7 January 2006 | tedg
This comment is for the nearly 4 hour Image DVD version.
No one thread is more fundamental to understanding film than noir. It is unique to cinema.
You owe it to yourself to understand it a bit and how it colors your way of seeing yourself and life around you. It really has been profoundly influential and has blossomed into several dozen derivative views today; often these are incorrectly called "ironic."
And if you choose to understand a thing by understanding its history, you may as well start here. To my mind, the way something emerged is the worst way to think of it, because you inherit all the limitations of the mind at each step. Much better to come to some insights based on what you see know and then look at the ancestors of that power.
You'll still end up here, but less drugged.
About Lang: I think of him as an intuitive, someone that just got what cinema was all about without having the patience or intellect to understand it. So he looks like a genius when he and the medium were young and pretty consistently looks less brilliant as the world grew up around him.
So for me, this is his very best film. Sure, "Metropolis" has better sets and "M" a more consistent dark feel. But I think as a film, this is his most original.
It isn't what we'd come to know as pure noir. You'll have to devise your own definition, but for me the core of noir is the intrusion of the watcher's intentions into the way the story unfolds and hence the fate of the poor players. A capricious fate, innocents, odd coincidences are the core of this definition and you can see it here.
It is particularly sharp here because of what I can "folding." Our title character is a master manipulator. He can hypnotize them. He can literally get them to see things. In fact, toward the end, he is on stage in front of an audience and charms them into seeing a movie. Wait, the characters (here they are Arabs, but would have been seen as Turks by Germans) actually come out of the screen and down the aisle! Then a snap of the fingers and they are gone. Many times in the movie he creates effects like this.
He is in some way our representative, making and controlling what we see. But we have some power over him, because we get to by the end manipulate him into a space where he is captured. Get this, it is his "counterfeit" factory, introduced it seems only so that he can be shown as a counterfeit.
Oh, and watch his mastery of disguise.
Lang is not a man I will encourage you to watch under any circumstances. But you really must see this, and perhaps him unwittingly caricaturing himself in "Contempt."
Ted's Evaluation -- 3 of 3: Worth watching.