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365 Film Challenge: #36 - 45

36) The Killing (dir. Stanley Kubrick, 1956) - B/B+? (viewed in early/mid May)

  • A good start to Kubrick’s career with a good cast.

37) Dark Shadows (dir. Tim Burton, 2012) - B-/B? (viewed in early/mid May)

  • A decent Burton flick, in terms of production design, color palate, and costumes. There is a good bit of campiness, too.

38) Strangers on a Train (dir. Alfred Hitchcock, 1950) - B/B+ (viewed in mid/late May)

  • A good Hitchcock film with some interesting subtext.

39) Primer (dir. Shane Carruth, 2004) - A-? (viewed in mid/late May)

  • Mind-blowing and probably confusing sci-fi flick that focuses more on the ethical impact of time travel instead of the actual mechanics. The mechanics (or at least figuring them out) are left up to the viewers.

40) Safe House (dir. Daniel Espinosa, 2012) - B/B+ (viewed last week)

  • A spy thriller that more or less plays by the conventions, yet is strengthened by Washington and Reynolds.

41) Rushmore (dir. Wes Anderson, 1999) - B+/A- (viewed last week)

  • It only goes to show that student-teacher relationships aren’t healthy. With a pretty good soundtrack.

42) Prometheus (dir. Ridley Scott, 2012) - B+/A- (viewed last week)

  • Mixed reviews are abound. I quite enjoyed the film, despite its faults and the expectations that many people had.

43) Doctor No (dir. Terence Young, 1962) - B/B+ (viewed earlier this week)

  • The start to the Bond franchise and a good one at that.

44) The Ides of March (dir. George Clooney, 2011) - A- (viewed today)

  • Intriguing modern and somewhat relevant political thriller that shows both sides of a campaign. The cast is all-around great!

45) Being Elmo (dir. Constance Marks, 2011) - A (viewed today)

  • Seeing behind the scenes of Kevin Clash, the creator and voice of Elmo, is incredibly heartwarming and a bit of a tear-jerker, at that. I teared up twice. Really.



On ‘Touch of Evil’ (1958)

Note: This was retyped, as close as I could recall it, as Chrome crashed and Tumblr didn’t save the post. Not everything is as it was originally written up … maybe a bit abbreviated, even.

As I sit here with Pocky at hand, I mull over the film I watched earlier. Tonight’s film of choice was Orson Welles’s 1958 noir Touch of Evil. It was one of the two noirs I checked out from the campus library about two weeks ago. They (Touch of Evil and Kubrick’s 1956 noir The Killing) were on a list of suggested films to consider side-by-side with noirs that we watched in my Film Noir class for our take-home final. I picked both films because I hadn’t seen either but they were on my mental list (one because it’s a Kubrick film and the other because of the opening tracking crane shot).

Anyways, the film deals in a few ways with ideas of ethics, borders, racism, and relationships.

  • Ethics: Quinlan (Orson Welles) is willing to go to any length to accomplish his goals. He plants evidence and has done so in previous cases. He forces confessions out of suspects. He is supposed to enforce the law, but he doesn’t uphold it. According to him, “it’s a dirty job, but it’s what we have to do.” Even one of his partners says that “all a lawyer cares about is the law,”, which applies to Quinlan because he is an officer of the law, the police chief even, and he doesn’t abide by what he proclaims to uphold. He believes that everyone is guilty and nobody is innocent. Additionally, towards the end, he claims that Menzies (his right-hand man, played by Joseph Calleia) is wearing a “halo”, as if he’s working for a higher, more righteous and ethical power. The overall message about ethics is probably that those who bend ethics in their favor will eventually get their comeuppance.
  • Borders and racism: As the film takes place in and around a Texas-Mexico border town, borders and racism factor in heavily. A billboard near the start of the film proclaims “Welcome Stranger To Picturesque Los Robles The Paris Of The Border!” Borders, like the Texas-Mexico one, tend to be areas of seediness and unsavory activities, like the gang and druggies shown in the film. While they promote a sense of exoticism, there isn’t much in the way of exoticism shown in the film, just the unsavory nature of border areas. There’s also the border that Quinlan crosses when he falls off the wagon after his dealings with Grandi. As for the racism, there is Quinlan’s dislike of Mexicans. He tries to slander Vargas (Charlton Heston) and Vargas’s wife, Susie (Janet Leigh), with planted narcotics because Vargas crossed the border and got involved in his investigation. There’s also how Quinlan referred to Sanchez, a suspect, as “boy” during the interrogation scene, calling to mind elements of slavery, subjugation, and inferiority. The message here is that the borders have become seedy, unruly, and are lacking in policing.
  • Relationships: The main hetero relationship is that of Vargas and Susie. Their relationship is secretive and private, as she is American and he is Mexican. Also, during their phone conversation while she is at the motel, Vargas is cradling the phone close, whispering, and talking to the side, away from the blind shopkeeper whose phone he is using. As for other relationships, there are implicit homosexual relationships revolving around Quinlan. When he walks off with Grandi to discuss their dirty business, the duo walk off arm in arm and talk over their business in private over drinks. Additionally, Tana (Marlene Dietrich) states that Menzies “loved” Quinlan, as he was loyal until near the end when he allies himself with Vargas to take down Quinlan. There are also innuendos, like Quinlan insulting a construction worker’s manhood because of the size of an explosion and Sanchez worrying during the interrogation if Quinlan will “get out the rubber hose right away”. The message that the film passes on is the police slack off when it comes to policing gender boundaries, as well as the seedier areas of border areas.

Mmm, okay, that’s enough retyping from memory for the night … and plenty of Avatar. Just met Toph and all, so … more props to tossing gender roles/expectations out the window!

Lastly, I know I’m not a teacher or anything, but I’ll take questions and get back to them later if anyone has, okay?