Friday, November 22, 2019

30 Days Has Noirvember: Ryan Prows

I’ve recently been thinking about movies that bring a little of that noir magic to different genres. Call them noir adjacent? Noir’s obviously a pretty flexible term, but I think these films sit comfortably inside the pocket without breaking their own worlds/rules/genres. Sometimes it’s tone, sometimes visuals, sometimes the people and plot gives it that feeling? I dunno. I’m always excited by how you can play with the form and still come up with something that works in multiple modes, each element helping to reinvigorate the whole.

My Darling Clementine - John Ford - The tone and the absolutely gorgeous photography gets me with this one. They shoot a typical western town set like it’s the back alleys of Chicago. This thing is super dark and melancholic for a John Ford western. Ford goes for it again with Liberty Valence, but My Darling Clementine edges out for the win in my book. Probably because like all foundational noirs, it comes out right after the war? Ford and gang are all fucked up from their recent experiences and in a tailspin — so you get Victor Mature Hamlet-cyphering in a smoky saloon about death and Henry Fonda awkwardly riding away from the love interest after him and his crew have dumped several bodies in a nearby corral.

Psycho - Alfred Hitchcock - I mean, this starts with a blonde in an afternoon delight situation, who promptly steals money from some cracker ass good ol’ boy headbuster, switches cars and ducks a leering cop, and tries to wash her sins away with a nice hot shower. If that’s not noir then I guess fuck me. The protagonist switch is greasy and perfect, making us root for the killer while he disposes of a body. And then we’re just watching some dumb bastards bump around while they investigate a murder the audience already knows everything about. Genius.

La Jetée - Chris Marker / 12 Monkeys - Terry Gilliam -Storytelling & structure are king in these films. The original doubles back on its story in such a supremely satisfying way, and 12 Monkeys doesn’t get too in the weeds padding out the runtime. I somehow saw La Jetée when I was a kid, and it scared the shit out of me — the photo stills aesthetic give it a ‘grimmest storybook ever told’ vibe, and I was never sure if I’d seen it or dreamt it until the pieces started falling into place the first time I watched 12 Monkeys. Time is a goddamned gunman.

Tin Men - Barry Levinson - Noir elements in a comedy without actually parodying the form. I like to think of this film as Petty Shithead Noir. I love a damn whiny complainer noir, and this one’s a vanguard of the sub-sub-genre. Love the setting. Love the specificity of this time and place. Levinson should’ve made a Parker movie.

Salesman - Albert Maysles, David Maysles - Vérité Noir? Is that even a thing? God I hope so! This film feels like Blast of Silence or some of the French crime films — you are trolling the streets watching losers lose. Bible salesmen soaked in flop sweat with nicknames like The Rabbit, The Badger, and The Gipper. Came across this quote attributed to Dennis Lehane: ”In Shakespeare, men fall from thrones. In noir, they fall from the gutter.” Don’t know if he actually said that or not, but truer words never spoken.

Ryan Prows is the writer/director of Lowlife. It's a fuckin good movie. While you wait for his next feature film you should check out this cool-ass music video triptych he directed for Sidney Lindner & The Silver Wilderness Collective and follow him on Twitter @ryanprows.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Lowlife was some good stuff!! Really looking forward to what you have coming next! That was some Noir right there!!