Hangover Square (1945) John Brahm
“I’ve worked all my life for this one night.”
This line spoken by composer George Harvey Bone (Laird Cregar) is chilling in the context of the film and even more so as you consider its off-screen significance, which I’ll cover momentarily. Bone is a late 19th/early 20th century London composer who suffers from amnesia, a condition triggered by loud, discordant sounds. We see a spectacular display of this in the film’s opening scene, a great beginning for a gaslight noir that’s impressive on its own merits of decor and costume, but add in a crazed murder and we’re hooked. Director John Brahm knows the period well and proves himself expert in making the era come alive as he also did one year earlier in The Lodger (also starring both Laird Cregar and George Sanders).
Brief Encounter (1945)
Directed by David Lean
Written by Anthony Havelock-Allan, Ronald Neame, and David Lean
Based on the play Still Life by Noël Coward
Cinematography by Robert Krasker
Edited by Jack Harris
FilmStruck streaming (1:26)
(For more about the Blind Spot series, please check out The Matinee)
David Lean’s Brief Encounter is undeniably a great film, one that continues to resonate with audiences for many reasons: it depicts a forbidden romance, is superbly crafted, meticulously photographed, and refuses to descend to the level of sappy vapid romances that have plagued movies since their inception. Although the story is set in the prewar British suburbs of 1938, the film was released in November 1945, several months after the end of World War II. While Brief Encounter is not a film noir, it contains an undercurrent of dissatisfaction (in this case, with a marriage) and unease, elements that are common to both noir and the postwar era. The film also prompts us to examine our own lives, in effect asking – regardless of the differing mores of 1945 versus 2017 – “What would I do in a similar situation?” Brief Encounter hits us where we live.
The Lady Confesses (1945) Sam Newfield
Mill Creek Crime Wave DVD
The Lady Confesses isn’t the worst hour and four minutes I’ve ever spent and I suspect the same may be true of you. (If not, you haven’t seen nearly enough really bad movies in your life.) It’s a Producers Releasing Corporation (PRC) flick, which may mean nothing to folks who are not fans of classic films. PRC was also one of the Poverty Row studios, a term that should need no explanation after watching just a few minutes of this film. As long as you know this about The Lady Confesses and adjust your expectations accordingly (i.e. You ain’t gettin’ Citizen Kane here…), you might have a pretty good time.
The House on 92nd Street (1945) Henry Hathaway
20th Century Fox DVD (1:28)
The House on 92nd Street is a strange bird. It starts as a semidocumentary, complete with voiceover narration about the ongoing struggles and activities of the FBI (made with the full cooperation of J. Edgar Hoover, who can been seen in the film) and using actual agents on camera. Hathaway (or more accurately, producer Louis De Rochemont, who was the driving force behind the film) incorporates stock footage of FBI agents and actual criminals, making 1945 audiences wonder whether they were watching a crime drama or a documentary.
Mildred Pierce (1945) Michael Curtiz
Warner Brothers DVD
The longer you think about Mildred Pierce, the more you realize how completely devastating it is. You may not know exactly how to feel about the film once it’s over and that’s understandable. You may not even know what to call it: film noir, melodrama, women’s picture, or all three. You can certainly make a case for each, but over the years, melodrama seems to have won out. If Mildred Pierce is indeed a melodrama, it’s one of the best you’re likely to see.
Fallen Angel (1945) Otto Preminger
Fox Film Noir DVD
Our introduction to Eric Stanton (Dana Andrews, above) finds him being thrown off a bus for not having enough fare to make it to San Francisco. The little town of Walton will have to do for this drifter/con man. Eric’s first stop is Pop’s Eats, a hole-in-the-wall diner where the proprietor – appropriately named Pop (Percy Kilbride) – is all in a tizzy: Pop’s best (and maybe only) waitress Stella has been gone for days. When she finally shows up, we immediately see why business tanks when she’s not around.
Sometimes the closer you live to the site of a film festival, the harder it is to participate in it. Although I live less than an hour’s drive from the AFI Silver Theater and Cultural Center, I was only able to attend two days of Noir City DC. Yet in those two days, I saw some amazing films and met some wonderful people. My wife and I are planning on flying out to San Franscisco in January to attend at least part of Noir City 14. (I’ll be there for the noir; my wife – not a film fan – for the sightseeing and hiking.)
For anyone considering the next Noir City DC, rest assured that the festival is well-run, organized, and very user-friendly. The main theater is simply gorgeous, a spacious art deco masterpiece that you could spend hours examining. The two smaller theaters – although nowhere near as extravagant as the main viewing hall – are clean, comfortable and inviting. All the threater employees I encountered were nothing less than friendly and helpful.
Now on to the films I saw on Sunday, October 25: