Argentine Cinema: El Aura (2005) Fabián Bielinsky

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El Aura (2005)
Written and directed by Fabián Bielinsky
Produced by Ariel Saúl, Victor Hadida, Cecilia Bossi
Music by Dario Eskenazi
Cinematography by Checco Varese
Edited by Alejandro Carrillo Penovi, Fernando Pardo
IFC DVD (2:18)

Argentine Noir

One of the things I appreciate most about film festivals and shows like TCM’s Noir Alley is the presenter’s ability to convey how film noir developed organically from events happening in the culture at the time those films were made. Those who excel at such presentations help audiences understand how post-WWII fears and anxieties greatly contributed to a sense of cynicism in films produced in the 1940s and 50s. Add to that the variations of what we once accepted as well-defined male and female roles in our society, the threat of communism, the problems of veterans returning home to a different world, and much more. Without these presenters as guides, it’s often difficult to navigate our own history while trying to understand the stories behind the stories, much less the experiences of filmmakers working in other countries. I explored some of this with El ángel desnudo (1946), the first movie discussed in the book Argentine Cinema: From Noir to Neo-Noir by David George and Gizella Meneses. Today, I’ll look at El Aura, a more recent Argentine noir which draws heavily from its cultural background.

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First Reformed (2017) Paul Schrader

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First Reformed (2017*)
Written and directed by Paul Schrader
Produced by Jack Binder, Greg Clark, Victoria Hill, Gary Hamilton, Deepak Sikka, Christine Vachon, David Hinojosa, Frank Murray
Music by Brian Williams (Lustmord)
Cinematography by Alexander Dynan
Edited by Benjamin Rodriguez Jr.
Distributed by A24
Bow Tie Cinemas Harbour 9, Annapolis, MD (1:53)

*released on the festival circuit in 2017; in wide release May 2018

Paul Schrader’s First Reformed opens with a long shot of a modest church, one we sense has been painted white for generation after generation, a building flanked by patches of snow amidst a darkened earthy landscape. The camera lingers a few moments as each shot draws us nearer to the church’s doors while Brian Williams’s unobtrusive score carries the weight of looming tension. If we didn’t know better, we might think we’re being prepared for a horror movie. Perhaps we are.

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Walk East on Beacon! (1952) Alfred L. Werker

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Walk East on Beacon! (1952)
Directed by Alfred L. Werker
Produced by Louis de Rochemont
Screenplay by Laurence Heath and Emmett Murphy
Based on a Reader’s Digest article by J. Edgar Hoover
Music by Louis Applebaum
Edited by Angelo Ross
Cinematography by Joseph C. Brun
Columbia Pictures Film Noir Classics IV DVD (1:38)

The House on 92nd Street (1945) was the first of the semi-documentary crime pictures that made audiences feel they were right there on the cutting edge of law enforcement’s efforts in tracking down and capturing the bad guys. Produced by Louis de Rochemont and directed by Henry Hathaway,The House on 92nd Street was based on a real case and was shot (as much as possible) on actual locations. Other such films followed a similar template. In the case of The House on 92nd Street, it was the FBI hunting down Nazi spies; with Walk East on Beacon!, it was Communist spies. (Hereafter, I’m losing the exclamation point from the title. It’s just too difficult to sustain that much excitement about an instruction in walking…)

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