Review: The Aura (El Aura)

The Aura is a neo noir from Argentina written and directed by Fabián Bielinsky. Bielinsky was not a prolific director, being this is only his second full length feature film, the other being Nine Queens from 5 years earlier. Unfortunately Bielinsky died in 2006 of a heart attack at only 46 years old. I wish we had more than two films written and directed from this great talent, who knows what we would have seen in the years to come.  This film was released in 2005 and appeared at the Sundance Film Festival in 2006.

This film stars Ricardo Darín as an epileptic taxidermist. He has fantasies of grandeur, with a hobby of planning the perfect criminal heist. Darin is very good in this film, one moment coming across as a friendly man, then turning and saying something with a bit of bite the next moment. He also seems very intelligent for the most part with a bit of good luck on his side from time to time. After meeting a friend at a museum where both are working on some taxidermy projects. They decide to go on a hunting trip together, but when all the rooms are taken in the small town due to the local Casino they get a cabin up in the woods. When they go hunting our hero makes a terrible mistake and all hell breaks loose for him.

I don’t want to go into much more on this films plot. Though the film starts out a little slow, when the twists and turns come, they are hard to see coming and take the noir fan on a wild ride. We don’t know where or when it will end.

I really enjoyed this one, it has a very good story with some high level cinematography. The dog in this film is amazing, not sure how they got this dog to act the way he did, but it sure made a nice element to this film. I would recommend this film to all film lovers that can handle a movie with sub-titles. After watching this film I hope to watch Nine Queens soon.

Favorite Tidbit: It looks like this film has a Hollywood remake in development. His first film Nine Queens also got the Hollywood treatment and was named Criminal.

Review: The Tattooed Stranger

The Tattooed Stranger is a film noir from RKO, released in 1950. This has a lot of things that make it sound interesting, especially the title! Remember this is 1950, so the whole tattoo thing was not as mainstream as it is today. This movie stars John Miles and Walter Kinsella as new partners on a case. Patricia Barry also stars as a Lab Tech to help solve the case. This film is directed by Edward Montagne, who looks to have started out doing documentary shorts, moved on to a couple of B-noir films, then moved onto television and comedies.

This story starts out with a man walking his dog and comes across a dead girl, in a car, in the middle of Central Park. Soon our hardboiled, experienced detective is on the scene, where he learns he will be teaming up on this case with the rookie detective with the college degree. We get a pretty cookie cutter procedural from here. With the vet and rookie clashing on different issues and techniques as our rookie feels he needs to prove himself and our veteran is secretly intimidated by the smarter rookie.

The acting is nothing to write home about. The story may have been fairly fresh in 1950, but today plays like an average episode of C.S.I.. If you like straight forward police procedural, you may find this interesting. Especially if you would like to compare techniques the police where using in 1950 to what they can do today. Has things changed much? This movie is short and not a horrible, un-watchable mess, but it is not a hidden gem that time has forgotten. I would not recommend it to the casual fan. For those that need to see everything film noir, go for it!

I think this film still sums it up, looks interesting and I want to watch it, but after I have seen it and I don’t plan on revisiting it.

Favorite Tidbit: This is John Miles last film. He seemed to have a bit of charm and charisma and could have had a decent career I would think. Not sure why he quite showbiz after this film, does anybody out there know his history and reason?

Article: Separating fact from fiction in Dashiell Hammett’s life and work

Dashiell Hammett maybe the first author of noir and he is one of the greatest. I have found his personal life fascinating. I’ve seen a few documentaries and have read many articles about his history with the Pinkerton Detective Agency, The Anaconda Company and his time in Butte, Montana. I live in this area and if you read Red Harvest and know Butte, you will recognize that the fictional Poisonville is Butte. Anyway, here is a an article in The Washington Post by Art Taylor about what maybe legend and myth and what is fact about Hammett. It also talks about the Nathan Ward book about Hammett. Check out the full article here:

Review: The Missing Person

I really wanted to see The Missing Person from 2009, after recently watching Noah Buschel new film Glass Chin. I reviewed Glass Chin here:

Where Glass Chin takes some old tropes of noir and twists them up into a new package, this film seems to me, more of a love of film noir and cribs from some of the greatest story lines in film noir history and throws them into a post 9/11 America. Both films are very good in their own way and both have one thing in common: Buschel loves noir and it shows in his films.

