The Justice & Police Museum in Sydney is hosting an exhibition of original paintings by Australian artist Rosemary Valadon. Wicked Women features portraits of contemporary Australian women inspired by pulp fiction and film noir. Valadon’s paintings are promoted as both embracing and subverting the genre’s stereotypes – sexist becomes sexy.
Tara Moss, Rachel Ward, Skye Leckie, Imogen Kelly, Sonia Kruger, Ros Reines, Larissa Behrendt, Antonella Gambotto-Burke, Margaret Cunneen, Essie Davis, Annette Shun Wah, Kara Shead, each chose a classic film poster or book cover for their sitting.
The paintings are indeed a cheeky and edgy feminist response to the motif of the dangerous femme deftly portrayed, and with a real feel for noir archetypes.
The exhibition runs from Saturday 20 October 2012 to Sunday 28 April 2013.
“a cheeky and edgy feminist response to the motif of the dangerous femme deftly portrayed, and with a real feel for noir archetypes”
Ray Ottulich has made yet another atmospheric noir video titled Girl Trap, which features his lovely girlfriend as femme noir Scarlette – very sexy and with an edgy yet softly seductive voice – I love it when she says ‘Tony’!
This time we are back in Hudson, NY, where the heist scenes from that great noir Odds Against Tomorrow were shot. The side-door of the bank where the shootout occurred appears briefly at the 4:46 min mark, and at the end Scarlett heads towards the corner intersection where the bus pulls up and Harry Belefonte sees the traffic accident.
Alain Silver and James Ursini have produced yet another book on film noir. This time they look at the graphics used to market noir movies. The book titled ‘Film Noir Graphics: Where Danger Lives’ is lavishly illustrated with over 300 full color posters, lobby cards, and other marketing handouts. All the graphics are rendered in high resolution from pristine originals. Many items I have not seen before, and quite a few are for more obscure films that will whet the appetite of many a noir fan.
“What is interesting is the artistic license taken by some artists depicting scenes and themes which are not found in the actual movie.”
More a coffee-table short black than a serious study, the book is one you will want to dip into between movie sessions. There is a commentary of sorts organized by chapters with titles derived from major films noir, such as ‘Touch of Evil’ and ‘Night and the City’. The narrative is a set of elaborated captions that segue into each other as you move from page to page. Silver and Ursini attempt to unify their comments by covering the use of noir motifs and how these elements are rendered by the artists who produced the artwork. Differences across studios and countries are identified. What is interesting is the artistic license taken by some artists depicting scenes and themes which are not found in the actual movie. There is a degree of repetition in the text from chapter to chapter, and sometimes the commentary jumps across pages and you find that you are not quite sure which graphic is being referred to.
Whether the US$40 price-tag is value for money is debatable. The internet is a treasure trove for poster addicts, with such sites as movieposterdb.com offering free downloads of high-res images organized in a searchable database. It comes down to the value you place on the commentary, which does offer some insights. What is missing is a wider survey of the role of graphics in movie marketing, and a behind the scenes look at who the artists were and how the material was produced.
You can buy the book from Amazon. An eBook version is not currently available.
“Everybody knows that the dice are loaded
Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed
Everybody knows that the war is over
Everybody knows the good guys lost
Everybody knows the fight was fixed
The poor stay poor, the rich get rich
That’s how it goes
The finale from Season 3 of the noirish and very downbeat TV show Damages (2010) closes with Leonard Cohen’s ‘Everybody Knows’ sung by Holly Figueroa over the soundtrack, bringing to a close a sorry tale of greed, corruption, and downright evil set in the bright concrete canyons of Manhattan, where life is cheap and the pursuit of wealth by any means a sordid mantra.
“the top 10pct of income earners grabbing half of national income”
A recent study
by Emmanuel Saez from the University of California shows that in the United Sates between 2009 and 2010, the first year of the current ‘recovery’ the one percent
captured 93% of the growth in national income (The Wall Street Journal
, March 6 2012). This is only the most recent manifestation of the growing inequality in America which began during the Reagan presidency, and has seen the top 10 pct of income earners share of national income return to the obscene levels of the years just before The Big Crash in 1929 – the top 10pct of income earners grabbing half of national income – as shown in this graph from The Saez study.
