The Noirvember Files: Sarah Jane's Picks
For my Noirvember selections, I’ve decided to go for some films that might not be on the top of other people’s essentials lists. In fact, all five films I’ve chosen are actually neo-noir.
Intimidation (1960) – Directed by Koreyoshi Kurahara
This movie packs a lot into its 65 minute run time. A not-so-on-the-level bank manager is blackmailed into robbing his own bank. At the same time, a dedicated but oh-so-quiet co-worker gets mixed up in the affair. Like most heist films, there are some twists and a whole lot of tension. The photography is gorgeous and it’s well worth a look.
A Colt is My Passport (1967) – Directed by Takashi Nomura
This neo-noir stars Joe Shishido as a fresh out of jail hitman hired by one gang to kill another gang’s boss. Shishido and his sidekick get the job done just fine but someone wants them dead. That someone goes to the gang boss that hired the two men in order to partner up. Talk about a double-cross! The last scene is quite stellar and the film is worth watching just for that.
Across 110th Street (1972) – Directed by Barry Shear
Across 110th Street is certainly something special. Anthony Quinn and Yaphet Kotto star in this crime drama as cops who are forced to work together to solve a robbery/multiple murder case; Quinn is a racist old bastard who thinks Kotto is after his job and Kotto is just trying to find the murders. At the same time, a mafia henchmen (played with relish by Tony Franciosa) is also trying to the find the killers because it was some of his men who were robbed and killed. Everything about the movie is aces; from the acting to the amazing soundtrack by Bobby Womack. Really, there is some great shit in this film and you’d be amiss if you didn’t check it out.
Miller’s Crossing (1990) – Directed by Joel Coen
This one is, not only my favorite Coen Brothers film, but also one of my three favorite films of all time so, naturally, I’m going to recommend it as an essential. The film stars Gabriel Byrne as “Tom Reagan”, the trusted sidekick to Albert Finney’s “Leo O’Bannon”, an Irish mob boss who is trying to hold on to his empire. Tom loves his liquor so he isn’t always on top form and this, of course, gets him into trouble with pretty much everyone, from Leo to Verna (Marcia Gay Harden). Verna herself, is having an affair with Tom while with Leo. Meanwhile, Leo’s rival “Johnny Caspar" (Jon Polito) wants Verna’s brother “Bernie Bernbaum” (John Turturro) dead. Leo doesn’t like the idea but Tom tells him he should let it happen to keep the peace otherwise things could go bad. They go bad and how!
For me, the Coen Brothers have made nearly a perfect film. The writing and direction are spot on and Barry Sonnenfeld’s cinematography is simply gorgeous. I rewatched this again recently on Blu-ray (it had been several years since I had seen the movie) and from the second the menu screen popped up and the music (from Carter Burwell) started, I got that feeling in my chest I had when I first watched the movie in the theatre. You know that feeling? That one you get when you really connect with a film and as you’re watching it, you know immediately it is going to become a favorite. I love it, love it, love it! If you’ve never seen it or it has been a while, please do yourself a solid and add it to your Noirvember viewing.
Le Samouraï (1967) – Directed by Jean-Pierre Melville
Like Miller’s Crossing, Le Samouraï is in my top three favorite films of all time. Alain Delon (one of the most beautiful people to ever walk the Earth) plays Jef Costello, a hitman who takes out a nightclub owner and is immediately picked up among the “usual suspects”. Although they don’t hold him, the police suspect Costello is the killer and begin to tail him. Naturally, when Jef goes to pick up the rest of his money for doing the job, he is double-crossed. He gets shot but manages to escape. Now Jef’s got two groups of people after him. There is a marvelous scene in the Paris Métro where Jef is trying to outsmart the cops.
Melville’s film is gorgeous in its iciness. Jef, himself, is one cool customer but that is indicative of the film itself. The colors in the film are, for the most part, muted in tone. Yes, the film looks and feels rather dank and sterile, but don’t let that put you off. The film is an absolute must-see not only from a noir standpoint but also if you’re a lover of film, in general.
Intimidation, A Colt is My Passport, Across 110th Street, and Le Samouraï are all currently streaming on FilmStruck. Miller's Crossing is available to rent on Amazon, iTunes, and VUDU.