Adam Frost and Melanie Patrick of the British Film Institute take a look at film noir and what makes a film noir-ish.
If the sheer number of Leonard adaptations is remarkable, what is more remarkable still is how few of them are any good. No one was more aware of, or blunt about, this disappointing onscreen record than Leonard himself. His first crime novel, The Big Bounce, was twice adapted for film, in 1969 and 2004. Leonard memorably described the earlier effort as the “second-worst movie ever made”; it was not until he saw the 2004 version, he later said, that he knew what movie was the worst.
Peter Cheyney was a prolific author of pulp thrillers, whose tin-eared appropriations of American hard-boiled detective fiction were nevertheless wildly popular in Britain and France in his mid-20th-century heyday. Among his creations were the cynical British detective Slim Callaghan; the debonair Belgian assassin Ernest Guelvada (one of the lead characters in the so-called ‘Dark’ series of spy novels), and the oddly-named, trenchcoat-wearing FBI tough-guy Lemmy Caution, played on-screen in a series of French movies by the American-born actor & singer Eddie Constantine, a role he would later reprise to striking effect in Jean-Luc Godard’s 1965 movie Alphaville.
"A Movie Marked Danger" - a Vanity Fair article on Sweet Smell of Success (1957), directed by Alexander Mackendrick, screenplay by Clifford Odets and Ernest Lehman, cinematography by James Wong Howe, soundtrack by Elmer Bernstein. (previously) [more inside]
The Big Sleep is a film I have found a very intense love for. The rotating cast of shadowy crooks and deceptive dames coupled with the roller-coaster plotting makes this classic movie endlessly entertaining. Bogart and Bacall are electrifying together and the supporting cast is equally captivating. Considering it’s over 60 years old, The Big Sleep still works in a big bad way and feels fantastically modern. It’s as if the film is simply too fast and too entertaining to age. It was crafted by the hands of some of Hollywood’s finest artists at the time and oozes quality as a result. Most of all though, this movie is just pulpy, fearless, fun and really, really cool. - Pictures and Noise [more inside]
"Fast Company’s four-hour interview with [Martin Scorsese] for their December-January cover story: How to Lead A Creative Life, was ostensibly about his career, and how he had been able to stay so creative through years of battling studios. But the Hugo director punctuated everything he said with references to movies: 85 of them, in fact." Welcome to Martin Scorsese’s Film School: The 85 Films You Need To See To Know Anything About Film [more inside]
After 25 years I revisited To Live and Die In L.A. (1985), William Friedkin's cynical, fatalistic, hardboiled and high-energy crime noir about corruption and survival in the city of no angels. The script is literate, the characters are believable, the performances are brutally honest, the unpredictable twists keep coming, the action never stops, and the car chase is shot for real without any fake process. (spoilers)
[Arthur Penn's Night Moves] does belong to a traditional, indeed obsolescent genre, but the distance it keeps from it (not an ironic or critical distance, just a distance) is such that genre-related expectations become irrelevant. Most of the time, the story line seems to meander aimlessly, taking in extraneous material, doubling back, going round in circles (the aimless is deceptive, a smoke screen obfuscating the complex, rigorous organization of an exceptionally well-structured script). The "mystery" aspect of the plot is dealt with in the most peculiar, topsy-turvy manner, withholding not the solution of the problem but the problem itself until the very end, when, in a dazzling visual tour de force, both are conjured up almost simultaneously. - Jean Pierre Coursodon [more inside]
American audiences remember Akira Kurosawa as the genius of the samurai epic, a past master who used the form both to revise and revive Western classics - Shakespeare with Ran and Throne of Blood, Dostoevsky with Red Beard and The Idiot, Gorky with The Lower Depths - and to give splendid and ultimately immortal life to new archetypes, as in The Seven Samurai, Rashomon, Yojimbo. But Kurosawa also made films of his own time. His masterpiece, in fact, was the quiet story of a gray Japanese bureaucrat dying in post-war Tokyo, and of his attempt to do something of lasting good before he leaves. The film is Ikiru ("To Live"; 1952). [more inside]
"But, it's a post on film noir!" I told her. She jerked away from me like a startled fawn might, if I had a startled fawn and it jerked away from me. I knew that caving into my desires meant I might lose her. But I didn't care. I went out to the kitchen to make coffee -- yards of coffee. Rich, strong, bitter, boiling hot, ruthless, depraved. I knew she'd be back. [more inside]
The Unsung Joe: Where bit-part actors go when they die. Biographies of the most obscure micro-stars of 1940s and '50s cinema, all remarkably well-researched and richly illustrated.