Sunday, January 29, 2017

Jason goes to Noir City--Day 8

Eddie described this double bill as the ugliest films in this year's Noir City. I prefer the term "gritty" but the point is well taken. With few exceptions, you're not watching these movies for aesthetic pleasure.

BLUE COLLAR (1978): Harvey Keitel, Yaphet Kotto, and an outspoken Richard Pryor star as a trio of blue collar auto workers. They work hard, and are squeezed by both management and the union--although they are loyal union men. Seems they barely have time, money, or energy for the occasional coke-and-hooker party. And it seems that's by design. Those in power want you to fight each other, not work together to better yourselves. Anyway, they come up with a plan to rob the safe at the union local safe. It's a good plan, and not hard to execute, as security is nearly non-existent. Problem is, they don't find much cash. But they do find evidence of wrongdoing, which they turn into blackmail material. Paul Schrader (the writer of TAXI DRIVE) made his directing debut with this explosive, uncompromising, working class political thriller that's still relevant today. And it shows the kind of dark, uncompromising vision that's kept him from being more commercial and has made Hollywood kind of a difficult place for him (as evidenced by his work on THE CANYONS)

STRAIGHT TIME (1978): And then Dustin Hoffman plays Max Dembo, an ex-con who just wants a job, an apartment, a girlfriend, a chance. But his parole officer (M. Emmett Walsh) gives him a hard time, just because he got a hotel instead of going straight to the halfway house. He's convinced to let him stay in an apartment if he can find a job before the end of the week. An he does, looks like Max might actually have a fine future. He even has a girlfriend--Jenny (Theresa Russell) a girl from the employment agency who hooked him up with a job. But the parole officer still gives him a hard time. Although Max is clean, his friend Willy (Gary Busey) had shot up in his room, and when he finds evidence he locks Max in jail and leaves him there for days because he's just "too busy." So as he's driving Max back to the halfway house, Max snaps, steals the car, strips the officer and handcuffs him to the side of the road. And then just goes on crime spree, dragging Jenny along (completely willingly) and getting his friends involved in bad, bad way. It's a powerful view of how humiliation and the fragile male ego is the root of him slipping back into crime. He was ready to go straight, as long as people let him have his dignity. But once he's crossed, and insulted, he goes off. And he knows he's doing the wrong thing, and he does it anyway. And that's the functional definition of noir, even if it's noir in the 70s.

Total Running Time: 228 minutes
My Total Minutes: 415,109

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