The Proposition (2005)
Directed by John Hillcoat
Produced by Chris Brown, Chiara Menage, Jackie O’Sullivan, Cat Villiers
Written by Nick Cave
Cinematography by Benoît Delhomme
“He’s right, Samuel. A misanthrope is one who hates humanity.”
“Is that what we are? Misanthropes?”
“Good Lord, no. We’re a family.”
The Proposition is a brutal film about a brutal period of history in a brutal place and one man’s efforts to bring civilization to it. In the Australian outback in the 1880s, law enforcement Captain Morris Stanley (Ray Winstone) captures Charlie (Guy Pearce) and Mikey Burns (Richard Wilson), two of three brothers who are the nucleus of a notorious, ruthless gang who raped and murdered members of a local family, seemingly just for the hell of it. Although he’s captured two of the Burns brothers, it’s the gang’s leader Arthur Burns (Danny Huston) that Capt. Stanley really wants. Stanley decides to make a deal with Charlie: if he’ll kill his brother Arthur, Stanley promises to release both Charlie and Mikey.
A Double Life (1947) George Cukor (2x)
Republic DVD – library
Everyone remembers A Double Life for Ronald Colman’s Oscar-winning performance as stage actor Anthony John, but many tend to forget the film’s other fine performances by Shelley Winters, Signe Hasso and Edmond O’Brien. They also often forget that the script was penned by husband and wife Garson Kanin and Ruth Gordon and further forget that the score was written by the great Miklós Rózsa. As much as it may be remembered as such, it’s not a one-man show.
British Noir – Kino Lobber five DVD set
So you’re a film noir fan, maybe a veteran noir watcher, or maybe you’ve just gotten bit by the noir bug. Is this set for you? Let’s take a quick look at each of these films individually and see:
Mesrine: Killer Instinct (2008) Jean-François Richet
Music Box Films DVD, library (1:53)
Mesrine: Public Enemy #1 (2008) Jean-François Richet
Music Box Films DVD, library (2:14)
In Mesrine: Killer Instinct we see the end from the beginning. In an opening that recalls the brief but unmistakable split-screen craze of 70s cinema, we see a man and a woman carefully exiting a Paris building, taking great care to make themselves aware of their surroundings. For several moments, these split-screen shots are photographed simultaneously from different angles, watching the characters’ every move, until an act of brutal violence ushers in what would normally serve as the finale of a crime film. Yet we’re just getting started. We never really understand why this split-screen technique is used until we arrive at the very end of the second film, Mesrine: Public Enemy #1, where we come full circle. In between these scenes lies one of the best crime films I’ve seen in a long time.
Eddie Muller: The Czar of Noir Steps from the Shadows (NF 2010) John Stanley
Creatures at Large/Star66 Productions/Film Noir Foundation (0:58)
I am an unapologetic Eddie Muller fan. My first encounter with him was listening to his commentary on the Fox Film Noir DVD of Road House (1948) several years ago. Road House was a film I didn’t initially think was that good, but after listening to Muller’s commentary, I learned how wrong I was. It also became clear after about 30 seconds that this guy knows his film noir inside and out. I began to pick up other DVDs containing Muller commentaries, whether I’d seen them before or not. Watching those films and listening to those commentaries is like going to Film Noir University. (You can find a list of Eddie Muller commentaries here, although it’s not an up-to-date list.)
River of No Return (1954)
Directed by Otto Preminger (and Jean Negulesco, uncredited)
Produced by Stanley Rubin
Screenplay by Frank Fenton from a story by Louis Lantz
Cinematography by Joseph LaShelle
Edited by Louis R. Loeffler
Music by Cyril J. Mockridge
20th Century Fox
Last year I picked up The Robert Mitchum Film Collection from a Fox Connect Black Friday sale for the absolutely insane price of $3.98. That’s right, a 10-movie set that retails for $48.98. It must’ve been a mistake, but I jumped on it and was charged $3.98.
I’m just now getting around to watching them, starting with the first film in the collection, River of No Return (1954) directed by Otto Preminger, a film whose Frank Fenton screenplay is based on a short story by Louis Lantz, who based his story on the 1948 Italian neorealist classic film Bicycle Thieves. River of No Return is similar to the Vittorio De Sica film only in that a farmer named Matt Calder (Mitchum) struggles to care for his son after his horse has been stolen. Aside from that, there’s very little to connect the two films.
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.
The Street with No Name (1948) William Keighley
Fox Film Noir DVD
As we learn from the film’s opening documentary-like voice-over narration, the street in question could be any street in America. We see (or are meant to believe we see) FBI men in training and working before we meet FBI agent George Briggs (Lloyd Nolan, above right), who previously appeared in Henry Hathaway’s The House on 92nd Street (1945). Briggs and the boys feel that new agent Gene Cordell (Mark Stevens, below) could become a good undercover man. He’s needed quickly: a local gang is giving the FBI fits, having just pulled off a huge bank robbery and killing innocent people in the process.
Somewhere in the Night (1946) Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Fox Film Noir DVD
George Taylor (John Hodiak, above) finds himself in an Army hospital, recovering from wounds sustained from falling on a live grenade. Yet Taylor has also suffered amnesia (a favorite film noir malady), so when he gets a letter from a Larry Cravat stating that he’s set $5,000 aside for him at a local LA bank, Taylor gets confused. Does he know this Cravat guy? Why can’t he remember? Everyone Taylor meets either doesn’t know Cravat or they don’t know where to find him. Help is offered by Christy Smith (Nancy Guild), a nightclub singer and the club’s owner Mel Phillips (Richard Conte, one of my favorite noir actors), but can Taylor really trust them?
The Set-Up (1949) Robert Wise
Film Noir Classic Collection Vol. 1 DVD
Bill “Stoker” Thompson (Robert Ryan) has all the cards stacked against him. He just doesn’t know it. Everyone else does, though. Stoker’s wife Julie (Audrey Totter) is concerned that at his age (35), Stoker is going to get seriously hurt or killed if he stays in the ring. His manager Tiny (George Tobias) is so sure Stoker will lose his next fight against a 23-year-old fighter that he doesn’t even let Stoker know that a local mobster expects him to take a dive. And if all that wasn’t bad enough, the crowd at the Paradise City Arena has nothing but boos and hisses for Stoker and cheers for the younger guy.