Tag Archives: Quentin Tarantino

Noir Music | “Bang, Bang.” by Nancy Sinatra

You may remember this gloomy ballad of betrayal from the opening of Kill Bill. It’s a piece of noir music that’s born from the idea that those you love most can cause you the most pain. Originally written and performed by Cher, it wasn’t made famous until covered by Nancy Sinatra.

Here are the lyrics:

I was five and he was six
We rode on horses made of sticks
He wore black and I wore white
He would always win the fight

Bang bang, he shot me down
Bang bang, I hit the ground
Bang bang, that awful sound
Bang bang, my baby shot me down.

Seasons came and changed the time
When I grew up, I called him mine
He would always laugh and say
“Remember when we used to play?”

Bang bang, I shot you down
Bang bang, you hit the ground
Bang bang, that awful sound
Bang bang, I used to shoot you down.

Music played and people sang
Just for me the church bells rang.

Now he’s gone, I don’t know why
And ’till this day, sometimes I cry
He didn’t even say goodbye
He didn’t take the time to lie.

Bang bang, he shot me down
Bang bang, I hit the ground
Bang bang, that awful sound
Bang bang, my baby shot me down

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Film Noir | Sin City (2005)

Film Noir Sin City Movie Poster

via impawards.com

Overtly-stylized film noir fetish satisfaction rushed over me in shuddering waves as I viewed Sin City last week. I could not have been more overjoyed and overwhelmed by the intensity of the film coupled with its adherence to the graphic novel story-lines. It benefited immensely from its unwavering dedication to accurately following the comic (which is rare in a film version of any comic book). Of course, this accuracy is obviously a direct byproduct of the author/creator Frank Miller’s personal involvement and direction.  Add Robert Rodriguez and a dash of Tarantino to the mix and you have one hell of a film noir flick. Once again I fall victim to Quinton Tarantino’s seductive direction, I’ve got problems. Before I lose myself in lengthy comparative analyses of noir definition, let me thank Stephen P. for loaning me the film (and sticking around to watch it).


1) The Seedy Underworld

Frank Miller’s invented playground of devilish behavior, Sin City is indeed a “wretched hive of scum and villainy.” Grit, blood, sweat, tears, and piss stain the monochrome streets and characters who walk them. Often it feels as if the city itself is a living beast rapt in the taut anticipation of cruel violence. The seedy underworld of this film noir sets the standard for the genre.

2) The Anti-Hero

The anti-heroes of Sin City are incredible. They ride that perfect balance between horridly flawed and perfectly lovable. Dwight (Clive Owen), Hartigan (Bruce Willis), and Marv (Mickey Rourke) fit this character archetype with ease. Each man battles his own demons, for Dwight: his addictions, Hartigan: his heart condition, and Marv: his madness. All I can say is holy shiz Mickey Rourke, who wins immeasurable applause for this deft performance. Each of these anti-heroes, despite their disparities, won me over easily.

3) The Femme Fatale

Sin City is loaded with femme fatale archetypes; the seductress (Goldie/Wendy, played by Jaime King), the snitch (Becky, played by Alexis Bledel), the deadly (Gail and Miho, played by Rosario Dawson and Devon Aoki), the law (Lucille, played by Carla Gugino), and the victim (Nancy and Shellie, played by Jessica Alba and Brittany Murphy). Each woman executes her role perfectly, and showcases Frank Miller’s astounding understanding of film noir themes and character types. The most important femme fatale in the story is the exotic dancer Nancy. Just as in the comic book, she lingers in the background of every chapter, her seductive lasso tying Sin City in knots.

Sin City Gail and Dwight

Gail and Dwight via jestersreviews.com

Film Noir Sin City Nancy and Hartigan

Nancy and Hartigan via filmdogsonline.com

Film Noir Sin City Lucille and Marv

Lucille and Marv via thereviewbin.com

4) Misogyny

One aspect of the plot that was wrought by old-school noir misogyny occurred when the women in “Old Town” needed Dwight to save them. Some would argue that the women of “Old Town” are a great symbol of empowered femininity, but if examined closely you’ll see that it is not as empowering as initially perceived. First, they dress like prostitutes (which is pandering to a man’s desires). Second, as soon as they accidently kill a cop, they need Dwight (a man) to save them. Finally, they’re entire way of life is male defined. They were allowed to grow powerful in “Old Town” by the mob men and cops who condoned the event. Not nearly as female-forward as many would think.

5) Redemption

Every single plot-line revolves around the noir theme of redemption; Dwight must redeem “Old Town,” Hartigan must save Nancy from the Yellow Bastard and redeem the broken legal system in Sin City, and Marv must take vengeance on Goldie’s killer. Redemption as a story motivator always works (and it works WELL in this film noir).