This film starts out with a call in the middle of the night to John Rosow played by Michael Shannon. It is a lawyer on the other end. He says he has been referred to Rosow by mutual friend. He needs Rosow to follow a middle-aged man on a train from Chicago to Los Angeles. The lawyers assistant will be at his office momentarily. As Miss Charley played by Amy Ryan walks through the door I could not get the opening of The Maltese Falcon out of my mind. Rosow of course takes the job from what I believed to be the film’s femme fatale(I may have been wrong on this one). Shannon’s Rosow character seems to roll Sam Spade, Phillip Marlowe and Mike Hammer into a hardboiled P.I. with all the typical stereo types and throws him into the modern world. He starts out as a down on his luck man with a drinking problem. He will do just about anything for a little money as he smokes his cigarettes in his crumpled cheap suit.

Rosow gets on the train and keeps a low profile so his mark, played by Frank Wood, will not notice he is being followed. This train voyage reminded me of The Narrow Margin in a number of ways. As we get to Los Angeles he checks into the same seedy hotel as his mark, but soon finds the closest bar for a drink. Here is where we meet our femme fatale of the film, Lana Cobb, played by Margaret Colin. The story continues from here as our hero travels to a more modern noir location like over the border in Mexico and then back to New York City.

We as is our protagonist is in the dark much of the film as we travel North America looking for answers. Everything leads back to New York for almost all of our characters and how that fateful day of 9/11 effected them.

One more scene that reminded me of a classic neo noir is the scene in the hotel with Rosow listing in to what is happening next door. This reminded me of The Conversation.

I’m sure different scenes will make you flash back to other noir greats, most with a modern twist, but still a loving homage. Listen for The song “Once Upon a Time There Was a Pretty Fly” from Night of the Hunter and a lengthy conversation about the film Serpico. Did I miss any other references?

This will obviously be a film, noir fans will enjoy for its style and its love of film noir and neo noir. We have a unique modern twist on all of this, but nothing super original. I think most noir buffs will find this entertaining and worth their time. I look forward to seeing more films from Buschel in the future. I really like  Michael Shannon and find him interesting in every movie he does, so I think fans of his will also enjoy this film.

Review: The Strange Love of Martha Ivers

The Strange Love of Martha Ivers is a classic film noir from 1946. This film has a lot of unique history to it. It is directing great Lewis Milestone’s only film noir. It is also Kirk Douglas’ first film, recommended for the film by the first couple of noir, Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall based on his Broadway acting. We also have “The Threat” Lizabeth Scott in only her second film. Scott may have been called “The Threat” based on her being a possible threat to film noir greats Lauren Bacall and Veronica Lake. It’s hard to say if Scott was ever really a threat to those two, but she sure held her own and has earned a right to be named with those two as some of film’s noir favorites. In addition to all this talent we have the two biggest stars of this film being the all time great Barbara Stanwyck and our leading man being Van Heflin. Heflin was coming off of a three-year leave from the movies to serve in World War II.

Our film starts out with Martha as a young girl trying to run away from her overbearing Aunt. She is aided by juvenile delinquent Sam. When Walter tells his father and the police where Martha might be, she is soon caught. After a black out and a scuffle on the stairs Martha hits her Aunt with a poker and she falls to her death down the stairs. We flash forward seventeen years as Sam, played by Heflin is driving by his old hometown, he gets in a car wreck and brings his car into town to be fixed. Sam finds his childhood friends are now prominent fixtures in the small town. Walter played by Douglas is now the D.A. and is married to Martha, played by Stanwyck, who has inherited her Aunts wealth. Sam soon meets ex-con Toni, played by Scott. There is an instant attraction, but when Toni gets in trouble, Sam calls on his old friend, the D.A. Walter to help her.

