Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Out of the Past



1947’s Out of the Past is widely considered to be one of the greatest examples of 1940s film noir. Set around a convoluted plot, the film twists and turns through double, triple and quadruple crosses, landing surprise blows on its dumbstruck and occasionally confused audience. Based on the novel Build My Gallows High and originally released in the UK under the same title, the picture stars Robert Mitchum as freelance Private Detective Jeff Bailey. He’s hired by rich and shady businessman Whit Sterling (Kirk Douglas) to track down a dame, Kathie Moffat (Jane Greer) who Stirling alleges has disappeared with $40,000 of his money. Told partly in flashback and with a voiceover to match that of Sunset Boulevard’s, the film twists and turns like a twisty-turny thing, through several cities, two nations and a long, albeit undisclosed, period of time.

It took me a little while to get into Out of the Past but when I did, I enjoyed it greatly. Unfortunately my patience wore off towards the end thanks to the elaborate nature of the narrative. This isn’t a film I’d suggest watching after a long day at the office and a couple of martinis inside your stomach. Although a large part of the movie’s charm is its strong story, the frequent double crossing did begin to confuse me as we crossed the hour mark. This isn’t entirely a bad thing however as half the fun is in guessing who has the upper hand and who will strike next.

As well as an interesting and complex storyline, the movie is notable for its cinematography. In my review of Double Indemnity, I talked at length about its use of lighting and Out of the Past occasionally comes close to matching that film in the way in which it is lit to impose a dramatic tone. It isn’t as obvious as Double Indemnity but it’s an ever-present factor. The movie is lit in such a way as to impose thick, dark shadows on the faces of its characters while illuminating others. The shadows of hats are cast long about the interior sets, adding to the moody and underhand tone. The direction is fairly formulaic, rarely deviating from the norm of the time but sometimes Director Jacques Tourneur sneaks a shot up on the audience, framing a character in a beautiful glow while moving his camera seductively about the set.

The central characters all resemble archetypes of the genre. From the nonchalant P.I. to the money hungry gangster and strong, silent henchman, they’re characters you’d expect to find in any successful film noir. The standout though is another mainstay of the genre; the femme fatale. Played by the stunning Jane Greer, she’s as devious as she is attractive but unlike the more calculating versions of other pictures, she’s like a rat in a corner, viciously scratching away for survival against ever narrowing odds. She’s cunning and audacious but more on her back foot than her front. She’s capable of playing people off against one another with aplomb but is never truly ahead, matched at every turn by the wily Jeff Bailey. 

Mitchum is incredibly watchable as Bailey. Coolness personified and a man who knows how the wear a hat, he plays the character as calm and arrogant, always with the knowledge that he’s the smartest guy in the room. Kirk Douglas is nicely slimy and grubby but he plays the character with an air of graceful menace, a man who never gets his hands dirty but has plenty of lackeys to do it for him. One of those lackeys is Paul Valentine. Valentine deserves a larger role and is excellent in his few major scenes. Surprisingly this was his first motion picture role. Another stand out is Jane Greer, successfully pulling off the range of emotions to convey the various moods needed for the attributes mentioned in the previous paragraph. She sizzles on screen.

I have few bad words to point in the direction of Out of the Past. Besides a slightly confusing plot, the film is near perfect in every other aspect. It’s aged beautifully, looks and sounds great and is acted by a cast who truly inhabit their roles. It’s unsurprising to me that the film is held in the high esteem that it is.

You may also like

5 comments:

  1. Nice review I do want to check this one out, even with it's somewhat complex story. I have never heard of this one.

    ReplyDelete

  2. Dear customer All of us suffer from problems at home difficult to solve and may pose a great danger to your life and life of those you love such as harmful insects dangerous, which threaten human life and the transmission of diseases and cause a lot of physical problems So provided theAl Manarah Company has all kinds of insects
    شركة تنظيف منازل بالرياض
    شركة تنظيف سجاد بالرياض
    شركة تنظيف بالرياض
    شركة تنظيف مجالس بارياض
    شركة مكافحة حشرات بالرياض

    ReplyDelete

  3. عزيزي العميل عندما تنتقل من منزل لاخر وتحتاج ان تنقل عفش واثاث منزلك
    فعليك الاتصال بشركة متخصصة في خدمات نقل الاثاث والعفش لذلك شركة المناره افضل شركة نقل اثاث والعفش
    في ازي قومت بي نقل اثاث من مكان الي اخر فقوم بي اران علي شركه المنارة
    ليه خدمات المنزلية
    شركة نقل اثاث بالخبر
    ونحن سنكون سعداء جدا إذا تواصلت معنا لتنفيذ هذه المهمة مع ضمان كامل بسلامة الاثاث الخاص بك.
    شركة نقل اثاث بالقطيف
    نمتلك افضل عمالة مدربة علي نقل الاثاث والعفش
    لان وقد اصبحت فكرة نقل الاثاث متبلورة امام عينيك فلم يعد مطلوب منك سوى اخذ قرار والاتصال بشركة نقل عفش في الدمام مناسبة تقوم بتنفيذ تلك العملية لك
    شركة تنظيف بابها
    تقدم لقم شركة المنارة لتنظيف المنازل ولفلل ولشوقق ول اصار ول زجاج ول رخام شركه المنارة افضل شركه في دمام شركه المنارةتقدم عمل مميز وعمل جيد وشغل نضيف ونقدم لقم ناس تبزل جهد فل عمل وقل دا في اقصا وقت تتخيل شركة المناره تقدم العرود بي منسبت عيد الفطر
    شركة مكافحة حشرات بجازان
    شركة المنارة تقدم افضل عمل ومضرب علي المكافحه الحشرات وفريق عمل ومميز شركة المنارة لي رش المبيادات ورشق انمل البيض ول مكافحه الحشرات شركتنا تتميز عن بقي اشركه في ازي جات تعمل صيانا لي االمنزل فقوم علي زر التصال علي شركة المناره


    ReplyDelete