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April 2006
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In this double-feature podcast, Clute and Edwards investigate Tay Garnett's 1946 "The Postman Always Rings Twice" and the Coen brothers' 2001 "The Man Who Wasn't There"--considering their merits as films, and as adaptations of the novels of James M. Cain. While Garnett makes noir acceptable mainstream fare, with high production quality and glamorous stars like Lana Turner and John Garfield, his film loses the hauntingly arid psychology of Cain's novel. Conversely, the Coens decide not to adapt any one Cain story, but opt instead to recapture the tone of Cain's work; and Cain's heartache seen through the Coens' lens is the very picture of a radically new noir zeitgeist. This podcast is brought to you by Clute and Edwards of www.noircast.net. To leave a comment on this episode, or make a donation to the podcast, please visit "Out of the Past: Investigating Film Noir" at outofthepast.libsyn.com.
Direct download: OOTP_2006_12_01_PARTMWWT.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 2:37 AM
Comments[6]

Edgar G. Ulmer's 1945 film "Detour" is commonly lauded as a B-noir that overcame production limitations with artful minimalism. In this context, instances of obtrusive lighting and camerawork are viewed as minor blemishes--the best quality that could be expected from a poverty row feature. Clute and Edwards argue that the film should be granted a far greater measure of technical mastery, that the so-called flubs purposefully call attention to the very cinematic means used to construct the narrative.In this optic, the film is not good despite its "flubs" but great because of them; they render it a self-conscious noir meta-narrative--a film about the making of noir films. These qualities combine with a great script and superlative acting, by Tom Neal and Ann Savage, to create the template for all noir post-1945. This podcast is brought to you by Clute and Edwards of www.noircast.net. To leave a comment on this episode, or make a donation to the podcast, please visit "Out of the Past: Investigating Film Noir" at outofthepast.libsyn.com.
Direct download: OOTP_2006_11_01_D.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 4:59 PM
Comments[4]

In the murder of Elizabeth Short, novelist James Ellroy found a means to grieve over the rape and murder of his own mother. In the novel THE BLACK DAHLIA Betty is at once a symbol of the post-war era torn apart by its passions, and a symbol of Bucky Bleichert's/James Ellroy's search for meaning. Likewise, but dissimilarly, Betty serves a double function in De Palma's film. She seems to be an embodiment of cinematic history split between classic and post-modern eras, and of De Palma's search to assemble the perfect visual experience from pieces of his own filmic corpus. Stripped of her historical referent by De Palma, the Dahlia no longer evokes the same horror--and what is true for her is true for the film as a whole. It's various components--fine cast, clean screenplay, competent cinematography--are stitched together with near-surgical precision, but never suture us into a position where we feel we're part of the story. When the struggles of the players cease to be anything we can relate to, we can only wonder why their tale is dubbed noir. This podcast is brought to you by Clute and Edwards of www.noircast.net. To leave a comment on this episode, or make a donation to the podcast, please visit "Out of the Past: Investigating Film Noir" at outofthepast.libsyn.com.
Direct download: OOTP_2006_10_01_TBD.mp3
Category:Movies -- posted at: 4:06 AM
Comments[2]

Did noir die in 1950? As a filmic style, certainly not; many of the most daring visual and narrative experiments of the classic period date from 1951-1958. However, 1950 seems to mark a dramatic transition in what might be called noir philosophy. The strong men of the post-war years, who were victims only of their own errors in judgment, cede the screen to indeterminate men, who fall victim to forces they never grasp. This transition infuses the noir universe with a crueler sense of irony but also frees directors from certain conventions, thereby ushering in a quirkier and more self-conscious era in noir's history. D.O.A typifies this era, but is saved from ambiguity by Edmond O'Brien's strong performance. This podcast is brought to you by Clute and Edwards of www.noircast.net. To leave a comment on this episode, or make a donation to the podcast, please visit "Out of the Past: Investigating Film Noir" at outofthepast.libsyn.com.
Direct download: OOTP_2006_09_01.mp3
Category:Movies -- posted at: 12:46 AM
Comments[7]

