Tag Archives: noir

Film Favorites: In a Lonely Place

in-a-lonely-placeIt is the unfortunate burden of Nicholas Ray’s In a Lonely Place that it is almost never treated separately from two other films released in the same year with similar subject matters: Sunset Blvd. and All About Eve. Both films, of course, are Hollywood royalty. This is perhaps ironic considering they both deal with Hollywood royalty, although one is nominally about Broadway to create, perhaps, thinly-guised distance from the hand that feeds. Like those films, In a Lonely Place deals almost entirely in brittle cynicisms and barely contained self-deprecating snark, aimed squarely at mommy dearest: Hollywood. It’s astounding that three of Hollywood’s most disturbing and grandly disparaging self-mutilations came out within 12 months of each other. Perhaps something was in the water (more on this later). Strangely, while those two films  now bump shoulders with the likes of Citizen Kane of Casablanca, In a Lonely Place has been somewhat demoted to “lesser classic” status. That’s a shame, as it’s a true dark horse masterpiece of self-hating, jaundiced malaise that expends its dying breath clinging to any tatters of hope it can find illuminated amidst the dense chiaroscuro of Ray’s irrepressible visuals  .
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Film Favorites: Chinatown

Edited

Chinatown has two lead characters, and as dictated by the logic of the film noir genre, one must be male and one must be female.  And they too must share something, usually a sense of loss, an alienated nature, and a distance from society. Chinatown’s male lead is JJ “Jake” Gittes (Jack Nicholson), a private eye initially contracted by a woman claiming to be Evelyn Mulwray to find proof of her husband’s infidelity. Soon enough, he thinks he does so, only to learn he’s in for something much deeper and scarier. The lady who had presented herself as Mulwray was pretending, and when he meets the real Evelyn Mulwray (Faye Dunaway), she insists on his involvement in a different aspect of the case, one involving her husband’s now-dead body. Complications and complications arise, as they do in any noir. And this is a plot out of any noir. It’s been done hundreds of times before and since, and it seems appropriate to start here because this is Roman Polanski’s jumping-off point for paying homage to the noir genre while turning the whole thing on its head with Chinatown. 
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