WEIRDLAND: Gangster Squad, Lingeman's The Noir Forties, Detour, Brick: Neo-Noir & Fate

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Gangster Squad, Lingeman's The Noir Forties, Detour, Brick: Neo-Noir & Fate

Humphrey Bogart and James Cagney in "Angels with Dirty Faces" (1938) directed by Michael Curtiz

In the annals of Hollywood history, there has been no studio more associated with the gangster genre than Warner Bros. Pictures. From Robinson, Cagney and Bogart appearing in films like “The Public Enemy” and “Angels With Dirty Faces”, to De Niro and Scorcese’s “Goodfellas”, Warner Bros.’ reputation as the “gangster studio” is one well earned. With that reputation and the current resurgence of the gangster in modern pop culture – “The Godfather” never really went away, while “Boardwalk Empire” is a TV favorite – it seemed inconceivable that the star-studded “Gangster Squad” could be anything but a hit with fans and critics.

Marketing “Gangster Squad” to moviegoers as a serious crime picture along the lines of De Palma’s “The Untouchables” was a mistake.

The final film lacks the weight or ambition to elevate it to such esteemed company. This is the gangster picture as one of the lesser summer comic book action movies: something to keep you distracted for a couple of hours, but one that you’ll have trouble remembering a few months down the line. Source: www.gmanetwork.com

DETOUR IS AN ULTRA-LOW-BUDGET 1946 film noir that packs an undeniable punch. “He went searching for love,” the Detour poster said, “but fate forced a detour” — to accidental murder. The film is one of Richard Lingeman’s touchstones in his new book The Noir Forties. For him the film dramatizes how, in the feverish world of immediate postwar America, “guilt is arbitrary, the sentence is death, and there is no appeal.” Yes, on V-J day in 1945 the sailor kissed the nurse in Times Square in that ecstatic Albert Eisenstaedt photo. But less than a year later, fear had returned; people were anxious about another Depression, about the Germans, about the Soviets, about the A-bomb. “Fate,” it seemed, “was in the driver’s seat.”

“Films noir,” Lingeman declares at the outset, “are a key for unlocking the psychology, the national mood during those years.” But despite its title, The Noir Forties is not a book about the films — for that, readers should turn to J. Hoberman’s recent book An Army of Phantoms: American Movies and the Making of the Cold War, and to the classic More Than Night: Film Noir in its Contexts by James Naremore. Instead, Lingeman’s book provides a broader history of the brief but crucial period when the world of the New Deal died and the iron cage of Cold War politics and culture was forged. It would remain in place for the next 45 years. Source: www.salon.com

Happy 32nd birthday, Nora Zehetner!

Nora Zehetner as Laura in "Brick" (2005) directed by Rian Johnson.

The film is, in fact, a refreshing private-eye thriller in a style now widely identified as neo-noir, and the brick in question is a block of heroin. Along the trail, he meets assorted noir archetypes. One of them is the school's femme fatale, with the resonant name of Laura, who's a cross between Bacall in The Big Sleep and Mary Astor in The Maltese Falcon. Source: www.guardian.co.uk

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