The Naked City (1948)
There are 8 million stories in the naked city, we are told. This is one of them. A fairly standard plot, The Naked City pieces together an ensemble of cops navigating the labyrinth murder investigation of a young model. Lies are told, people are not who they seem. It's a real whodunnit, a real heavy case, as they say. Rookie homicide detective Jimmy Halloran (Taylor) is paired with the veteran Irish cop, Dan Muldoon (Fitzgerald). Together the two, along with the rest of the homicide squad slowly put the pieces together.
The film is set in a semi-documentary style, going on to inspire police procedurals from High and Low to NYPD Blue and various other cop and criminal TV shows. That is an immense credit to the film. Oddly though, the film is narrated, by we are told, the producer. He describes, among other things, that the film is directed by Jules Dassin. The narration is quite strange, and at times silly and off-putting. At other times it works brilliantly.
Even by 1940s standards, The Naked City contains some very hammy acting and writing, that can be very frustrating and almost sent me into fits from time to time. Nevertheless, the film works despite itself, because of itself. Jules Dassin, one of the great film noir helmers, creates a visual representation of New York City that is not only breathtaking, but relentlessly nostalgic today. I found myself thinking about what a shame it is that the city is no longer looks this way to be captured on film anymore. Thankfully there are a multitude of other classic films which can appease my appetite for nostalgia. Few however, have managed to capture the city in such elegant a fashion as Dassin does here.
All in all, The Naked City is an admirable film, for its visuals, its hardboiled story, and for its remarkable finale. As a product of its time, its at once a great success, though the years may have not treated this one well. The acting, the narration, and some of the dialogue is almost self parody at times now. But nevertheless, The Naked City was a unique offering, one that has been so highly influential.
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