Dick Powell was cast as Philip Marlowe in the 1945 film "Murder, My Sweet." Was it a stroke of genius to allow a song and dance man to reinvent himself in this role, or the desecration of a literary icon? Clute and Edwards are deeply divided on this issue, but find many topics on which they agree: whether the viewer considers Powell's performance a triumph or a tragedy, it is evident that the tension between the two strong female leads (Claire Trevor, Anne Shirley) is a fundamental driving force of the film; with numerous deft touches director Edward Dymytrk pulls the audience into Marlowe's point of view, and demonstrates the investigator's inner turmoil; Chandler is the fulcrum on which post-war film and literature teeter because Philip Marlowe is the perfect embodiment of the psychologically-scarred modern Everyman. This podcast is brought to you by Clute and Edwards of www.noircast.net. To leave a comment on this episode, or make a donation to the podcast, please visit "Out of the Past: Investigating Film Noir" at outofthepast.libsyn.com.
Direct download: OOTP_2006_07_01_MMS.mp3
Category:Movies -- posted at: 4:01 AM
Comments[3]

This film deserves its reputation as an important early police procedural and precursor to the television series "Dragnet," but does not deserve to be viewed reductively--as only that. Anthony Mann's un-credited direction was among his best. He coaxed strong performances out of actors given few lines, and made every shot count. Cinematographer John Alton brought the darker sides of Los Angeles to life, and Alfred DeGaetano made brilliant editing choices to overcome limited sets, a bare-bones script, and the lack of big-name stars.  Their combined efforts produced an oft-imitated 79-minute B-masterpiece, and demonstrated how much talent was to be found in the poverty row studios. This podcast is brought to you by Clute and Edwards of www.noircast.net. To leave a comment on this episode, or make a donation to the podcast, please visit "Out of the Past: Investigating Film Noir" at outofthepast.libsyn.com.
Direct download: OOTP_2006_06_15_HWN_copy_1.mp3
Category:Movies -- posted at: 2:23 AM
Comments[1]

Robert Towne's screenplay for the 1974 film "Chinatown" tells an original story, but a story whose scope, intrigue, characters, pacing, and style owe a great debt to the work of Raymond Chandler. That said, it would be a mistake to view "Chinatown" as a simple nostalgia piece. In this tale of the fundamental--indeed foundational--corruption of Los Angeles, Director Roman Polanski, Writer Towne, and Cinematographer John Alonzo tell a hard-boiled tale in a modern filmic style, and this productive collision allows them to simultaneously critique and reaffirm the mythic qualities of genre literature and film. This podcast is brought to you by Clute and Edwards of www.noircast.net. To leave a comment on this episode, or make a donation to the podcast, please visit "Out of the Past: Investigating Film Noir" at outofthepast.libsyn.com.
Direct download: OOTP_2006_06_01_C.mp3
Category:Movies -- posted at: 12:00 AM
Comments[5]

Elia Kazan might have broken the Hollywood Blacklist. Instead, when HUAC (House Un-American Activities Committee) asked him to name names, he sang like a canary. His actions ended many careers, and broke the spirit of many Hollywood players. Kazan never apologized; indeed, his career and life from that moment staged a defense of his decision. "On the Waterfront"--which won Oscars for Best Picture, Best Director for Kazan, Best Actor for Brando, and Best Actress for Eva Marie Saint--was his most elaborate, and perhaps eloquent, staging of what he felt to be the righteousness of his actions. The script and visual style are very noir, and the effect is jarring--for noir usually tells the tale of a man who makes a mistake, and is haunted by the consequences. Here, noir is co-opted by a man who wants to believe he can do no wrong. This podcast is brought to you by Clute and Edwards of www.noircast.net. To leave a comment on this episode, or make a donation to the podcast, please visit "Out of the Past: Investigating Film Noir" at outofthepast.libsyn.com.
Direct download: OOTP_2006_05_15_OTW.mp3
Category:Movies -- posted at: 4:00 AM
Comments[3]

