While watching Three Days of Condor, I almost fell off my seat when one of scenes seemed very familiar. It was the scene towards the end when Turner is in Atwood’s home office, ready to interrogate or even kill him. This scene is very similar to a scene at the beginning of James Bond’s Casino Royale, in which Bond is sitting in the office of an MI6 agent by the name of Dryden. By killing Dryden, Bond would obtain 00 status. In both scenes the man with the gun(Turner and Bond) have the upper hand. They are in control and tell their victims what to do and what not to do. Although they are supposed to be the “good guys”, working for government agencies that are supposed to rid the world of evil, they are the ones who are holding the guns, hinting at the idea of moral ambivalence, which is common in film noir and movies about conspiracy. The two scenes contain other aspects of film noir. In the Condor scene, Turner is sitting in the dark, waiting for Atwood to arrive. In Casino Royale, Bond is waiting in the dark office for Dryden to arrive. Once Dryden arrives, the room is partially filled with sunlight but for the most part, both characters are covered in a shadow. These two scenes play on the use of lighting and moral ambiguity, which is typical in film noir.
For my last round of blogging, I wanted to depart a little from what we’ve been posting to something a little off the beaten path. A little while ago I was reading in the Wall Street Journal’s Marketplace section about one of my favorite brands, French Connection, and their launch of a new advertising campaign. The article caught my attention for three reasons 1. I love fashion 2. I love advertising as I am a marketing major and 3. the campaign was entirely inspired by film noir! I know we ventured very far since those noir days (and sorry for going back to there) but I thought this was really cool and wanted to share. The campaign involves both print and commercial advertisements (mostly for international markets so we may not even see them here in the US, and hence the foreign accents on the commercial). Take a look:
As you can see, the commercials are a little odd (definitely seem fit more for the European market than the American market). But I think it’s so great that they drew inspiration from film noir. First of all, “the woman” and “the man” reminds me (and probably deliberately so) of the “femme fatale” and the “hero,” the stock characters of the noir film. The black and white filming of them is clearly noir related, as is the seductive (for the woman) and mysterious (for the man) feel of the commercials. I love when advertisements get creative and wacky, as this is, drawing on the seriousness of noir but with humor (“look at his heart. Or rather look at his shirt…he wears not sequins. He knows not what sequins is”). This also reminds me and gives me a little inspiration for our final project, for being influenced by something, such as in this case a film technique/genre, doesn’t mean copying it entirely, but it means taking aspects of the technique and twisting them and making them your own, thereby creating a whole new entity, and not simply a recreation of something that already exists.
First off, I’d like to say that I thoroughly enjoyed watching Devil in a Blue Dress. Every Denzel Washington movie I’ve ever watched has never disappointed me. Don Cheadle as Mouse was also very good; he was actually only nominated for his supporting role by the Screen Actors Guild but never won like someone had mentioned in class.
The film is set during the same period that traditional film noirs were set in; it’s after WWII and in a big city, Los Angeles. Easy Rawlins is just trying to make ends meet after being fired from his job. Easy is in need of financial security; agreeing to work for Albright is easy money but it puts him in a whole world of trouble. Much like the protagonists in other film noirs we’ve watched, Easy takes it one day at a time and doesn’t look too much into the future because there’s always a chance that he might not have one. Just like Borde and Chaumeton said in one of our readings, “the presence of crime…gives film noir its most distinctive stamp.”
I noticed a few things about the film that I suppose pay homage to noir films of the 40’s and 50’s. Easy began to go down the road to becoming a morally ambiguous protagonist, much like the male protagonists of 40’s and 50’s film noir, once he took the job from Albright. There were also uses of flashbacks several times in the movie. I also felt that the character that kept trying to cut down the trees in the neighborhood was similar to the hotel caretaker in Touch of Evil; they were both borderline crazy and provided instances of comedic relief.
In the Schrader reading, one of the elements of film noir that are common is the attachment to water. In this one scene in Devil in a Blue Dress, Easy is supposed to meet Albright at the pier to do business. According to Schrader, “docks and piers are second only to alleyways as the most popular rendezvous points” (220).
Another thing I noticed about the film was Daphne as the femme fatale. Daphne is mysterious when she is first described; she hangs out in black clubs and hasn’t been seen by her mayoral candidate boyfriend, Carter, in a while. The first time we see Daphne, she stands out; she’s very beautiful and is also very seductive. In one scene between Easy and Daphne, Easy asks what Daphne’s weapon of choice is and she responds with: “why don’t you search me and find out?” Daphne is intended to be looked at throughout the whole film. Her wearing of blue dresses throughout the whole film makes her stand out amongst her dullish surroundings.
By the end of the movie, I was glad that Daphne and Easy didn’t die. Happy endings aren’t all too common in noir films. Devil in a Blue Dress isn’t your typical noir film, but noir none the less. I did like how Easy started to get used to being a private investigator and how he was going to start his own business; it’s a shame that the rest of his stories were not put into film.