on a hot streak in the early 80's, after sucess on Raiders and Empire he made his directorial debut in Body Heat a classic noir story told for modern audiences. William Hurt plays a lawyer who gets sucked into a murder for inheritance scam from Kathleen Turner. The film does a lot of things well...the first thing you notice is that Hurts character is not a sympathetic figure. He's a bad lawyer and frankly a bag guy...he spends his time sleeping with waitresses and nurses but he aspires for the wealthy Walker. He's also a dumb guy, he gets good advice from everyone in his life he just chooses to ignore it.

Some noirs have excellent twists what Body Heat does which is so good is that it's a slow moving train to misery for the lead. The sense of foreboding just builds and builds, you know the character can walk away but yet he keeps getting sucked into this obvious terible end for him. While the film doesn't go over the top with the visuals like some other noirs it's best aspect might be it's score. The music is so good giving a dreamlike nature to we the audience are sucked into the nightmare of that the character is going through.

The star of the film is Kathleen Turner...this was her film debut. Her performance reminds you of Lauren Bacall. She's incredible in this bouncing between vulnerability, menance, and sexiness. If this wasn't her debut I would have expected her to get an Oscar nomination for this...but the rules were different back then. Though if I'm being honest with myselt this film really should have been in the mix for multiple awards the Academy got a lot wrong this year.

A