For my fourth Noirvember, I really wanted to commit to one film a day, especially after last year’s festivities were cut short due to tragic life incidents. I almost managed it, until I had to fly to Scotland for a conference for work and missed the last three days of November. Oh well… close enough. I won’t go through the whole list, but below are some highlights of my Noirvember 2016 during which I watched a whole lot of RKO titles. I’d also like to crown Claire Trevor and Robert Mitchum my Noirvember 2016 Leading Lady and Leading Man, respectively – they appeared the most in the films I watched.
THE LOCKET // Dir. John Brahm (1947)
I discovered The Locket around this time last year. I was doing some research around Guy Maddin’s The Forbidden Room which I was due to introduce and The Locket kept popping up as a sort of reference on how the narrative of The Forbidden Room was built. Both films tell stories through a Russian doll-like structure: in the case of The Locket, most of the story is told as flashback within a flashback; The Forbidden Room takes things up to 11, almost literally, I think at one point we are 9 layers into a narrative – it’s quite a fantastic experience if your brain is into that sort of things. But, to stay with The Locket, it starts on a wedding day, when a man demands to meet with the husband-to-be for he has information about the bride’s prior life that may compromise the union. It’s a great piece of filmmaking, beyond the interesting narrative structure, with fantastic compositions, editing, special effects and performances. This year, I watched it with friends who had never seen it before, as part of a double bill with L.A. Confidential. We discussed how strange it was that this film had somehow been forgotten. I highly recommend it and hope it comes out of the shadows as more people (re)discover it.
L.A. CONFIDENTIAL // Dir. Curtis Hanson (1997) – THE VELVET TOUCH // Dir. Jack Gage (1948)
One of the highlights of my Noirvember 2016, was finally witnessing the fantastic The Velvet Touch / L.A. Confidential costume reference. I *love* L.A. Confidential. And although this year, I tried to watch no noir until November, I did end up re-watching L.A. Confidential when Curtis Hanson passed away. What a gift to cinema this film is! I re-watched it again during Noirvember (because why not) but a few days earlier, I watched The Velvet Touch. I had heard of The Velvet Touch before, but somehow had never known about the distinctive coat Rosalind Russell wears and that more-than-inspired Kim Basinger’s outfit in her very first scene in Hanson’s film. It was a delight to see it. But again, I feel The Velvet Touch has somewhat been forgotten, or at least it’s a little unloved. Beyond the costume reference, I enjoyed it very much. Melodrama is generally unloved – which is an absolute shame.
ODD MAN OUT // Dir. Carol Reed (1947)
1947 was a great year for noir, even from the other side of the Atlantic. The Third Man is one of my top 3 favourite films of all times. It’s probably the film I’ve seen the most, along with The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. I can quote a great deal of it. And yet, I’m a little ashamed to say that I haven’t seen much of Carol Reed’s filmography outside of The Third Man. After seeing Odd Man Out, I am very angry with myself for not having investigated more of his work earlier. This film is such a feast for the eyes, the ears, the heart and the mind. It’s absolutely gorgeous, with fantastic performances, a great score, and a heartbreaking script on so many levels. I can’t wait to watch it all over again – on the big screen would be quite an experience.
ANGEL FACE // Dir. Otto Preminger (1952)
I love noir, but there are still plenty of “classics” that I haven’t seen, and I guess this was one of it until this year. The last film I watched as part of Noirvember 2016 and what a film it is. If I had to define it in one word, it would be “brutal”, or perhaps “merciless” if I had to be a bit more diplomatic about it. I think Angel Face ended up being my favourite new film of Noirvember. No one had spoiled the plot or ending for me so all of it was a discovery and what a slap in the face it was.