All Movie Talk, Episode 20

Posted in Episodes at 5:00 am by Sam

Show contents, with start times:

  • Film Style Spotlight: Film Noir (1:56)
  • Trivia Question: Eating a Boot (21:53)
  • How To: Pull Off a Caper (22:40)
  • Top 6: Distinctly Different Sequels (33:13)
  • Movie Books: Making Movies and On Directing Film (52:53)
  • Closing: Trivia Answer, Preview of Next Week (58:40)

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Show Notes:

Film Style Spotlight: Film Noir

Continuing our discussion from Episode 19 about German Expressionism, Film Noir is the American take on expressionism. More a style and tone than a true genre, noir was the French term for a wave of dark and gritty films that populated American cinemas in the 1940s and ’50s. With the language and values of hard-boiled pulp fiction and a visual style from Germany, film noir remains dynamic and interesting today. Some milestones in the development of noir:

  • Fritz Lang, the great expressionist director, came to Hollywood in the 1930s and applied the German styles to American stories. Fury (1936) is a clear link between the styles — the German director explores crime and violence in America.
  • The Maltese Falcon (1941): Generally considered a proto-noir, John Huston’s debut follows private dick Sam Spade (played by Humphrey Bogart, in the midst of a transition from gangster actor to leading man) as he has to navigate a complex web of criminal intrigue.
  • Many of the best directors during this period at least dabbled in noir, including Alfred Hitchcock, whose 1943 film Shadow of a Doubt brings a character from a noir film to a small town. Not usually considered a true noir, Shadow has a very strong noir look and explores some similar themes.
  • Billy Wilder’s Double Indemnity (1944) assembled all of the elements of noir: the femme-fatale (here played to perfection by Barbara Stanwyck), murder, temptation, and evil lurking behind every seemingly good person.
  • Laura (1944), by Otto Preminger, mixes a love story and a murder mystery with a noir look and feel.
  • Although black and white is a seemingly essential component of the noir style, there are exceptions, most notably Leave Her to Heaven from 1945, which features bright, lush colors.
  • Gilda (1946) is one of the few noirs to have a happy ending, proving that laying down any hard and fast rules for defining noir is impossible.
  • Another great noir starring Bogart as a detective is The Big Sleep (1946), based on the classic novel by Raymond Chandler. Though the movie by Howard Hawks deviates from the darkness of the novel in many ways, it is one of the most popular noir films.
  • Though noir is a distinctly American movement, its influences will be felt across the globe. In 1947, Carol Reed directed Odd Man Out, a British film from this period that plays with noir styles.
  • A third noir with Bogart is Dark Passage (1947), a movie whose first half is practically a series of point-of-view shots, making this one of the most expressionistic of noir films.
  • Another Wilder noir is Sunset Boulevard (1950), though this time the director was playing with noir in a genre that is largely removed from the world of crime and intrigue, focusing the noir style on a more personal story.
  • In 1958, Orson Welles‘ great film Touch of Evil is released, ending the classical noir period. As color becomes the dominant mode for American filmmakers and as people become aware of the noir style, noir undergoes a shift to what is called Neo-Noir.

Trivia Question: Eating a Boot

Eating your shoes may not be a big deal if you’re Werner Herzog, but for The Gold Rush (1925), Charlie Chaplin decided to use a fake shoe made out of this material.

How To: Pull Off a Caper

You want to learn how to pull off a caper? Well, first off don’t listen to this week’s show. And certainly don’t doubt what I say. I would never lie to you.

Top 6: Distinctly Different Sequels

See our separate Top 6 entry for more information about our picks.

Movie Books: Making Movies and On Directing Film

Sidney Lumet’s Making Movies isn’t just a prize in the Academy Awards Predictions Game — it’s also one of our favorite books on film. Written by a director, the book covers every aspect of making a feature film. Lumet peppers this slim volume with wonderful stories about the films he’s worked on and describes how he approaches the various tasks a director undertakes. Even if you have no intention of making films, this is a wonderful look at the process by which they’re made. It’s as informative as many textbooks and a whole lot more interesting.