6) Loss of Innocence

Loss of innocence as a theme definitely plays a role in Sin City. Nancy is almost molested as a little girl by the Yellow Bastard (Nick Stahl), and it’s revealed that he has raped and killed hundreds of young girls. Also, Kevin (Elijah Wood), plays a psychopathic killer who eats the women he kills and mounts their heads on his wall. Coincidentally, he’s also an avid reader of the Holy Bible. How’s that for a loss of innocence?

Film Noir Sin City Goldie

Goldie via dvdactive.com

Film Noir Sin City Yellow Bastard

Yellow Bastard via jestersreviews.com

Film Noir Sin City Kevin

Kevin via villains.wikia.com

7) Eroticism

Sin City is buoyed up by some of the most riveting portrayals of eroticism I have ever seen. The nudity may appear wanton, but the passion evoked by the Marv and Goldie sex scene, and the dancing of the singularly clothed Nancy, ignite the pulse of this entire film noir. Those with more modest sensibilities should avoid Sin City; Even though nudity is very openly displayed, there are never any genitals shown(unless you count Hartigan tearing an individuals manhood off in a grotesque clump).

8 ) Blaxploitation

Gail (Rosario Dawson) is basically the “madam” of “Old Town,” and she rules it with an iron fist (or a sharpened stilleto). Also, Manute (Michael Clark Duncan) shows up as muscle for the mob. Race is never brought up as far as I can remember.

9) Smoke

The opening scene and the closing scene are both centered on a cigarette. It’s as if Sin City offers you a smoke before and after it passionately makes love to you. Breathtaking film noir. Pick it up now on blu-ray or dvd at Amazon.com.

by Chad de Lisle

PostScript: Rumor has it that the script for Sin City 2 has just been completed. I’m drooling with anticipation.

 

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Film Noir | Reservoir Dogs (1992)

Film Noir Reservoir Dogs Cover

I need one of these suits.

Okay. I know that I am outrageously behind the times, but I had never seen Quentin Tarantino’s film noir debut Reservoir Dogs until yesterday. Like many of the Tarantino films I have seen before, Reservoir Dogs is laden with profanity and gratuitous violence. BUT, as far as innovation in the crime/ film noir genre, this film may be without equal (that is until Pulp Fiction arrives on the scene two years later). The director’s storytelling style is very heavy on flashback sequences (which for some reason feels very Anime, you may or may not know what I mean), and he unravels the plot a single thread at a time. I’ve found that this method keeps the audience hanging on every line, because so much focus is needed to keep the story straight. So you will either applaud it as a masterpiece, or you weren’t able to follow the plot.

Film Noir Reservoir Dogs Opening Scene

Iconic film noir opening

The cast is packed with heavy hitters, and the acting was a perfect balance of over-the-top drama and natural rhythm. Harvey Keitel (Mr. White), Tim Roth (Mr. Orange), Steve Buscemi (Mr. Pink), Chris Penn, and Michael Madsen make up the “core” cast of actors. But the real star of the film is the dialogue. Tarantino delivers a sarcastic wit that is unmatched in the film noir genre, truly remarkable. From the first scene to the last I was riveted by the unfolding personalities portrayed through dialogue.

Nice Guy Eddie: C’mon, throw in a buck!
Mr. Pink: Uh-uh, I don’t tip.
Nice Guy Eddie: You don’t tip?
Mr. Pink: Nah, I don’t believe in it.

Film Noir Reservoir Dogs Mr. Pink Mr. White

infighting

Here is how it looks next to our noir definition:

1. The Seedy Underworld

A low-lit diner in the beginning, and an abandoned warehouse for the remainder of the film noir.

Mr. Blonde: Hey Joe, you want me to shoot this guy?
Mr. White: [laughs] Shit… You shoot me in a dream, you better wake up and apologize.

2. The Anti-Hero

I really had to do some thinking on this one, I would have to say it was Mr. Orange. He was the undercover cop and the unfortunate victim of a painful gunshot wound to the belly. He was the only “good guy” in the film, but he was far from perfect.

Film Noir Reservoir Dogs Mr. Orange

an unlikely anti-hero

3. The Femme Fatale

Wha? none to speak of. I guess if we were really analyzing we could say that the diamonds were actually the femme fatale.

Mr. Blonde: Are you gonna bark all day, little doggy, or are you gonna bite?
Mr. White: What was that? I’m sorry, I didn’t catch it. Would you repeat it?
Mr. Blonde: Are you gonna bark all day, little doggy, or are you gonna bite?

4. Misogyny

Lots of crude dialogue about women, but no female characters present to be offended.

