Friday, February 1, 2013

Jason goes to Noir City--Day 6

Wednesday was the every popular SF Noir night. Noir films set in (and shot in) the noirest of Noir Cities, San Francisco.

But first, in Tuesday's post I made this comment at the end of my review of NATIVE SON:
In most Noir, there's a moment (often several) when the doomed hero could have chosen to do the right thing and everything would have turned out better (if not all right, at least better.) In this case, although there were several chances to do the right thing, I never got the sense that things would have been better. The fact is, the moment the girl decided to be stupid and drunk around a black man, he was as good as dead.
I sort of dashed that off quickly, but this thought stuck with me for the rest of the day. I realized I had actually made a pretty bold statement on the nature of free will vs. fate in film noir, something that could be the subject of numerous academic papers, books, etc. I came down pretty squarely on the side of free will, and the more I thought about it the more I decide that's probably a reflection of my personal outlook on life rather than a dominant feature of film noir (if anything, film noir is more often about the tension between free will and fate rather than coming down on one side or the other.)

But getting back to NATIVE SON, what I realized I meant is that (in the story) the white man has free will while the black man is a victim of fate. And saying that make me...uncomfortable. I'll leave it to the reader to decide if that's true in the movie (or the novel, if you've read it.) And whether it was true of America at the time. And whether it's still true. And whether I'm racist for thinking it.

And now back to Wednesday's films, before I get into too much more trouble.

THE SNIPER (1952): One of the first modern serial killer movies, with nearly the best named villain ever--Eddie Muller um...Miller (Arthur Franz.) It does a great job of presenting it from the point of view of the killer, a woman-hater who is tormented by his dark desires. So much so that he intentionally burns his own hand to keep himself from picking up his key, opening up his drawer, and grabbing his rifle. But such mitigations are only effective for so long, and when he doesn't get the psychiatric help he knows he needs, he starts shooting. A great story that focuses equally on the psychology of the killer and the police procedural for tracking him down (including some nice conflict between the police psychologist with his modern ideas and the traditional cops with their hard-nosed, 'round up all the usual suspects' approach.)

EXPERIMENT IN TERROR (1962): And then this wonderfully crafted, masterful suspense thriller from a man more famous for his comedies--Blake Edwards (and featuring music from his longtime collaborator Henry Mancini.) Lee Remick plays Kelly Sherwood, a bank teller in San Francisco. She is threatened by a mysterious criminal genius (Ross Martin) and forced to participate in a daring robbery of her own bank. Otherwise, he'll not only threaten her life but also her sister Toby (Stefanie Powers.) He's certainly done his homework, knowing where they  both will be at any moment. John Ripley (Glenn Ford) is the crafty FBI agent matching wits with him. And what a battle of wits it is. Just awesome. And also, another practically perfect 4K digital restoration. I can tell you there wasn't a moment I was thinking about film vs. digital formats rather than thinking about the story.

As a special bonus, after each film, we were treated to a quick "Then and Now" video of SF locations we had just seen, courtesy of Reel SF.

Total Running Time: 220 minutes
My Total Minutes: 312,510
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