Fast cars and dirty dames

Film noir is a relic from the recent past. It presents an uncomplicated picture of the world, with a boiling complexity under the surface.

Film noir is a relic from the recent past. It presents an uncomplicated picture of the world, with a boiling complexity under the surface. Men are gruff cynical beings made so by the dirty, selfish dames (that’s detective-speak for the ladies) that surround them. The modifying action is crime. It is an integral part of living for the characters of film noir; it swarms, consumes and sometimes devours them.

The Northwest Film Center is spending the month of April screening classics of film noir with a special emphasis on the “femme fatales” of the genre. While the number of films is fairly limited, the quality of selection makes up for it. These films are the quintessential and important classic noir masterpieces and as such make for very enjoyable viewing.

The Manchurian Candidate (1962)

This film, a classic political and psychological thriller, isn’t exactly a perfect example of classic film noir. Made in 1962, it post-dates the golden era for film noir, and its story is more about psychological torment and Cold War political terror than it is about crime intrigue.

The Manchurian Candidate is a story set during the Korean War. A group of soldiers fighting in the war get ambushed, and what happens next becomes hazy. They come back and Raymond Shaw (Laurence Harvey) is a war hero and the entire platoon curiously has the same story. They are also haunted by the same nightmares, dreams filled with confusing images of Russians, brainwashing and senseless murders. Major Marco (Frank Sinatra) has had enough. He searches out Shaw and slowly unravels a disturbing plot that will end in calamity if he doesn’t act.

The Manchurian Candidate is a beautifully made film. All of the actors’ performances capture the essence of the time perfectly. Most impressive is the character played by Angela Lansbury, the domineering and manipulative mother who sacrifices everything on her mission for conquest. She is a genuinely terrifying creature, evil condensed into the smiling form of a politician’s wife.

The Manchurian Candidate is playing Friday, April 6 at 9:15 p.m. and Saturday, April 7 at 7:15 p.m. at the Whitsell Auditorium.

The Maltese Falcon

This 1940 film has everything you would want from a classic film noir. A smart, fast-talking, badass detective (played by Humphrey Bogart) takes on a case that seems simple. A woman wants help finding her sister, who just came to San Francisco. But wait, this dame ain’t on the level and Sam Spade (the detective) doesn’t care. He just wants the money, and the lying woman will eventually get him there. As expected, the story turns tricky quick, people die and guns are pulled. In the end the only man left standing has to be Sam Spade, the rest can rot, even that dame he might love.

The Maltese Falcon is a fantastic film that really gets to the heart of what film noir is about. The plot thickens and the characters try to maneuver their way around this inevitable truth: Sam Spade is not to be fucked with. Awesome dialogue and acting make this story and film supremely entertaining, perhaps the most necessary film noir movie to see.

The Maltese Falcon is playing Friday, April 13 at 9 p.m. and Saturday, April 14 at 7 p.m. at the Whitsell Auditorium.

Out of the Past

A 1947 film, Out of the Past is a fatally depressing story about the ruin of a man. Robert Mitchum plays a private detective who falls for a case he’s working on. He throws away his life, endangering his livelihood, and all for a selfish dame who stomps on his heart and manipulates his emotions. This film presents the woman as the essence of selfishness and destruction, and the man as unable to see past her beauty. Most of the story is told through flashback sequences (a trademark of noir films) and as more and more history is told, the realities of the now for Robert Mitchum’s character become increasingly real. This will not end well.

Out of the Past is a dark film. In the end, “winners” and “losers” don’t matter because the essence of humanity is evil. Excellent all around, this film is for people who want something more than a standard detective-solves-case-and-gets-girl crime drama.

Out of the Past is playing Sunday, April 15, 7 p.m. at the Whitsell Auditorium.

Gun Crazy

An aptly titled film, Gun Crazy is about two people who are, well, driven to insane acts by the lure of a gun. The opening sequence shows a young boy describing to a court why he needed a gun: not for any particular reason, but just to have it. Years later, that same boy is now a man. He meets a girl who shares his perverse desire for guns (albeit with a much more criminal bent). The story then becomes a Bonnie and Clyde-esque drama, following the crime spree of two lovers driven to steal and eventually kill. Again, the woman in this film is presented as the imbalanced and evil half of the pair, the one who has no problem killing.

Gun Crazy is a tightly paced film that at its core is a road-trip movie. The driving scenes are well done and visually the most interesting part of the film. The acting is generally on, though the lead character, Bart (as played by John Dall), gets a tad piercing with his complaining about his life. In the end, Gun Crazy is a film that speaks to emotional manipulation and its relationship to crime, and makes for a quality film.

Gun Crazy is showing Thursday, April 26 at 7 p.m. and Sunday, April 29 at 9 p.m. at the Whitsell Auditorium.

MILDRED PIERCEFriday, April 6, 7 p.m., Whitsell AuditoriumSaturday, April 7, 9:30 p.m., Whitsell Auditorium

THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATEFriday, April 6, 9:15 p.m., Whitsell AuditoriumSaturday, April 7, 7 p.m., Whitsell Auditorium

THE LETTERFriday, April 13, 7 p.m., Whitsell AuditoriumSaturday, April 14 9 p.m., Whitsell Auditorium

THE MALTESE FALCONFriday, April 13, 9 p.m., Whitsell AuditoriumSaturday, April 14, 7 p.m., Whitsell Auditorium

OUT OF THE PASTSunday, April 15, 7 p.m., Whitsell Auditorium

DOUBLE INDEMNITYFriday, April 20, 7 p.m., Whitsell AuditoriumSunday, April 22, 7 p.m., Whitsell Auditorium

WOMAN IN THE WINDOWFriday, April 20, 9 p.m., Whitsell AuditoriumSaturday, April 21, 9:15 p.m., Whitsell Auditorium

ANGEL FACEFriday, April 27, 8:30 p.m., Whitsell AuditoriumSaturday, April 28, 7 p.m., Whitsell Auditorium

KISS ME DEADLYSaturday, April 28, 8:45 p.m., Whitsell AuditoriumSunday, April 29, 6:30 p.m., Whitsell Auditorium

GUN CRAZYThursday, April 26, 7 p.m., Whitsell AuditoriumSunday, April 29, 8:30 p.m., Whitsell Auditorium