David Mamet is more known for being a great writer than a director, but his list of directorial credits is pretty impressive. His wonderful way with words and dialogue helps enliven On Directing Film, in which he describes how directors need to think. Though he wrote the book when he had only directed two films, his debut film (House of Games from 1987) is a minor classic, and even at this early point in his career Mamet’s considerable analytical abilities contribute to his discussion of what makes a good director.

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  1. WarpNacelle (48) said,

    February 13, 2007 at 5:09 pm

    Having trouble streaming the pod cast today - won’t make it past 17:00 min. Your hoster buried in snow right now? :)

  2. Sam (405) said,

    February 13, 2007 at 6:00 pm

    Seems to work fine for me. Are you behind a proxy server?

  3. Maryam (14) said,

    February 13, 2007 at 11:12 pm

    I love the faux film noir segments. They made me laugh.

  4. WarpNacelle (48) said,

    February 14, 2007 at 1:08 pm

    Got it today a-ok. Just one of those things I guess.

  5. Ferrick (140) said,

    February 15, 2007 at 11:42 am

    Speaking of Noir and the Maltese Falcon, this is from a recent story in the San Francisco Chronicle:

    “It’s been nearly 80 years since Sam Spade wandered the streets of San Francisco in search of the Maltese Falcon. Now, the statue is missing again.

    John Konstin, the owner of San Francisco’s John’s Grill on Ellis Street, said someone broke into a locked cabinet on the second floor of his establishment and took a signed reproduction of the Maltese Falcon — one used for publicity stills for the movie — along with several vintage and signed books by and about Maltese Falcon author Dashiell Hammett.

    Konstin said the theft was noticed Saturday afternoon. He guesses the theft took place sometime late Friday night or in the early morning hours of Saturday.

    The black statue was signed by actor Elisha Cook Jr., a San Franciscan who played the role of Wilmer the Gunsel in the movie. He presented it to the restaurant after Konstin and San Francisco private investigator Jack Immendorf failed in their attempt to buy the original bird that was used in the movie.

    Police have been summoned to the scene of the broken cabinet on the second floor of the restaurant, and Konstin has offered a $25,000 reward for return of the statue and books. “

  6. LaZorra (60) said,

    February 25, 2007 at 5:14 pm

    Stephen’s intro to the film noir segment and Sam’s conclusion absolutely cracked me up. Good job with the whole show, as always. :-)

  7. LaZorra (60) said,

    February 25, 2007 at 5:15 pm

    Also, I want to know how one makes a boot out of licorice. O.o

  8. LaZorra (60) said,

    February 25, 2007 at 5:16 pm

    Also also, did Stephen really mean to say that a good quirk for a computer hacker is always eating a bowl of Cheetos? Because that is gross beyond words.

  9. ThePhan (128) said,

    April 27, 2007 at 1:19 pm

    Hey! I just heard this one!

    -I have very few thoughts on the top 6 lists since as a whole I tend to avoid sequels or series… and most of those tend to be action movies, which I also steer away from. So no helpful thoughts from me there.

    -I knew the answer to the trivia question! That’s always kind of fun.

    -The film noir intro and conclusion were pretty awesome. I also liked the caper bit, that was great. I have always suspected that just dancing will get you through those supposedly random-moving laser beams. The people who make that place should make some sort of “dancing fries you even MORE” option to fix that.

    -Maybe I should rewatch Shadow of a Doubt thinking of it as a noir. I didn’t like it at all the first time through but I somehow never thought of it as being noirish… maybe that different perspective would change my thoughts on it.

  10. joem18b (231) said,

    April 27, 2007 at 2:00 pm

    I listened to the Lumet book on tape. He read it himself. His discussion of the Pacino phone sceen in Dog Day Afternoon is one reason why I chose Pacino as my top monolog guy.

  11. Outatime (13) said,

    April 27, 2007 at 6:59 pm

    The cheetos comment was great because you can see this guy just stuffing his face with these cheetos with his eyes glued to the computer screen. Then he gets some cheetos stuck in his teeth and he picks it out, whipes it off on his sweat pants and then with the same hand, goes back to typing.

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