Monday, December 14, 2009

Side Street

Side Street, 1950
Dir: Anthony Mann
December 13, 2009

So this weekend's noir double feature moves on, but I must say that this is not nearly as impressive, at least in it's narrative. The film is really silly and dumb for an hour, and then gets pretty good until a voice-over-laden ending, but the film is only 80 minutes long so big friggin whoop. Farley Granger and Cathy O'Donnell are back as a young couple, except this time they both aren't really that good and not just Granger. Granger's Joe is a mailman looking to move up in the world. When he notices where a lawyer stashes some of his dough, he decides that he's gonna snatch it to help out his pregnant wife. What he doesn't know that the lawyer is crooked and has stashed some blackmailed money in there, and instead of just taking a couple of hundred bucks, he unwittingly takes $30,000. If there is anything that can save this movie, it is the style of Mann, who I admit I must look further into. The film starts off normally (or annoyingly) enough, but soon the camera angles distort madly, shadows loom ominously, lighting and air is sucked from the frame. Although the script tries to keep up the Jean Valjean myth of Joe's essential goodness, it is clear that he becomes damaged: he will never be able to return to his old, naive certainties. He learns both what evil is, that as a thief he has it within himself, and how it can be used, even if it's just to save himself. It's just a shame that some narrator has to tell us all this; Mann has done a pretty good job visually. At about an hour into the film, Joe end's up at a club looking for information and has a scene with Jean Hagen that is really great formally. It caught me off guard as I was really thinking about all the things that were pissing me off. The film ends with a wild car chase scene that captures New York in that gritty, bleak way that Kubrick tried to do later in Killer's Kiss (1955) but didn't really have the professional equipment to do so. The aerial shots of New York at the beginning and end are also really impressive. In the end it's a pretty good example of how a good director can save a movie, but also how a terrible script can still keep it down.


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