Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

16 April 2006

Noir, Neo-Noir & More Coming-of-Age

I liked Carol Reed's The Fallen Idol a lot better than I liked The Third Man (which he made a year later in 1949), and I would venture to say the reason is that I think it's a better piece of film noir than The Third Man is. Sure, The Third Man is about murder and intrigue in post-war Europe and all kinds of consulates and things like that, and The Fallen Idol is really the story of a little boy's attachment to a servant, Mr. Baines. But as I complained about before, The Third Man isn't really in black and white: it's a gray film more than anything, if you get my meaning. And though the topic of The Fallen Idol is less typically noir than you'd expect, Reed shoots entire, riveting sequences like a master of German Expressionism. The plot, too, becomes more and more gothic as the film plays on and a true villain emerges in the form of the evil Mrs. Baines.

I saw The Fallen Idol in its limited re-release down at the Rialto theatre yesterday afternoon, and though I thought the sound quality left quite a lot to be desired, the movie is great: exciting, never obvious and definitely thrilling. And because the center of the film is an irritating, unpredictable young man with good intentions to burn, one never knows what will come out of the little tyke's mouth and how much damage he can do.

Then it was off to see Rian Johnson's debut feature Brick, about which I've already raved. I wanted to add one thing, though. I read (was it in the L. A. Times?) a review that called Brick long on style and panache but extremely short on substance. I totally disagree with this, and I don't think I would've liked the picture as much if it had been true. (I do love movies solely because of style, but there aren't too many of them.) At Brick's noir-ish center is a group of young people who don't care one solitary bit about education, but who, in a godless world, are looking for a way to become important, to make their lives matter. Brick is a portrait of often drug-addicted, always self-important youth who establish hierarchies among themselves and move in circles of their own creation. Authority is always in question and re-negotiated on a daily basis through means violent, intellectual and monetary. But the motivating purpose behind these young people, we find by the film's end, is a desire to last longer: immortality through parenthood and/or the creation of a legacy (biological or not.) It's a fabulous film, definitely long on style and panache, but also a fascinating description of America's youth.

This morning's movie was Louis Malle's 1971 Le Souffle a Cœur (Murmur of the Heart). It was alright. Challenging, I suppose, in it's day, but more coming-of-age stuff... and to tell you the truth I'm a little burned out on that. Plus it's all about sex. Sex, sex, sex. Which is interesting, to be sure, but it's Louis Malle, so it's heterosexual sex. Which, I am bound to say, is rarely interesting to me. The film is similar in subject to last year's Ma Mère, and Murmur of the Heart is far superior to that film, though that really isn't saying much at all.