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Friday, August 31, 2012

Three More Reasons I love Film Noir

1. Rififi (1955)
Rififi means Trouble!
  This excellent film, by American Director Jules Dassin, is a French production, filmed on the streets of Paris.  The tough-guy lead, played by Jean Servais, is le Stephanois, a jewel thief just out of jail who finds out his woman (the beautiful Marie Sabouret) has taken up with a gangster.  In a shockingly brutal scene for the time, he takes her to task for her disloyalty.  Building a team for a heist, including Dassin himself in a key role, Servais pulls off one of the first on-screen silent heists that has been copied and parodied in dozens of movies since.
  I like this movie for several reasons, one of them being the great location shots around Paris.  This was a low budget affair, so the streets are used as much as possible, including the wild finish which I'll only say invovles a car, a wounded driver, a child, and a gun.  It's just awesome.  Servais carries the movie with his solid performance--you have the feeling no one can get the better of him.  He's invincible in the midst of all these killers, despite his internal despair; as if he wouldn't mind taking a bullet in the back of his head, though he knows it just won't happen.  And as I mentioned, this movie is brutal, in a 1955 sort of way.  These guys are not showy tough guys.  They just do what they have to do.  They aren't punk kids.  These are mature men, some of them husbands and fathers, who just happen to live in a very rough world.  Watch for this in Dassin's last scene as the character C├ęsar.
  If there is any sort of moral in this story it would be of the simple crime does not pay variety.  But it puts an exclamation point on it in its own unique way.  Rififi has been rated the number one Noir film by the great critic and Noir film director Francois Truffaut, as well as many others.
Watch Servais and Sabouret in a scene from the Rififi.

2. The Long Night (1947)
The Long Night
  This thriller, starring Henry Fonda, starts out with Joe Adams (Fonda) barricaded inside a hotel room, surrounded by police.  As the backstory unfolds, we meet his sweetheart, played by Baraba Bel Geddes, a slick magician (Vincent Price) and a few others who fill in the story.  There is great atmosphere in this factory town, and the confrontation scenes between Fonda and Price are fun to watch.  Price plays it straight here, no ghoulishness, and only creepy as far as being the manipulative older rival for the young Bel Geddes.  (This is her screen debut, by the way.)

Henry Fonda, Vincent Price, and Ann Dvorak
3. The Big Heat (1953)

    In this crime thriller, we get to see tough guy Lee Marvin as crime boss Alexander Scourby's second-in-command. Glenn Ford is the bad-luck cop who must find a way to take on the baddies when everyone else is afraid of them. Gloria Grahame is in her familiar moll role and steals the show, garning sympathy as Marvin's victim of a vicious attack as well as doling out her own vengence. Ford does his usual job of moping, which I don't always enjoy, but it works well for the story. He just always seems to come off as sleepy sometimes instead of weary. There's a big difference. This busy movie has many great minor roles which fill out the story, but make no mistake, Marvin and Grahame don't need any help.

"I was there, remember?  I'm the girl you left at the bar."  One of Grahame's perfect deliveries.
And Marvin forever earns our jeers for his treatment of Grahame.  Lee, how could you??!

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