Today: five pieces due. I am a machine. Let's begin:
Got back to watching the Friday Noir. This week: Force of Evil, with John Garfield, an actor whos not remembered anymore at least in the Cooper / Fonda / Bogart sense. He played a lawyer whos mixed up with the rackets, gets in the middle of a gang war, tries to save his slightly less corrupt brother, etc. Martin Scorcese praises it highly; many awards. Its good - not knock-out great, but it has some fine scenes.
They could light a set, eh?
Another example: the shot last just a few seconds, but its very effective. Unfortunately, movies that have great shots like this often skimp on the two-fisted action the audiences might want when they see a John Garfield movie. Then again:
Made me think: when was the last time you saw anyone face the camera in a movie? Theres not a lot of it, perhaps because what is natural in real life is unnatural in movies. Theyre not talking to us.
Except when they are. A few weeks ago I watched Dark Passage, a mediocre Bogart / Bacall number with a gimmick: Bogie is a convict who has plastic surgery. (It was an accepted convention in the movies and books of the era that you could have your face remade into new and unrecognizable shapes, often by disreputable doctors whod lost their license but still practiced in grimy, fly-ridden operating theaters. Near the waterfront.) We cant see him before he has surgery, or the transition to Bogie-face wouldnt work, so for the first half of the movie everyone addresses the camera. It gives the film a nice twist, and the effect is unnerving. It's not all addressed to the camera, as you see here.
Oh my yes. Anyway, some examples, which look like examples from a show of Gritty Urban Portrature. First, a guy who asks for a match:
Thats all he does, but its an unsettling moment. There's something pushy and intimate about the closeups. Next, Bogies buddy, a down-and-out horn player in the gaunt Chet Baker mode:
Endora shows up, but since she speaks to Bogie through a door, she doesnt look right at the camera.
Hi there, Doctor Nick!
Hello, everybody! Its the plastic surgeon and the cabby who brought our hero to his office. (Another conceit of the era: the cabbie who knows everything from the location of secret plastic surgeons to where Big Jim Malloy gets his oysters.)
The operation leads to hallucinations. This is fairly straightforward, as morphine-induced madness goes . . .
. . . but this is cruel & unusual:
Bacall superimposed over a skull flayed to show the musculature. The sort of hallucination that really makes one think: okay, focus on the good.
As usual, the street scenes made me pause & snap. This one has some history:
The Owl Drug store was a nationwide chain begun in 1892, and bought out by Rexall in the 30s. The original store, according to the source I cited, was located at 1128 Market St. in San Francisco. I dont know SF well enough, but that could be it, if thats the Market St. cable car line. Another shot of postwar SF:
Ordinary signage, but cool. I recently learned that Minneapolis passed an ordinance many years ago that banned metal perpendicular signs like you see above. Perhaps they feared theyd fall and brain someone; perhaps they had. Doesnt take many. Figure there were a few rusted parts and loose screws by the mid 50s. Id hate to think that these signs were done away with on purpose, by law. But I wouldnt be surprised.
Back to Force of Evil for contrast. Sunday morning, Wall Street. I hit pause, and thought: I know that building, from a unnerving photograph.
Ah hah! Its the Morgan Building. Ive never forgotten that picture; those gigantic oversized recessed windows give the building a blank, empty malevolence. Its hard to think of something that huge existing in 1913, but of course it did, and it was hardly alone.
Well: its now 3:10; Ive finished the Sunday column, the Joe Update, and this. Next: the Newhouse and Strib columns.
Mondays are fun!
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