Review: Mojave

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William Monahan has stated that Mojave is definitely not a neo-noir film, which seems to be a strange thing to say. The reason this film came to my attention is because of most of the reviews I read on this film stated it was a modern L.A. noir or a neo noir. The other reason this seems strange is that Monahan has done nothing but neo noir and noirish work for the last 10 years!

This film is based around Tom played by Garrett Hedlund, who is a filmmaker from Hollywood. When he wrecks his vehicle out in the Mojave, he meets Jack, played by Oscar Isaac. Jack is a cold blooded serial killer and when Tom gets the upper hand a cat and mouse game of epic proportions begins.

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As themes of murder, drug dealing movie producers, accidental murder, revenge and a dark look at the film industry are all themes that may appear in a neo noir and also appear in this film. With most all the film shot in low light areas and at night making it very neo noir in style as well. So why would Monahan say this is not a neo noir film?

After watching this film, I would say it falls solidly in the neo noir genre and feel Monahan was saying this film is more than a genre picture. With elements of a modern day western and dialog from a arthouse film, it is more than a neo noir film. I have enjoyed most everything Monahan has written and I like his eye for direction, even if some of the reviews and ratings are not that favorable for his work. I love the way he writes a conversation, though these conversations seem a little too smart for the characters that are speaking them, they are very entertaining and original. Though he is known more for his writing and this is only the second film he has directed, I liked the look of this film and look forward to seeing what he does next.

Mark Wahlberg and Walton Goggins shine in smaller roles.

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Mojave has not really found an audience yet and some of those that have seen it have not been kind. I really enjoyed this film on many levels and think neo noir fans will enjoy it too, even if the writer/director was hoping for a wider fan base.

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Article: Noir Is Protest Literature: That’s Why It’s Having a Renaissance

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Nicholas Seeley over at Electric Lit has a great little article about the state of noir and some ideas on what direction it needs to go in the future. He has some interesting takes on the genre and brings up some great points about the state of the noir in today’s media. Do you agree with Seeley that noir went away in the 60’s and 70’s? Is noir having a Renaissance? Read the full article here:

Noir Is Protest Literature: That’s Why It’s Having a Renaissance

And let me know your thoughts in the comments.

 

Review: Across 110th Street

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Across 110th Street is a neo noir film from 1972, directed by Barry Shear. Shear mostly worked in television, but did a few feature films, this one being his most well-known film. The film is based on a book by Wally Ferris by the same name.

The film is a mash up of blaxploitation, hardboiled detective, and Mafia films into a neo noir stew. The film starts with a bold heist by three black men who rob the Mafia who is counting money in an upstairs apartment. The robbery goes wrong when one of the men starts firing his machine gun and kills everybody in the room. They get away with the money, but the getaway driver played by Antonio Fargas maybe the worst getaway driver in cinema history. This very slow and bad timed drive causes a few cops to end up dead.

This is the springboard for three crossing story lines.  The first is our three thieves trying to get away with $300,000 of the Mafia’s money. The second is the two New York detectives who are trying to catch the thieves/cop killers. The third is the story of the Mafia trying to find the thieves and get their money back.

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Anthony Quinn plays our veteran hardboiled detective, who is a bit of a racist. He is a throwback from a pre-1960’s era. This role was turned down by such big names as John Wayne, Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas. The lead detective is played by Yaphet Kotto, a black man working his way up the ladder with skill and hard work. The two have an interesting dynamic of respect, even though race gets in the way of that respect.

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Anthony Franciosa plays the man the Mafia put in charge of finding the thieves and getting their money back. He is a very violent man who gets results.

This movie from the early 1970’s tackles topics that are still current today. The biggest one this film tackles is racism in the police force and the targeting of blacks. This film has language which may offend, and the violence is extreme, but both of these facts seem to make the film feel more real. This film feels like Quentin Tarantino went back in time and made it. In fact Tarantino used the Bobby Womack theme song from this film in his famous opening to Jackie Brown.

If you are a fan of gritty 1970’s films, or blaxploitation films from the era, you need to seek this film out.

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Favorite Tidbit: Look for Burt Young in one of his early roles as one of the mobsters in the opening scene.

A Closer Look at Ann Sheridan and Lizabeth Scott: Detectives and Dames: A Flicker Alley Noir Blog-a-Thon!

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The following essay contains spoilers for Too Late for Tears:

Flicker Alley is hosting a noir blog-a-thon for their new Blu-ray/DVD release of two classic films noir which have been recently restored. They have asked me to participate in this blog-a-thon by writing something about one of these classic films. Unfortunately I do not have copies of these two films so I’m writing this based on viewing them quite a while ago. I also have already reviewed both of these films in the past on this site.

The first film we are looking at is Woman on the Run  which I have reviewed here:

Review: Woman on the Run

The second film is Too Late for Tears  which I reviewed here:

Review: Too Late for Tears

So what is left to talk about? I would like to look at the two main stars and the characters that they play in these two films. It is interesting we have females as the main protagonists in both of these films, something we didn’t see very much in 1949 and 1950. This maybe the only thing these two films have in common, the two females are very different from one another.

The two leads are played by Ann Sheridan in Woman on the Run

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and Lizabeth Scott in Too Late for Tears .

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Our two leads have very little in common other then they are both married at the beginning of our films. Liz is happy in her marriage and Ann is not sure after 4 years of marriage if she is happy or not. Ann wears heavy coats in most of her film partly to show her acting chops instead of relying on her figure. Liz’s character uses her womanly charms to get what she wants from the men in her life, a classic femme fatale. Ann goes on a journey that seems to save her marriage; Liz has no problem getting rid of her husband for the chance at a bag full of money. Ann fights to find the truth while Liz does whatever it takes to cover up her trail.