Mr. Brown: Let me tell you what ‘Like a Virgin’ is about. It’s all about a girl who digs a guy with a big dick. The entire song. It’s a metaphor for big dicks.

5. Redemption

One of the main driving themes to the film is redemption. These crooks are trying to redeem their failed “job” by trying to sniff out the rat in their group that tipped off the cops.

Mr. Pink: Somebody’s shoved a red-hot poker up our ass, and I want to know whose name is on the handle!

Film Noir Reservoir Dogs Mr. Blonde Mr. White Mr. Pink

a cop in the trunk

6. Eroticism

No sex or nudity, but there is a torture scene where Mr. Blonde cuts a cop’s ear off. The way it is portrayed, it’s easy to construe a sexual connotation from Mr. Blonde’s reaction: “Was it good for you too?”

7. Loss of Innocence

Mr. Orange shoots and kills a civilian while undercover. The look on his face says it all. Innocence right out the window.

I really enjoyed this film noir.

The film contains 272 uses of the “f” word. 96% on RottenTomatoes.com.

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Film Noir | Pulp Fiction (1994)

I had never seen the film noir Pulp Fiction until this week and let me just say that I am blown away. Truth be told, the hype level for this film has been through the roof for the last several years, but I had never gotten around to watching it. Now I feel like a fool. Quentin Tarantino’s snappy dialogue and witty banter is as hilarious as it is entertaining, and he seems to break cleanly with the cliches of film noir history. I don’t wish to do a typical review where I dissect the plot-line and events of the film because there is already such a wealth of reviews out there. Instead, I will just highlight some of the features of this film noir that stuck out to me in phenomenal ways.

1) No Cops
One aspect of Pulp Fiction that was most refreshing to me was the fact that a police officer never makes an appearance. This may seem small, but it seems that in every crime film noir there is always a bevy of cops to thwart the robbers, and this is a tapped-out plot device. By removing the police from the plot, a host of different issues crop up and keep the action fully centered on the characters of the criminal underworld and how they relate to one another.

Film Noir Pulp Fiction Vincent and Jules

Text Book Anti-Heroes from our noir definition

2) Jules and Vincent
The banter between Jules (Samuel L. Jackson) and Vincent (John Travolta) is nearly perfect in its execution. There is a chemistry between the two that is akin to a buddy cop film gone wrong. I couldn’t stop laughing at their argumentative debates and harrowing scenarios. Royale Burgers, foot massages, and cleaning up bits of brain matter, three cheers for their dialogue; it was the slow burning diesel that lit up this film noir.

3) What cliche?
I sensed a purposeful rebellion against the cliches of film noir in Pulp Fiction. One the the most obvious has already been mentioned: No Cops. But another that sharply stands out is during Vincent’s play-date with his boss’ wife Mia (Uma Thurman). During their entire date, I fully expected them to sleep together. The drama and tension between the two seems to build steadily in that direction to the point that we find Vincent in Mia’s bathroom giving himself a pep talk to just leave and not have sex with her. And then the lightning fast plot-shift when she overdoses on some drugs that she finds in his coat. Their night changes from untapped sexual tension to desperation and preservation as Vincent rushes to save her life. Potent film noir drama.

Film Noir Pulp Fiction Poster

perfect femme fatale for this film noir

4) Humor
“The Bonnie Situation” was one of the funniest sequences in any film noir that I have ever seen. Simply because the whole plot revolved around a bloody mishap and helping a friend avoid a divorce. It was a great change of pace in the film, and it injected an element of humor in an otherwise grim scenario. I also thought that the very first scene was magical, simply because it went so quickly from pledges of love and devotion between a couple to a violent language dripping robbery. It’s in the contrasts that this film becomes a classic.

5) Dislikes
Yuck. There were only two parts of the film that I didn’t enjoy. Although no nudity is shown, the rape scene was really hard to stomach. I think this is because the scene was so dark and depraved, and the whole time you want so badly to deny that any human being could do such a thing. Also, this is really minor, but Quentin Tarantino actually plays a role in the film, and I felt that his character was the least believable. I mean, there was a scene where he was yelling the “N-word” dozens of times at Samuel L. Jackson and I had a hard time believing that Jules would put up with that. I don’t know, maybe I’m being nit-picky but the scene felt strange.

All in all, this film noir was amazing. Easily in my top five favorite crime films. Everything was so stylized and dramatic from the camera angles to the soundtrack. And any film that can pull off extended dance scenes in a natural and memorable way is solid. Cheers to the cast and crew. Pulp Fiction will go down in the annals of history as one of the greatest films ever made.

Won the Oscar for Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen (Quentin Taratino & Roger Avary)

Rotten Tomatoes gives it: 94%

264 “F” words.

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