Wednesday, April 11, 2012


1947 was a diverse year in cinema. One the one hand, it was a huge year for film noir and darker themed films (seven noir films in my top ten, as well as a pitch-black comedy and a convent horror film). Two films were also released that dealt with the ugliness of prejudice, particularly post-war anti-semitism. Yet on the other hand, it was also a big year for Christmas themed films. I tended to go more for the darker films this year, but there's a soft spot in my heart for all the lighter fare as well. Anyway, here's my favorites from the year:

1. Odd Man Out (Reed)
2. Quai Des Orfèvres (Clouzot)
3. Pursued (Walsh)
4. Monsieur Verdoux (Chaplin)
5. Out of the Past (Tourneur)
6. The Lady From Shanghai (Welles)
7. Black Narcissus (Powell, Pressburger)
8. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (McLeod)
9. Dark Passage (Daves)
10. Kiss of Death (Hathaway)

HM: Crossfire (Dmytryk), The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (Mankiewicz), Gentleman's Agreement (Kazan), Miracle on 34th Street (Seaton), It Happened on Fifth Avenue (Del Ruth), Where There's Life (Lanfield), The Bishop's Wife (Koster)

As I said, it was a big year for film noir and there's plenty more I need and want to see like: Nightmare Alley, Daisy Kenyon, T-Men, Body and Soul, Brute Force, and Dead Reckoning. However, this list will have to do for now.

As much as I love the humanism and compassion Clouzot has for his characters in QUAI DES ORFEVRES (and trust me, I do), I wanted to go with something more personal at the top slot this year. Clouzot's film is tremendous, but my heart cries out for Carol Reed's Italian neorealist-esque thriller ODD MAN OUT. I just love its chiaroscuro lighting and brooding atmosphere. I love what it has to say about the symbolism we attribute to the human body, and the moral issues of dealing with a dying man who is also a fugitive. I also love its unrelenting movement towards its grim and uncompromising ending; it's like one long snow-covered promenade to the gallows; one that exposes the equal debasement and beauty in us. It's my favorite from the year, but I still love ORFEVRES endlessly, so feel free to tell me I'm dead wrong for disagreeing with you Brandon.

I've mentioned how much I love Walsh's noir-western PURSUED before. It's a great film about the complexity of vengeance and difficulty of forgiveness. It also has Robert Mitchum (one of my favorites), who had three films released this year and he is terrific in all of them.

MONSIEUR VERDOUX is about as caustic as comedies get from the era. Perhaps this is why it was so misunderstood at the time. That final diatribe given by Verdoux before his execution is one giant finger-pointing at all that is beastly in mankind. Chaplin had something strong and provocative to say with this film, and I think the ideas come across loud and clear without seeming pedantic and with the ability to still entertain us.

Robert Mitchum. Kirk Douglas. Dialogue so quick and clever it makes you smile in amazement. An inability to escape your past, even as you are trying to go clear. OUT OF THE PAST is a quintessential noir, and would be a ideal starting point for anyone trying to get into the genre. I really want to watch it again.

THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI would also be a solid place to start for film noir. It's highly convoluted (in a good way), has lots of backstabbing and plot twists, a beautiful femme fatale in Rita Hayworth, and Orson Welle's typically intrepid visual style. Also notable for Welles' kind of hilarious and awesome Irish accent (second-bested perhaps only by James Mason's in ODD MAN OUT). It rules.

I alluded to BLACK NARCISSUS as a convent horror film above. That's a bit of an exaggeration. It's not much of a horror film though it veers that way towards the ending. However, for a film that is so aesthetically beautiful and wildly colorful (as well as seeming so chaste initially) it does deal pretty frankly with nastiness, jealousy, and madness. Kathleen Byron is terrifying in the film. The later half of the film is stark and surprising, and the whole thing is a visual feast.

THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY is a sweet and highly inventive comedy film that seems to relish the ability to represent so many film genres and locales. It's also a great showcase for the multi-talented Danny Kaye. A visual feast as well.

The first third or so of DARK PASSAGE is shot entirely in the first person, which is pretty astonishing, impressive, and unique. Its a really tense noir featuring the inimitable Bogie and Bacall. It's pretty awesome.

KISS OF DEATH is the right kind of crazy, in my opinion. I mentioned it how much I like recently. Worth checking out.

CROSSFIRE deals with anti-semitism pretty frankly and it's also a very good mystery (Bob Mitchum!). GENTLEMAN'S AGREEMENT is also about anti-semitism and won the Oscar this year for Best Picture. I haven't seen it in a long time, but I have a copy of it from this Fox Best Picture winning classics set, so I'll give it a re-watch some time. WHERE THERE'S LIFE is a silly Bob Hope comedy, but I'm a sucker for those, so I really like it. The Christmas themed MIRACLE ON 34th STREET, IT HAPPENED ON FIFTH AVENUE, and THE BISHOP'S WIFE are all enjoyable and sweet, but I'm also a sucker for all Christmas movies.

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