As Ann’s and Liz’s characters in these two films seem like polar opposites their careers seem to be just as different.  I was not that familiar with Ann’s career but after watching Woman on the Run I became a fan and have watched many films with her in it over the last year. She may have been known for her figure and get her start in film by winning a beauty contest; she used that to have a very diverse career. Holding her own with the top male stars from the 1930’s through the 1950’s. She was in many great films noir, but also held her own in everything from slap stick comedies to serious dramas.

Liz on the other hand became a star after appearing in the classic film noir, The Strange Love of Martha Ivers, and seemed to be type cast. She appeared in mostly gritty films, often the femme fatale. With a sultry voice that gave Lauren Bacall a run for her money and a face that could cause any man to bend to her whim.

Though Liz and Ann where very different in career and character, they did have a few things in common. Both played strong females often and both had the talent to carry a film. If you are not familiar with either of these great actresses, these two films are a great place to start. If you are a fan, and have not seen these yet, go do it! I thank everybody involved in restoring these two films and can’t wait to see what films they will restore next!

You can buy Woman on the Run

here:http://www.flickeralley.com/classic-movies/#!/Woman-on-the-Run/p/59318243

You can buy Too Late for Tears

here:http://www.flickeralley.com/classic-movies/#!/Too-Late-for-Tears/p/59318231

Also check out all the other Blog-a-Thon entries here:

Detectives and Dames:
A Flicker Alley Noir Blog-a-Thon!

 

 

Review: The Bird with the Crystal Plumage

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The Bird with the Crystal Plumage is “The Italian Hitchcock” Dario Argento’s very first film. This film was a big hit and put “Giallo” films on the map. I don’t know much about these films, but find them simiular to America’s classic film noir period. These films are called Giallo because many are based on the cheap pulp books, most translations of English mystery books. These books are called Giallo because of the yellow covers most of them had. The French called these books noir, The Italian’s called them Giallo. In fact the first Giallo novel to be adapted was James M. Cain’s The Postman Always Rings Twice, adapted in 1943 by Luchino Visconti as Ossessione. Giallo films became popular in the late 1960’s and peaked in the early 1970’s. They have a lot of the same tropes as noir, but add a few of there own. They seem to bridge the gap between film noir and horror.

Dario Argento maybe the most famous director of this kind of film and has transitioned to more films that would be considered horror over the years. In this film Argento seems to take noir films, add some Hitchcockian elements and throw in a more violent, horror element during the murder scenes and you have the bases for this film and Giallo films to come.

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This film starts with an American writer in Italy, played by Tony Musante. He is about to go back to America with his beautiful girlfriend, played by Suzy Kendall. On his way home one night he witnesses an attempted murder in an art gallery. As he tries to enter the gallery he gets stuck between the two glass doors as the murderer locks him in as the murderer escapes out the back. He signals a man who calls the police, the police come and save the victim. The police question our American writer and take his passport so he cannot leave the country as planned. Soon he starts his own investigation and seems to be encouraged by the Italian police to do so. This leads him on a twisted trail of clues to find the killer. The killer has already struck before and seems to be targeting beautiful young women. Can our hero find the killer before they can get to his girlfriend? Will he get out of the country alive?

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This film has some interesting smaller characters that are discovered along the investigation. Argento has always been one of those directors that has interested me. It seems like he can make some brilliant films along with some that are best watched by those that like cheap horror films.

This one is beautifully shot and makes for a good neo noir film. It is a good place to start for those that are curious about Argento’s films. Suspiria is maybe his best known film and if you are a fan of good horror films, this is a must see. If you are not a fan of horror start with this film.

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Favorite Tidbit: The Bird with the Crystal Plumage is an uncredited adaptation of Fredric Brown’s novel The Screaming Mimi. There is a American classic film noir based on this book from 1958 called The Screaming Mimi. I have not seen this film yet, but would like to watch it and compare the two films.

 

Review: The Limey

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“You tell him, tell him I’m coming” 

Just watching Terence Stamp say these words are worth watching this film. Directed by Steven Soderbergh in 1999, The Limey is a neo noir film that may not be as popular as his other films around this time, but it should be.

The film revolves around Stamp’s character Wilson, who has just got out of prison in Britain. Wilson’s daughter has recently died in a horrible car accident in Los Angeles. Wilson has also received a letter from Eduardo Roel, played by Luis Guzmán, about his daughter’s death. Wilson travels to Los Angeles to meet Roel and find out what really happened to his daughter.

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Will Wilson get to the bottom of his daughter’s death? Will he like what he finds if he does?

Look for Nicky Katt playing a hitman and  Lesley Ann Warren playing a friend of Wilson’s daughter. Also Amelia Heinle as the young trophy girlfriend and her creepy evil business mogul of a a boyfriend Peter Fonda are also interestingly great.

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If your a fan of Fonda or Stamp it is a film you will really like.  This may not be Soderbergh’s best film, but it isn’t his worst. I really enjoyed his cinematography and interesting editing for this film. The story is fairly simple with a conclusion that is not surprising, but a fun film to watch none the less.

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Beyond the Golden Age: Film Noir Since the ’50s – Bright Lights Film Journal

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Here is an interesting look at the history of noir from writer C. Jerry Kutner. Though I don’t agree with some of what he says, a lot of what he says does make sense. He also talks about some films I have not seen yet and will be taking a look at.  Read the full article below and tell us some of your thoughts on his idea of noir:

 

“There is only Noir!” The Noir Vision To discuss the history of film noir since the ’50s is to fly in the face of conventional studies, which assume the “genre”[…]

Source: Beyond the Golden Age: Film Noir Since the ’50s – Bright Lights Film Journal