I come to the city alone
I packed up my life and my home
’cause I feel like a body at rest
Is a life in Hell
So unpack my bags, unpack my bags
Kiss her on the mouth, and she says,
“Smile little lamb”
- From “When I am Through With You” by The VLA (2006)
The TV series Damages (Fox 2007-2012) set in NYC has the coolest opening credits. A patina of noir with a dark pounding soundtrack featuring ”When I am Through With You” by The VLA.
In a great new Vimeo video short from noirista Ray Ottulich, a detective waits at the Hudson NY train station for an old flame who is a suspect in a big jewel heist. Very atmospheric!
This year is shaping up as a big year for film noir releases on blu-ray. This listing includes all current releases and those scheduled for later in the year. All titles can be purchased from the FilmsNoir.Net Amazon Store.
|Angels with Dirty Faces – Release Date TBA
|Body and Soul – For release Jul 31, 2012
|Force of Evil - For release Jul 31, 2012
|Kansas City Confidential (includes DVD)
|Key Largo - Release Date TBA
|Kiss Me Deadly (Criterion)
|Mildred Pierce - Release Date TBA
|Private Hell 36 – For release Aug 21, 2012
|Secret Beyond the Door – For release Sep 04, 2012
|Shadow of a Doubt - Release Date TBA
|Strangers on a Train - For release Oct 09, 2012
|Suddenly (includes DVD) – For release Sep 25, 2012
|Sunset Boulevard – For release Nov 06, 2012
|Sweet Smell of Success (Criterion)
|The Asphalt Jungle – Release Date TBA
|The Big Heat
|The Big Sleep – Release Date TBA
|The Dark Mirror – For release Sep 12, 2012
|The Maltese Falcon
|The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (inlcudes DVD)
|The Stranger (includes DVD)
|The Third Man (Criterion)
|The Third Man (StudioCanal Collection)
|White Heat – Release Date TBA
I have been AWOL for a couple of weeks. Truth be told I have had the flu and been wallowing in screwball comedies. You know those preposterous post-Code 30s and 40s farces that have you laughing but not without some guilt? The story lines are pretty uniform. A down-and-out meets rich girl or guy, and ain’t the rich just so nice? All outcomes endorsed by Dr Pangloss.
To a cynic like me though movies such as My Man Godfrey, The Lady Eve, Bringing Up Baby, Sullivan’s Travels, Palm Beach Story etc. are essentially reactionary. Social inequality is disturbed yes, but the resolution re-establishes the status quo and affirms wealth and privilege as fine and dandy.
Even the down-beat musical comedy Gold Diggers of 1933 has a compromised ending. The dark expressionist finale with studio rain must have struck audiences at the time as totally out of left field. But does it redeem the cosmetic resolution of the narrative, which offers up a soppy romantic reconciliation where rich guys are swell, and conspicuous consumption is just fine? Hollywood likes to poke fun at the rich, but forgives privilege in the flutter of an heiress’s eyelashes. Capra, La Cava, Sturges, Hawks et al are all apologists for the conventional wisdom.
Where I am headed with this? Well, hidden away in the extras on the Criterion DVD of My Man Godfrey, is a 4½ minute un-credited newsreel item from the early 30s, with a theme etched in acid – a day at the office – and the narrator to my ear is black. Some background. In My Man Godfrey a dizzy socialite adopts a homeless man from the city dump as her protégé by employing him as a butler. She falls for him and in the wash-up they marry on the site of the dump, which is now a ritzy night-club owned by the former butler, and where the once homeless are now employed as menials. You get the picture?
Well, it seems the movie dump was inspired by a real hobo village. You are now ready to view the newsreel:
Born to Kill (1947): Direction by Robert Wise | Cinematography by Robert de Grasse