Sunday, January 24, 2016

Jason goes to Noir City--Day 2

Four more movies on Saturday, including an amazing double bill of foreign noir. But first, a double bill about art collectors

THE DARK CORNER (1946): We started the day with this unsubtle near-parody of noir. Mark Stevens is Bradford Galt, a private eye who set up shop in New York after some unpleasant business back in San Francisco. His secretary/love interest is Kathleen Stewart, played by none other than Lucille Ball (who went on to say that making this movie was the worst time in her life, mostly due to the bullying of director Henry Hathaway.) William Bendix plays the ruffian, and Clifton Webb is the villain, gallery owner and jealous husband Hardy Cathcart. His wife has fallen into the arms of another man, and in true Hollywood style he (the other man, not Cathcart) happens to be the source of the trouble Bradford had back in San Francisco. So an elaborate plot is sprung to frame Bradford for murder. And in a convoluted plot he--with the help of Kathleen--has to stay alive, prove his innocence, and catch the bad guy. Oh, and make fun of high society art snobs while they're at it.

CRACK-UP (1946): At night, a man breaks into an art gallery, raving mad, and starts wrecking the place. Turns out that man is George Steele (Pat O'brien) who is an art expert who lectures at that very gallery. To keep the scandal out of the paper, they don't press charges. But his story makes no sense. It starts with surviving a train crash...only the records for all the train companies show no crashes that night--none for months, in fact. He seems to be losing his mind. Which is awful convenient, considering the board was already considering firing him for his shocking lectures that have led to riots in the gallery (yeah, there was a time and a place when people cared that much about art.) But there's more going on, a complicated international plot of theft and forgeries, and Steele has to get to the bottom of it, even if everyone else thinks he's dangerously deranged. Well, that was a lot of fun.

Then a long break, where I had time to get a little food and a little drink, and back for some international noir.

LOS TALLOS AMARGOS (THE BITTER STEMS) (1956): From Argentina, this uncovered gem made it's North American debut at the Castro last night, only 60 years after it was made. Brilliantly shot, it has the noir-est of noir plots--absolutely no heroes. A small time newspaperman has a crisis of confidence, thinking he has done nothing worthwhile with his life. When a European barman befriends him, they hatch a plot to make a ton of money with a shady correspondence course on journalism (actually, the course may well be above-board, except for the promises of a lucrative, exciting, powerful journalism career--he knows full well being a reporter is a shitty job.) And the scam works, pretty soon the checks are rolling in. And he has a sense of purpose--not in the scam itself, but in the fact that he's helping his friend raise the money to bring his family to Argentina. Especially his son Jarvis. But friends make him consider whether or not he's actually being played. Is there a family at all? Or is his "friend" playing him, planning to steal their fortune and leave him holding the bag? Well he has to find out...and he does. He overhears a conversation that convinces him his friend is scamming him. And so he takes steps to...get rid of the problem. And then Jarvis shows up. Okay, I could see the twist from some ways away, but it doesn't make it any less thrilling, and the photography, acting, story, and ending are all top-notch noir.

FLICKA OCH HYACINTER (GIRL WITH HYACINTHS) (1950): And we ended the night in Sweden, with this movie that Ingmar Bergman called perfection, and who am I to argue? We start with a small party, people laughing, drinking, playing music. And Dagmar Brink (Eva Henning,) a lovely blond lady, goes home and promptly kills herself. She leaves behind no family, no close friends, and all her possessions are left to the writer who lives across the hall, even though he and his wife hardly knew her. But they go on a search to figure out who was Dagmar Brink, and why did she kill herself. And they meet many acquaintances--a lover, a husband, a father (maybe,) and a musician in stories that eventually tie together. Although the clues mean different things to the husband and the wife. And I can't say anymore, I would spoil it. I'll just say that while I guessed at the twist of the ending, it was still immensely satisfying.

Total Running Time: 371 minutes
My Total Minutes: 414,819
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