Monday, May 10, 2010

Noir: Classic and Neo

I caught two noir films recently. The first was a classic by Stanley Kubrick called The Killing. It was part of a Stanley Kubrick series at the Castro.

The Killing starring Sterling Hayden, Marie Windsor and Elisha Cook Jr.; directed by Stanley Kubrick; (1956)

The Killing is an exceptional noir film. The plot consists of the planning and execution of an intricate robbery followed by the inevitable unraveling. Particular kudos go to Marie Windsor as the two-timing gold-digger and Elisha Cook Jr. as her pathetically cuckolded husband. Timothy Carey also shines in a small role as a sniper who has to resort to racist taunts to ditch a too-chatty security guard.

I had never seen this film before so it was quite a joy to see Hayden lead his gang on a race-track caper. It was quite a motley bunch including a dirty cop, an alcoholic money man, an Eastern European wrestler/chess grandmaster, milquetoast Elisha Cook and the wild-eyed Timothy Carey. After pulling off the robbery, everything goes catawampus as it always does in noir films. I won’t divulge too many details but Cook’s and Windsor’s loose lips and an annoying, yippy dog at the airport lead to the downfall.


The other film I saw was the Australian neo-noir The Square.

The Square; directed by Nash Edgerton; (2008) - Official Website

I saw this film at the Landmark Lumiere although it also recently played at the Balboa and Cinequest. It opens at the Roxie on May 14.

I believe all the screenings of the The Square weer/are preceded by a 10 minute short film also directed by Nash Edgerton called Spider (2007).

The Square centers around Raymond, a government administrator in charge of the development of the eponymous town square. Within the first few minutes of the film, we observe him having sex in a car with Carla (both of whom are married to other people) and soliciting a kickback from a contractor in exchange for a construction contract. He’s just getting warmed up. Carla observes her ne’er-do-well husband behaving strangely. She soon finds a bagful of cash. Carla and Ray hatch a plan to burn down Carla’s house so her husband thinks the money has burned up. Instead, Carla will take the money before the fire while Ray hires an arsonist to carry out the job.

Things look ducky until Carla’s mother-in-law makes a last minute visit and ends up napping in the house while the arsonist torches it. When the arsonist discovers he has unwittingly committed murder, he demands more money from Ray. Meanwhile, Ray is receiving extortion notes demanding money or else. Also, Carla’s husband begins to suspect the money didn’t go up in smoke. If that’s not enough, Ray “accidentally” kills a couple people.

The effect is like watching a train wreck in slow motion. You know this can’t end well for Ray or Carla but you can’t avert your gaze from the upcoming carnage. The Square is one of my favorite films so far this year.

Spider was pretty good too...

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