As America intoned the mantra "Communism," fear became its religion and McCarthy its high priest. George Clooney's "Good Night, and Good Luck" investigates Edward R. Murrow's brave act of voicing dissent, at a time when dissent was seen as un-American. The film shows an America living in fear of Communism in the 1950's that is very much like an America living in fear of Terrorism today, and demonstrates why the media--then and now--rarely question controversial pundits and their pronouncements. The media are dependent on advertising revenue; advertisers want to reach the largest possible audience; audiences want to be entertained, not educated. For these very reasons, creatively funded films often voice stronger objections than other media dare to voice. While "Good Night, and Good Luck" is not a film noir per se, Clooney seems to recognize that noir themes and stylistics may be called upon when American cinema has a message to deliver--like the heavy hired to knock some sense into us. This podcast is brought to you by Clute and Edwards of www.noircast.net. To leave a comment on this episode, or make a donation to the podcast, please visit "Out of the Past: Investigating Film Noir" at outofthepast.libsyn.com.
Direct download: OOTP_2005_05_01_GNGL.mp3
Category:Movies -- posted at: 4:01 AM
Comments[1]

The most famous texts of any canon are rarely the most typical; rather, they push the limits. The fame of Billy Wilder's 1950 masterwork "Sunset Boulevard" is of this problematic sort. The film plays on all the usual themes of noir: mysterious deaths; a male protagonist doomed by a single bad decision; a femme fatale who twists his hopes to resemble her own, and slowly trims away his universe until she is the sole star guiding his fateful journey. But these themes are absurdly exaggerated. The first death is of a pet monkey. The narrator is telling his story from beyond the grave. The female star has imploded under her own gravity, and becomes something of a tragicomic black hole that pulls in the entire constellation of poor players. More than noir, the film is a self-conscious staging of the crime that is Hollywood. This podcast is brought to you by Clute and Edwards of www.noircast.net. To leave a comment on this episode, or make a donation to the podcast, please visit "Out of the Past: Investigating Film Noir" at outofthepast.libsyn.com.
Direct download: OOTP_2006_04_15_SB.mp3
Category:Movies -- posted at: 4:00 AM
Comments[5]

Kubrick's "The Killing" weaves the narrative threads of each character's story into the complex yarn of a heist. Tarantino's "Reservoir Dogs" ties references to numerous films into a dense knot. The pleasure of watching, and difficulty of discussing, Tarantino's work arises from having to pick at, and follow, seemingly infinite threads to their points of origin. Text is henceforth hypertext. As Clute and Edwards follow the many links from Tarantino back to Kubrick, they investigate what's at stake when the canvas of noir is stretched to drape a corpus like Tarantino's. This podcast is brought to you by Clute and Edwards of www.noircast.net. To leave a comment on this episode, or make a donation to the podcast, please visit "Out of the Past: Investigating Film Noir" at outofthepast.libsyn.com.
Direct download: OOTP_2006_04_01_RD.mp3
Category:Movies -- posted at: 5:01 AM
Comments[8]

Stanley Kubrick and Quentin Tarantino both launched their careers by updating the noir tradition. In the first episode of a two-part comparative analysis, Clute and Edwards demonstrate how Kubrick's "The Killing" (1956) and Tarantino's "Reservoir Dogs" (1992) come more clearly into focus when each is viewed through the lens of the other. "The Killing" might be considered a masterwork on its own merits. Kubrick's careful composition of every shot demonstrates his deep sympathy for noir tradition, but he adds much that is new: a non-linear narrative more fractured than any previously attempted; an omniscient voice-over and inventive sound design to guide the viewer through the non-linear tale; the staging of a playful self-consciousness; an element of chance that ultimately trumps self-determination or fate as the most powerful force in the noir universe. In short, Kubrick opens the door for Tarantino. This podcast is brought to you by Clute and Edwards of www.noircast.net. To leave a comment on this episode, or make a donation to the podcast, please visit "Out of the Past: Investigating Film Noir" at outofthepast.libsyn.com.
Direct download: OOTP_2006_03_15_TK.mp3
Category:Movies -- posted at: 5:01 AM
Comments[2]

