Tuesday, August 4, 2009

From Playwright Mitch Vermeersch

One of the cool things about writing a play is that you get to justify as “research” what others might call “profound waste of time.” Over the past few months I’ve spent a despicable amount of time watching noir films as research for Heist Play and I’ve come across a lot that I think everyone should see because they’re awesome. There are many more great movies than I could cover in one post, but for this entry I thought I would just mention a few that I think are very cool and worth checking out.

Double Indemnity – A noir classic and one of my favorite movies. Double Indemnity exemplifies what makes film noir film noir: doomed love, murder, the perfect crime, first person narration, flashback structure, stylistic cinematography. Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck and Edward G. Robinson are brilliant and the dialogue is some of the best in all of film noir.

Gun Crazy – A precursor to Bonnie and Clyde, this movie follows the tragic love affair of a couple whose love for each other is matched only by their love of guns. Shocking for its day, the cinematography in this film takes steps that are way ahead of its time. The famous one-take Hampton Robbery sequence alone is reason enough to watch.

Detour – While noir films were traditionally low budget movies, Detour makes the Maltese Falcon look like Pirates of the Caribbean. Shot in six days, Edgar G. Ulmer’s incredibly sparse and fatalistic tragedy about a traveling man whose every move seems cursed by bad luck is creepy creepy creepy and will leave you feeling paranoid for days.

Rififi – This one set the standard for all heist films to come. Jules Dassin’s direction of this French movie is astounding not only for his typically gorgeous visuals, but for the unbelievable suspense he creates. The famous heist sequence runs a quarter of the film’s length without music or dialogue, and manages to be one of the most captivating scenes I’ve ever watched.

Leave Her to Heaven –Despite being shot in color, this movie is typically referred to as a part of the noir cycle because of Gene Tierney’s terrifying portrayal of Ellen Berent, a femme fatale that will scare the crap out of you. Without spoiling anything, the silent drowning sequence in this film still gives me chills.

These are just a few. I will go into more in the next entry. However as it is late and I cannot think of a clever way to end this one, I will close with a chunk of dialogue from Double Indemnity. This is one of many reasons why I love film noir:

Neff: I wish you’d tell me what’s engraved on that anklet.

Phyllis: Just my name.

Neff: As for instance?

Phyllis: Phyllis.

Neff: Phyllis, huh. I think I like that.

Phyllis: But you’re not sure.

Neff: I’d have to drive it around the block a couple of times.

Phyllis: Mr. Neff, why don’t you drop by tomorrow evening around 8:30. He’ll be in then.

Neff: Who?

Phyllis: My husband. You were anxious to talk to him, weren’t you?

Neff: Yeah, I was. But I’m sort of getting over the idea, if you know what I mean.

Phyllis: There’s a speed limit in this state, Mr. Neff, 45 miles an hour.

Neff: How fast was I going, Officer?

Phyllis: I’d say around 90.

Neff: Suppose you get down off your motorcycle and give me a ticket.

Phyllis: Suppose I let you off with a warning this time.

Neff: Suppose it doesn’t take.

Phyllis: Suppose I have to whack you over the knuckles.

Neff: Suppose I bust out crying and put my head on your shoulder.

Phyllis: Suppose you try putting it on my husband’s shoulder.

Neff: That tears it…

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