It is the last day of Noirvember. All told, I watched 12 film noirs (7 classic, 5 neo-noirs), which is pretty good, I think. Especially considering how no more than two years ago, I generally didn’t watch 10 movies a month (I watched 13 non noir this month as well). This week found me watching two noirs and a few others.
I really enjoyed watching film noirs. I’m excited about coming up with themes for each month. Next month, I suppose I’ll do as many holiday-themed films as I can. That feels kind of boring to me, but appropriate. I hope to plot out the entirety of 2019 with various themes. Should be fun.
Until then, here’s this week’s cool things.
Edward G. Robinson stars as Chris Cross, an average middle-aged man stuck in an unhappy marriage and a dead-end job. One night, he sees a beautiful young woman, Kitty (Joan Bennett), being slapped around by her boyfriend Johnny (Dan Duryea) and he pushes the man down and rescues the girl. She pretends Johnny was a mugger and allows Chris to take her out. When she mistakes him for a famous painter, she starts pumping him for more and more money.
Directed by Fritz Lang, it's first act is surprisingly dull, but then the twists come and the screws tighten and it becomes a pretty top-notch noir. While watching it, I kept thinking the plot seemed really familiar, but I was pretty sure I’d never seen this one. It wasn’t until I after the credits rolled that I realized it is a remake of Jean Renoir’s La Chienne. Scarlet Street doesn’t have quite the visual flair of Renoir’s film, and it isn’t quite as dark (in La Chienne, the woman is essentially a prostitute, the boyfriend her pimp, and both are in on the scheme from the start) but it holds its own and I’d argue it's more entertaining.
Day for Night
On the last night of Filmstruck’s brief existence I had to forego the noir and watch something delightful. Francois Truffaut’s ode to cinema is a little crème brûlée for film fans. It is a movie about movies where Truffaut stars as a director trying to make a little film while his cast gets into one romantic disaster after another, and whose crew mucks up the works in every conceivable way. It is a light, wonderful, and perhaps fanciful look at what it takes to make a movie and it served as a fantastic send-off to a truly beloved streaming service.
Before Day for Night, I let Filmstruck serve up one more Andrei Tarkovsky film. The Mirror was the famed Russian director’s fourth film and his most personal. It is loosely structured and unconventionally plotted. It features an old man on his death bed reminiscing about his life. It uses different films stocks, flashes between color, black and white, and sepia tones. It sometimes uses old newsreel footage and features Tarkovsky’s father reading his own poetry. It is a dream-like, stream of consciousness film that I completely didn’t understand, but that it so filled with fantastic imagery and so utterly beautiful I never cared that its story was over my head.
Gene Hackman stars as private detective Harry Moesby in this neo-noir directed by Arthur Penn. Moesby’s hired by an aging B-movie actress to find Delly, her wild-child daughter (a 16-year-old Melanie Griffith) and winds up in a twisty, indecipherable plot that would make Raymond Chandler proud. It reminded me a lot of The Long Goodbye, Robert Altman’s Chandler adaptation from two years earlier. Both try to adapt classic noir storylines into a 1970s world and create different, but really interesting worlds.
The Spiderwick Chronicles
We’ve read to my daughter pretty much every night since she was born. As she’s gotten older, it's been really fun being able to move beyond picture books and dive into more engrossing story books. Last year. we tried to get her into the Narnia books without much success. She liked some of them, but they tend to be long winded and slightly dull and there aren’t nearly enough pictures.
Over the last few months, we’ve been reading The Spiderwick Chronicles which were very much her style. The chapters are short, the action nearly non-stop, and their are loads of great illustrations. It is a fantastical story about three children who stumble upon an invisible world full of ogres, brownies, goblins, and dragons. We just finished the last one (Well, the last one in the original series. There is also a Beyond the Spiderwick series which I’m sure we’ll read soon) and it was great fun. We’ve already moved onto another book, Bunnicula about a vampire rabbit, and I look forward to at least a few more years of her letting us read with her.
The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part
The LEGO Movie was funnier and more warm than it had any right to be. If all movies based on kids toys were that fantastic, I’d never watch anything else (well okay, I’d still watch incredibly slow, fairly fatalistic movies by obscure Russians, but I’d watch a lot more toy movies if that were the case). This new trailer for the LEGO sequel looks just as fun and delightful as the original.