As crisp and fluid as a boxer's footwork, Robert Wise's editing turns a lightweight script into the heavy-hitting drama "The Set Up." Art Cohn's screenplay is a very Hollywood adaptation of a 1928 poem by Joseph Moncure March. The poem is a shot to the gut--a powerful meditation on race that shows a black American is never in for a fair fight. The 1949 screenplay is the flyweight story of a down and out white fighter who thinks he's one punch away from glory. But Robert Wise and Robert Ryan prove that any story, when told masterfully, can pack a punch. The whole gritty-grimy world is boiled down to one arena, and one man's fight with fate becomes the story of us all. This podcast is brought to you by Clute and Edwards of www.noircast.net. To leave a comment on this episode, or make a donation to the podcast, please visit "Out of the Past: Investigating Film Noir" at outofthepast.libsyn.com.
Direct download: OOTP_2006_03_01_TS.mp3
Category:Movies -- posted at: 5:01 AM
Comments[7]

What good is it to be a sharpshooter when there's no war on? If you want to understand the sense of impotence and angst that defined the postwar generation, "Gun Crazy" is a case study. With a deft and almost whimsical touch, Joseph Lewis sketches a country in transition--uncertain whether to gratify its thirst for heroism or its hunger for things, big things, lots of things. The film also signals a dramatic transition in filmmaking. In a giant stride, it seems to have one foot in the silent film era (think Murnau's "Sunrise") and the other in the New Wave (think Godard's "Breathless"). A must-see for anyone wanting to understand the evolution of noir. This podcast is brought to you by Clute and Edwards of www.noircast.net. To leave a comment on this episode, or make a donation to the podcast, please visit "Out of the Past: Investigating Film Noir" at outofthepast.libsyn.com.
Direct download: OOTP_2006_02_15_GC.mp3
Category:Movies -- posted at: 5:57 AM
Comments[1]

This is perhaps the most noir of all neo-noirs. Never has 1990 Los Angeles looked and sounded so much like 1950 Los Angeles. While Stephen Frears sets Jim Thompson's source novel at the time the film is made, he carefully trims away modern LA. The film moves between the Bryson Apartments, the racetrack, and scenes on a train. Gone are the glitter and glitz of modern downtown and its skyscrapers. In their place are the greed and grift that have always been the motor driving the City of Angels--forces so strong they tear families to shreds and answer prayers with death. This podcast is brought to you by Clute and Edwards of www.noircast.net. To leave a comment on this episode, or make a donation to the podcast, please visit "Out of the Past: Investigating Film Noir" at outofthepast.libsyn.com.
Direct download: OOTP_2006_02_01_TG.mp3
Category:Movies -- posted at: 5:01 AM
Comments[2]

Every Orson Welles film demonstrates the great director's ability to work with and against filmic tradition. "The Lady from Shanghai" is a compendium of noir conventions: it tells a tale of post-war greed, of Americans willing to tear each other asunder for a dollar; it is the story of an irresistible dame and the smart guy who becomes a chump the second he lays eyes on her; it uses A-stars against type so as to bring out their blemishes and inner demons (even daring to cut and dye Hayworth's famous hair!). It is thus a classic noir tale, but it is executed with such self-consciousness that the viewer is left to wonder if it isn't the beginning of the end for noir--an elaborate staging of the demolition, the shattering, of the film noir universe. This podcast is brought to you by Clute and Edwards of www.noircast.net. To leave a comment on this episode, or make a donation to the podcast, please visit "Out of the Past: Investigating Film Noir" at outofthepast.libsyn.com.
Direct download: OOTP_2006_01_15_TLFS.mp3
Category:Movies -- posted at: 5:01 AM
Comments[2]

The question of whether Hitchcock is a noir director remains open. What is certain is that by 1946 noir aesthetics began to inflect every genre from the Holiday picture ("It's a Wonderful Life") to the espionage/thriller film. Like "The Third Man," "Notorious" is best described as the latter, for its political and geographical scope exceed what is typical of noir, and justice is defined and done in unambiguous terms. Nevertheless, at crucial moments a noir camera vision is manifest. More importantly, Hitchcock has his stars play their darkest roles: Bergman is the alcoholic tramp daughter of a convicted Nazi; Grant plays the cold-hearted and sadistic spy who is her only hope. This podcast is brought to you by Clute and Edwards of www.noircast.net. To leave a comment on this episode, or make a donation to the podcast, please visit "Out of the Past: Investigating Film Noir" at outofthepast.libsyn.com.
Direct download: OOTP_2006_01_01_N.mp3
Category:Movies -- posted at: 5:01 AM
Comments[2]