This is a great film with quite a few plot lines going on. Will Martha’s past come back to haunt her when her best friend from her past comes home? Will Sam use her to help out his new flame? How will Walter react to all of this? What will he do?

This is a must see film noir for all fans of classic film. If you are a fan of any one of the big four stars of this picture you will love it. If you are not a fan of any of these four stars…you need to start watching some of their films!

Favorite Tidbit: This film appears on the television in a scene from last years horror favorite The Babadook.

Interview: I Write Pulp Because I Love It: An Interview with Josh K. Stevens

Here is an interview with noir author Josh K. Stevens. I have not read any of his books, but after this interview I look forward reading his books. Check out the full interview with his take on the history of noir, who has influenced him over the years and who he is reading today:

Review: They Made Me a Criminal

They Made Me a Criminal may not be considered a film noir by some because of its production date. This film was made in 1939, a year or two before some consider the film noir movement started. This film is based on a book from Bertram Millhauser who maybe more famous for his Sherlock Holmes movies then his noir stories. The film is directed by Busby Berkeley, a director better known for his musicals and comedies then crime films.

I was most interested in watching this because it stared Ann Sheridan, unfortunately even though she is third on the billing she isn’t in the film very long. Claude Rains plays a pivotal role, but isn’t in the film much either. The ‘Dead End’ Kids provide some comedy relief and some fast paced dialog, but this is most definitely a John Garfield film.

What this film lacks in film noir style it more than makes up for in noir story. Garfield plays a champion boxer who has just won a big fight. He tells the press what the public wants to hear. He thanks his Mom, says he doesn’t drink, isn’t a womanizer and comes across as a class act. We soon find Garfield back in his room, drunk with his manager and his best girl played by Sheridan. We find he is nothing like his public persona and is actually the opposite of the way he acts in public. I found this aspect of the film very interesting as we see this with pro athletes to this day. It seems the smart athletes know how to come across as a humble, good person, but we soon learn in their private life they have drug problems, cheat on their beautiful wife, have gambling problems or have even thought they could get away with bigger crimes.

When Sheridan invites her friend up to the room to continue the party, things are said and tempers flair. Sheridan’s friend brings up her date who unknown to our party goers is a reporter. When he says he is taking the information he learned to his paper, Garfield tries to stop him, but is too drunk. His manager hits the reporter over the head with a bottle of liquor before he can leave. This kills the reporter and with Garfield being passed out and the only person in the room when it happens the manager frames him for the murder. The manager and Sheridan escape and soon are chased by the cops and it ends in a fiery wreck killing both of them. Garfield wakes up with a headache and no knowledge of the murder. The police mistakenly think Garfield was in the wreck and the murderer of the reporter. Garfield travels across the country as everybody thinks he is dead. Will it ever be discovered he is really alive? Will he ever be able to return to the ring and his former glory?


This film is a pretty good film with a very noir ending. If you are a Garfield fan you have to see this one. I wish Sheridan was in this a little longer, but she does leave a lasting impression on you in the little time she is in the film. Like I said, some may not consider this a true film noir because of the date of its release. I say we have boxing, a falsely accused man brought down from being on the top of the world to a penniless man who must start over. To watch this man risk it all for people he recently meet, knowing it will be his undoing. Lets not forget the hardboiled cop that nobody likes and you have all the elements of a noir story. I recommend all film noir fans watch this and see for yourself if you would classify this a film noir or not, plus you will get to see a pretty good film no matter what genre you put it in.

