The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

I usually don't link to my filmtotaal review any more, but I'm rather proud of this one. My editor added the word welhaast in one sentence, which I don't think I've ever used, but hey, his other changes are usually big improvements, so I can't complain.

In the end, the star rating might be a little high for the review. What I wrote down was my frustration, because this film is almost great, could have been the masterpiece it wanted to be. But almost great still deserves four stars, in my opinion, if only because of the ambition on display here, and the resulting beauty.

My earlier post


The Hitch-Hiker, and a noir-box recap

Sometimes the best things come to you when you least expect them. I was feeling pretty drained from laboring over my review of The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (I just don't get tired of typing that), and writing on my nanonovel was not progressing, so I decided to play hooky from writing and watch the last film in my film noir box instead: the Hitch-Hiker. And I think it might be my favorite of the bunch.

It's directed by a woman, Ida Lupino (who I liked a lot in They Drive By Night), yet it features only men, three men, to be exact, two hostages and one man with a gun. A very sadistic, trigger-happy man with a gun. The music is amazing, notable also for its absence in some thrilling scenes. At one moment, the hitch-hiker forces some shooting-practice, and I couldn't take my eyes off the screen.

So, then, the recap. All ten films, listed from best to worst (in my opinion, of course), with grades. Letter grades, for some reason.

The Hitch-Hiker A
Detour A
D.O.A. A-
Scarlet Street A-
The Strange Love of Martha Ivers B
Quicksand B-
Impact B-
Trapped B-
He walked by night C+
Whistle Stop C-

If there is a trend at all in the above, it's that a) I like my noirs on the road b) I like em dark, though the Hitch-Hiker has a fairly happy ending and c) I like Edmond O'Brien.

I've been thinking a lot about why I love noir so much, lately. It's partly due to my love for genre pictures: I think often the most interesting art comes from having to operate within boundaries or conventions. There's a reason there's so many great sonnets, too.

Still, that's not the only thing. Westerns are very genre-y movies as well, and I like them, but after watching The Searchers and Red River not too long ago, it's becoming all too clear that while I like westerns, they often don't put a grin on my face like noirs do. I suppose part of it is that I'm a city person, and not really a nature lover. I considered that maybe it had to do with me being a verbal rather than a visual person, but I also prefer the style of noirs to that of westerns. This is all a rambling way to say: I really don't know. What I do know is that I'm glad I put all those noirs on my Sinterklaas wish list.



Wow, this movie really is a 101 course in right screen writing. Nothing happens that hasn't been foreshadowed in some way, yet it's never obvious. Nothing comes out of nowhere: not the photo booth, not the hiding spot, not the landlady. And the story, of one man who follows every bad choice to its worse follow-up as he slowly gets himself stuck in the quicksand, is fascinating. Too bad he gets thrown a -rather unlikely - rope in the end.

Mickey Rooney's not your typical noir hero. He's too uncomplicated: he's certainly not sweet, but he has no hidden depths. His voice-over is devoid of the usual snark, but for this movie, he's the perfect protagonist: he's enough of a jerk that you don't ming seeing him tortured - and he really is a terrible criminal, gets caught at every single thing that he does- but he's not so unlovable that you don't care about him getting out. And hey, he's redeemed when he finally turns around an learns to appreciate his sweet ex-girlfriend, and who could object to that?