Monday, September 15, 2008

Night and the City

Saturday, September 13, 2008

I'm a little worried that Noir Month is turning out to be a bit of a wash. I haven't really watched as many so far as I've meant to, in part because I feel like it alienates my girlfriend. And I'm going to be out of town for a few days now and won't have a chance to watch any. Doesn't seem like I'm gonna end up seeing many. Oh well, here's out next selection, and the first one that's not part of the box set I purchased.

Notable Talent: Well, the reason I checked this one out is because of the director, Jules Dassin. He did the pretty incredible crime film Riffifi, and I had heard this one might even be better. Also, the star is Richard Widmark, who I very much enjoyed in Pickup on South Street, and is pretty good here too. And Gene Tierney is famous, though I don't think I ever saw her in anything before.

Detective Story: No, not at all, and I once again regret making this one of my categories. This is a crime story, at least in part. It's about a small time hustler (not in the prostitute sense) who tries to con and bluff his way into a major business venture. However, one of the people he's crossed has it in for him, and sets the wheels in motion for his downfall.

Twisty, Turny Plot: Somewhat dense, for sure. It's one of those crime movie plots that I'm fond of, where it's complicated but also very character driven. Everybody has a different motive, and their actions set the plot in motion, rather than an arbitrary plot dictating their behavior.

Moral Ambiguity: The main character lies, cheats, steals, and even becomes violent towards women, all to achieve his dreams of success. He's a proper bastard, and yet strangely comes across as a complex, conflicted, and maybe at times sympathetic character. The ending is a doozy, powerful, bleak, and classic noir, where he performs a possibly redemptive act of self sacrifice... but it doesn't make him any less dead.

Sweet-ass Shadowy Black and White Cinematography: It came as no surprise to me, but this is a great looking movie. It's got all the dark, seedy back alleys and dingy apartments and smoky clubs you could hope for in this kind of thing. Makes you wish they'd still occasionally shoot crime movies in black and white.

Overall Quality: I'm conflicted here. I think I went in with my hopes a little too high, or maybe I was expecting something different, but this took a while to get going for me, wasn't as heavy on the action as I was expecting, and only really slowly built it's way into becoming a crime movie. Still, it had a lot of interesting character work, great cinematography, and the more I think about it, the more I appreciate it. It sticks with you, especially the cold-blooded ending.

Hard to say where this ranks. I suspect that it may objectively be the best noir I've watched so far, but I also must admit that it was touch and go for the first half while I was watching.  It's stuck with me more than the other movies, and that's saying something, but didn't entertain me as much as some of the others. I'm sticking it in the 3rd spot, although I suspect my appreciation of it will grow if I ever see it again.

1) Act of Violence
2) Crime Wave
3) Night and the City
4) Mystery Street
5) Decoy

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