List: The 10 Best Movies Written by, Adapted from, or Inspired by Raymond Chandler

Taste of Cinema is at it again! This time with the 10 best films involving the great noir author Raymond Chandler. Agree or Disagree with the choices or the placing if you like, but read the full article for some great knowledge about the author and these movies you may not have known. Well worth your time to check it out if you are a fan of noir or Chandler. Here is the link to the full article:

Review: Broken Horses

Broken Horses is an American film from Indian writer and director Vidhu Vinod Chopra. This has gotten some amazing accolades from other film makers like Alfonso Cuaron and James Cameron. This film has not got a very good reception from audiences or some critics. So what did I think of this film?

This film stars Anton Yelchin as Jakey and Chris Marquette as Buddy. They are brothers and Buddy is mentally challenged. This film starts out with Buddy as a young boy meeting his father played by Thomas Jane at the shooting range. They have a little father-son talk and out of nowhere the father is shot and killed. We then see a young Jakey playing his violin at a recital. When Buddy goes back to work after his father’s funeral, he meets crime boss Julius Hench played by Vincent D’Onofrio. Hench tells Buddy who killed his father and where he lives, buddy goes to the house with no fear and kills the man. The film flashes forward 8 years when Jakey is getting married soon to Vittoria played by María Valverde. He goes back to his hometown to visit his brother and have him be his best man at the wedding. Buddy has been working for Hench for the last 8 years and Jakey sees he is different person then he remembers. Will Buddy be able to quite his job with Hench and go live with his brother? Will Jakey be able to accept his brother the way he is now? Will Hench let either of the brothers live?

This film also has Sean Patrick Flanery in a small but disturbing role worth mentioning. This film is beautifully filmed with a classic film noir feel in a number of scenes. The story is a simple but very dark plot. The brother dynamic is interesting, with the blood thicker then water theory tested. This movie adds up to a very good film. It is not the best low-budget neo noir I have seen this year, but it is worth watching. I think fans of noir will enjoy this film even if the general movie public doesn’t.

Favorite Tidbit: This is actually a remake of a Bollywood film called Parinda from 1989. That film was written and directed by Vidhu Vinod Chopra as well. Parinda was one of the first neo noir Bollywood films to make a profit, ushering in a wave of Bollywood noir film. Here is another film I will be adding to my never-ending “must see list.”

Review: Film Noir: Bringing Darkness to Light

This is a documentary from 2006 about classic film noir. This is very interesting with modern noir legends like Frank Miller, Christopher Nolan, and James Ellroy giving you their take on film noir. We also get some insight from the Czar of Noir, Eddie Muller and other experts of film noir.  It is a short film and in my opinion lacking a little. Sure it is entertaining and informative, but it over looks a lot! The stuff they cover, like a look at Robert Mitchum and Elisha Cook Jr. as some of the great actors of film noir is very good. They also cover Raymond Chandler slightly and discuss Philip Marlowe and how he fit into noir and film noir, which is great, but they only really cover Murder, My Sweet in this part of the film. Just to show how lacking this documentary is, neither The Big Sleep or Humphrey Bogart is mentioned in either of these sections of the film! Even after they show some footage of Cook Jr, in The Maltese Falcon with Bogart they don’t really cover Bogie. They of course have a section of the film about the femme fatale’s role in film noir, and talks about a few great actresses but doesn’t even mention Rita Hayward, Ava Gardner, or Lauren Bacall! I think this film must have run into movie rights issues. I say this because they cover a lot of RKO stuff and even though this film was distributed by Warner Home Video, it doesn’t even cover most of the Warner Bros. classics. Though Maltese Falcon, The Letter and White Heat clips show up, none are covered in-depth. I also noticed Fox and Paramount films are not covered at all.

I would say this film is still worth checking out for what it does cover and is nice to see what some of today’s noir greats think about the era. It is also a good primer for people just starting to learn about the classic film noir era. I watched this film on DVD which came with a few extras, but you can watch the film here for free.