Noirvember: Mildred Pierce

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Mildred Pierce is an unusual film noir. It’s a woman’s story, entirely, in an era when women didn’t get to have their stories told. Made in 1945 and set in the early 30s, Mildred Pierce is about Mildred Pierce and nothing else. I can’t think of another film noir like it. Perhaps Gaslight?

The filmmaking styles are squarely noir, with the lighting and the shadows and the amazing camera work. Many of the tropes are present as well, most interesting of all the femme fatale in the form of her daughter, Veda. In most noir stories the femme fatale is met over the course of the story and turns everything upside down, so in that sense I suppose Beragon also fills the role. But Veda is the reason for everything and he is merely the catalyst. Ann Blythe is just wonderful as the least likeable character in a movie full of hateful jerks. (Shout out to Eve Arden, who plays the only likeable character, Ida. She is likeable enough for literally the entire rest of the cast.)

The director, Michael Curtiz, is also responsible for Casablanca, the Errol Flynn Robin Hood, and White Christmas, among many others. He’s practically Robert Wise.

I am rather desperate to watch the HBO version from 2011, which I believe follows the book more closely–this one is an amazing adaptation to film, and I have no objections to the way the story is told, but… Kate Winslet as Mildred? YES PLEASE. Joan Crawford is AMAZING but let’s be real; it’s hard to buy her as working class.

Noirvember continues: Alfred Hitchcock’s Notorious

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Notorious is not film noir. Some sources describe it as noir, and I hadn’t seen it in years, so I watched it to see. My conclusion is that it’s a romantic thriller. I don’t know if that’s a legit genre, but that’s what it is.

Some of the cinematography uses noir-ish techniques–Dutch angles, natural lighting. But the light is much brighter than typical noir. In general, it just looks like an Alfred Hitchcock film.

I saw at least one article claim that the film includes a femme fatale, the noirest of noir tropes, but I 100% disagree. Had the story been told from Alex’s (Claude Rains) point of view, Alicia (Ingrid Bergman) would be a femme fatale. As it follows her, she is not. I suppose Devlin (Cary Grant) fills that role…kind of.

Can we talk about how amazing Ingrid Bergman is in this movie? I mean, holy hell. She is so good. I’ve never cared much for Casablanca, and always loved Gaslight the most of her movies (at least those I’ve seen, which is surprisingly few). After this viewing of Notorious, I think Gaslight is #2.

Cary Grant plays Devlin so close that he’s stiff as a board. I much prefer his performance in Charade, which is a totally unfair comparison because Charade is a comedy (though also a romantic spy thriller!), but he does hide his affection for the leading lady in both, so.

Claude Rains may be the MVP. He is just so great. Apparently Hitchcock wanted Clifton Webb, whom I can’t quite picture in the role. I mean, I’m sure he would have been wonderful, but Claude Rains is so perfect. (Note to self: watch Laura again.)

Anyway. A+++++. With an extra + for the key design on the poster.

Noirvember, day 1: Double Indemnity

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God damn. This is a great adaptation of a great novel. No great shock there, since it was adapted for the screen by Billy Wilder (who also directed) and Raymond Chandler, from James M. Cain’s novel. I mean, come on.

The choice to keep everything from Walter’s perspective, as the novel is, was a smart one. That first-person perspective adds to the feeling of desperation and closeness throughout. And who wouldn’t do murder for Phyllis? LOOK AT HER.

Unfortunately, one of the two female roles was cut down considerably, which bothered me. Not because I care about being true to the source material (different mediums require different storytelling, and anyway this is remarkably true to the source) but because jesus christ, there were only two ladies in the damn thing to begin with.

Barbara Stanwyck, though. Fred MacMurray. Oh man. Those two, with Edward G. Robinson to boot? UGH. I DIE. And as if that isn’t enough, one of my favorite character actors, Porter Hall, has a small role as the man on the train with Walter.

Goodbye October, Hello Noirvember

Apparently watching a film noir a day is a thing people do in November. SIGN ME UP.

I mean, I am not delusional; I’m sure I won’t make it through more than half a dozen films at best. But by gum, I am going to try!

Netflix isn’t much help, though. This is their film noir genre page:

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Seriously, guys? At least I won’t have any trouble narrowing it down. Seeing as Double Indemnity is THE ONLY FILM NOIR ON THIS LIST. I’m trying not to be a purist, but most of these don’t fit even the loosest definition of neo-noir.

And of course, I don’t have much on DVD because that would be too easy.

Happy Halloween

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Foxy, Spider-Sam, and I are sick sick sick. I coughed so hard earlier that I saw stars. Sam is miserable. Will is on his way home with chicken nuggets and cough syrup, and he will take Gracie out trick-or-treating. (Sam is on the fence about whether he will go. I am definitely staying home.)

Watching: Last night Will was out and I watched the 2011 Jane Eyre. If you do not agree that this is a horror movie, I must assume you haven’t seen it.

Reading: The opening of Please Remain Calm, Courtney Summers’ sequel to This Is Not A Test, the best zombie novel ever written. If you happen to see this before the end of the day on Halloween 2014, click here.

Making: See above photo for the completed foxy costume. You can’t see it in the picture, but I assure you there’s a tail.

Almost there…

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Watching: the children and I have been watching a lot of The Munsters. We also watched the Buffy episode “Halloween,” and the 2000 live action Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle, which was truly horrifying. Will and I watched the restored version of Nosferatu last week, and while I am not going to pretend I stayed awake (having the TV in our bedroom is not great in that regard), it was GORGEOUS and I will for sure watch it again.

Octobering

We had a little party on Saturday to celebrate our ten year anniversary. As a result, the apartment is super clean and we have a ton of leftover s’mores fixings. OH DARN.

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Watching: I won’t lie, having Gilmore Girls on Netflix is a real impediment to my watching anything else on earth, but yesterday we started watching The Munsters with the kids and OMG THEY LOVE IT. Especially Sam. I’m not sure when he last took to something this quickly or strongly.

Reading: I’ve been too tired to read at night, and it’s been too loud during the day. I need to figure out a solution to this, since not reading isn’t an option. At least we are still reading our October book.

Making: nothing Halloweenie at the moment (waiting for an orange dress I ordered for G to arrive so I can foxify it), but I am SO CLOSE to finishing the cardigan I started, um, two years ago? Which is definitely autumnal, and therefore appropriate. I knitted an entire sleeve yesterday and only stopped because my stitch count was off at the cuff and I wasn’t going to deal with that until tomorrow. Which is today, so I guess I should count stitches after I finish my coffee.