6 posts categorized "Neo Noir"

December 08, 2016

THE LONG GOODBYE — CLASSIC FILM PICK

Long GoodbyeRobert Altman made a bold statement in his casting of Elliott Gould as a Jewish version of Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe character in this modestly budgeted film. Giving the chain-smoking Marlowe an orange tabby cat as a beloved pet adds quirky counterpoint to Gould's deceptively not-so hardboiled character. 

Elliot Gould's version of Marlowe is a postmodern '70s era invention who jives with the times as much as he clashes with them. If a bunch of partially nude model-types want to hang out on the balcony of his chic L.A. apartment (complete with its own elevator), that's fine with Gould's Marlowe; he can take it or leave it each time. Punk rocker Richard Hell could have done no better. Booze and drugs come with the territory.

Colesmithey.com

Cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond elevates this film’s 1.7 million budget with his signature attention to capturing light and darkness. Here is a neo-noir that uses color to emphasize Los Angeles’s speedy influence on the characters and the action. Check out the classy nighttime chase scene, between driver and pedestrian, that Ziggy shoots like something out of a sci-fi thriller with neon lights splashing across a car's wind shield as if it were a rocket ship. Breathtaking. 

Colesmithey.com

Altman’s knack for making every supporting character count is just one more essential element that makes “The Long Goodbye” so memorable. Arnold Schwarzenegger's portrayal of a musclebound boy toy is perversely hilarious. There are more than a few things in this movie that you can't unsee. Whether or not you'd want to, is another story altogether. Blood does get spilled.

Elliot Gould

Rated R. 112 mins. (A+) Five Stars

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November 11, 2012

BOUND — CLASSIC FILM PICK

Bound1994 set a new standard for what audiences should expect from a neo-noir movie. Between Quentin Tarantino’s “Pulp Fiction” and the Dahl Brothers’ “The Last Seduction,” the genre buzzed with an erotic polarization waiting to be pushed to the far end of the meter. For their 1996 filmmaking debut the Wachowski siblings obviously had precise ideas about what such a movie would look and feel like. Billy Wilder prompted the inspiration. Smoldering lesbian lust was the catalyst. Jennifer Tilly and Gina Gershon provided the chemistry.

Caesar (Joe Pantoliano) is a Chicago mobster living in a plush high-rise with his baby-talking moll Violet (Tilly), who unbeknownst to him is a closeted lipstick lesbian on the make. A promising elevator ride with Corky (Gershon), a recently released convict doing construction work in the empty next-door apartment, is all the invitation Violet needs.

Bound

The Wachowskis create far-reaching commentary on female stereotypes. Violet is feminine. She wears dresses that show off her ample bust. Her sultry voice verifies her ability to seduce. Corky, on the other hand, is all male energy. She wears wife-beater Ts that show off her muscular tattooed arms. She walks with a cowboy swagger. When they stand together, the high-heeled Violet looms over Corky. In bed, Violet is the dominant lover. The Wachowskis develop the couple’s flashpoint romance though escalating sexual encounters that peak with a passionate lovemaking episode, which breaks the boundaries for Violet and Corky to commit to each other. Susie Bright’s contributions choreographing the film’s vivid sex scenes are clearly visible.

Because this is a neo-noir, their ardent devotion leads Violet and Corky to attempt to steal millions of dollars in cash from Caesar. Suspense is heightened through the story’s limited locations. Almost all of the action takes place in the adjacent apartments with their paper-thin walls. When Caesar brings the money home in a paper bag, the cash is bathed in so much blood that Caesar has to hand-wash and dry every bill — a situation that allows for one of the movie’s most iconic scenes, in which $100 bills hang like so many socks on lines strung across Caesar’s apartment. Caesar’s money-laundering job title couldn’t be more appropriate. Such examples of wry humor cascade like dominos through the script.

Bound2

The meticulous plot revolves around Violet and Corky working together to manipulate Caesar into believing that his rival Johnnie (Christopher Meloni), the son of the Mafia boss, has stolen the cash and set him [Caesar] up to take the fall. The plan entails Caesar going on the run to avoid being killed. But Caesar chooses fight over flight.

Revered in lesbian circles for its hat-tips to the lifestyle's authenticity, “Bound” is a neo-noir that earns every ratchet click of tension it draws from its audience.  

Rated R. 108 mins. (A) (Five stars — out of five / no halves)


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September 27, 2012

SIN CITY - CLASSIC FILM PICK

Sin_city"Sin City" is a high concept tour de force rendering of Frank Miller's wickedly sexy and grotesque graphic-novel-homage to the hardboiled noir style of Dashiell Hammett and Mickey Spillane.

Director Robert Rodriquez collaborates with Quentin Tarantino to create a personalized format of dark animated expression. They use negative imagery with accents of color (especially blood-red) to emphasize character traits, and show the cartoon action exactly as Miller originally drew it.

Frank Miller’s participation with Robert Rodriquez in the film’s production speaks to the clarity of vision on display. The filmmakers’ dynamic use of green-screen technology to flesh out the story’s urban terrain is stunning. Black-and-white characters bleed bright white blood from black bullet wounds. This really is eye-candy.

Mickey Rourke, Bruce Willis, Benicio Del Toro, Clive Owen, and Jessica Alba pop from the screen as iconic black-and-white characters of a fetishized criminal underworld. The vice-riddled narrative weaves together three Frank Miller stories ("The Big Fat Kill," "The Hard Goodbye," and "That Yellow Bastard"). The ink-black shadows that splay across the screen corroborate its characters’ cruel and kind intentions.

Sincity.colesmithey.com

Hartigan (Bruce Willis) is a honest cop who does eight-years of hard time for a crime he didn't commit in order to protect a little girl named Nancy after she's kidnapped by the serial-rapist son (Nick Stahl) of the town's corrupt Senator (Powers Boothe). Corruption drips from every lamppost.

Mickey Rourke steals the show as Marv, a virtually indestructible hulk addicted to violence, booze, and pills. "Marv was born in the wrong century. He belongs on some ancient battlefield, swinging an ax into somebody's face." Marv's taste for blood is piqued after the murder of a hooker named Goldie (Jamie King) who showed him one "night of kindness." Marv sets off on an ass-kicking investigation that finds him torturing guys, like the man Marv drags facedown on the street as he speeds along in his car with the door open. Once Marv locates his serial-killer prey (played by one very tweaky Elijah Wood), it's all about amputation and decapitation.

Sin_city-clive_owen.colesmithey.com

Clive Owen is the most normal of the baddies on display as Dwight, an all around badass who gets caught in an apocalyptic battle between the cops and the mob as the result of a mistaken cop murder performed by the gun-and-sword wielding prostitutes of Old Town. Girly fetish fantasy goes softcore with the sizzling BDSM gear Rosario Dawson wears with pride.

"You've got to prove to your friends you're worth a damn. Sometimes it means dying. Sometimes it means killing a whole lotta people." That's how Dwight explains his philosophy. It's a sentiment that provides a common bond between Hartigan, Marv, and Dwight, while imparting a rough-edged view of the nocturnal world of Frank Miller's deadly protagonists. “Sin City” lives on in your memory like a fantasy nightmare where living people morph into super-action visions of beguiling brutality.   

Sin-city-colesmithey.com

Rated R. 124 mins. (A) (Five stars — out of five / no halves)


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