What We're Watching

What We’re Watching – September 2022

Noir, neo-noir, and the West capture our attention this month. Read below for a few of our thoughts and recommendations from what we’ve been watching:

Raw Deal (1948)

yQJZCwRy3KC0pp4Ockq7F3H847FDirector Anthony Mann was a master of noir, especially when working with cinematographer John Alton. Raw Deal is no exception, a quintessential noir with a man on the run at the center as Joe Sullivan (Dennis O’Keefe) breaks out of prison with the help of mobster Rick Coyle (Raymond Burr). Of course, Rick is just out to see Joe killed – Joe is owed $50,000 from Rick, in exchange for taking the prison rap for him – but this does little to stop Joe and girlfriend Pat (Claire Trevor) from giving this escape a go, barrelling towards a confrontation with Rick as the police comb the area for any sight of him. The story originally ran afoul of the production code at the time and it is not hard to see why with both shocking violence and brutality found in Raw Deal – especially at the hand of Burr’s mobster. While the story is captivating and Mann’s direction terrific as always, the stars here have to be both Alton and composer Paul Sawtell. Alton was a master of light and Raw Deal is one of his very best. There is an almost ghostly look to the film at times with the fog and the soft glow in close-ups on Trevor with Alton crucial in establishing the film’s ominous and thick atmosphere. Sawtell’s use of a theremin further heightens this mood with a sense of unease in the air as Raw Deal works its way to its suitably violent finale. – Kevin Jones

Great Day in the Morning (1956)

gipjqgK8ujiOosIXiPeIlNP978OGreat Day in the Morning is an odd film, largely owing to the setting and mood director Jacques Tourneur creates. Set in Denver right before the start of the Civil War, the town is divided between Northerners and Southerners who have made their way west, but still retain loyalty to their homes. They rub shoulders with one another, yet they await the latest word from Washington on whether or not there will be a war between the states. In the case of protagonist Owen Pentecost (Robert Stack), a man born and raised in North Carolina, he finds himself at an even stranger crossroads. Loyal to nobody but himself, the Northerners hate him out of the assumption he will support the Confederacy and the Southerners distrust him for his refusal to back their side. Not only is Great Day in the Morning set in this tense time, but Owen is not only a greedy man but an evil one. Seeking to exploit out-of-work miners, he kills in “self-defense” and cooks up schemes with local woman Boston (Ruth Roman), while bonding with the son of a man he kills. It is a very strange western, but a great one. It is a psychological western melodrama that leans into ambiguity, offering no easy definitions for its morally murky cast and often leaving their true intentions unclear until the final minute. Stack and Roman’s flirtations, Owen’s more genuine romance with Ann (Virginia Mayo) unexpectedly pulls at the heartstrings, and the growing tensions in the town are all good fun. Tourneur’s noir roots showcase themselves in the film’s look as DP William E. Snyder blends color and shadows for an absolutely stunning result. Great Day in the Morning is a strange, yet incredibly rewarding western. – Kevin Jones

Nocturnal Animals (2016)

uV804h1FKSXza63XRsuuy4AMhVTTom Ford first moved everyone with his romance-drama A Single Man in 2009, and then returned with a volatile and incredibly tense story Nocturnal Animals approximately seven years later. Masterfully crafted scenes and his great adaptation of the Austin Wright novel, combined with the incredible performances by Jake Gyllenhaal, Amy Adams and Michael Shannon made this film one of the most memorable theatre experiences for me, and no, I am not exaggerating. A fair warning, though, Nocturnal Animals is not easy to watch for the first time, and not much easier when revisiting it either. Nonetheless, it is absolutely worth it, if the viewer can make it through the two hours runtime. – Alper Kavak

Final Portrait (2017)

jQbSkDlPTNte1csncPJkGIgirxLStanley Tucci has been mostly known for his on-screen talent, as the actor has an impressive list of productions he appeared in, but he also has something unique going on behind the scenes – latest example of it would be his 2017 film Final Portrait, not only directed by him, but also co-written.

Revolving around the late stages of the life of famous sculptor and painter Albeto Giacometti (wonderfully brought to life by Geoffrey Rush), Final Portrait is a concise and to-the-point film that showcases Tucci’s talents, which left me wishing for another film by him, though that unfortunately has not been the case the last five years. Nevertheless, Final Portrait is a great change of pace for anyone looking for something different. – Alper Kavak

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