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Feb 02

Noir Reflected in Visual Storytelling

Chinatown (1974)

One of the first things I noticed about Chinatown was that Jack Nicholson was a main characters.  I was moderatly interested when I saw it on the list, but once I saw him on the cover art I was significantly more excited.  He is a very expressive actor and I knew that once the element of Noir added, the mood of the film would only be intensified.  This is reflected in the film by utilizing lots of prolonged distant shots that not only capture the main character, but how they relate to the environment. While the long shot incorporate the landscape and environment, the close ups with strong shadows enhance the facial features intensifying the mood of the characters without the need for dialogue.

StillCapture1(Chinatown, 1974)

Through the strong lighting from one side, the intense shadow  cast on the other creates a dramatic mood that accentuates the emotions being portrayed by the actors.

Similarily, the unique use of angles and reflections gives the audience the opportunity to see what the character sees through a reflection of something he has.  An example of this is in the scene where the P.I. J.J is shown taking pictures of an engineer to uncover an affair he’s having.

StillCapture2(Chinatown, 1974)

With the use of this off-kilter and unusual framing, we are able to see what J.J. sees through his eyes reflected through the camera.  This is more intensive because it gives a more dramatic element rather than implying with a typical shot “this is average”.  Due to the fact it is a unique situation it must be shown in a way that reflects this in more ways than one.


Killer’s Kiss (1955)

Contrary to Chinatown which was directed in the 70’s, Killer’s Kiss was done in the 50’s during the peak of Noir.  Killer’s Kiss focused more on the use of close up shots, the dramatic use of distinct shadows and the sense of drama and moodiness.  When I noticed this film was directed by Stanley Kubrick I was extremely eager and excited to see his version of film Noir.  The way the moodiness and emotion of the characters captured in the film were more expressive than their actual acting.  As shown in the scene where the dancer has a confrontation with the boss, even when they don’t say anything the drama is still clearly shown with the use of distinct shadows and sense of drama.

StillCapture6(Killer’s Kiss, 1955)

This sense of drama is also portrayed without the use of the actors faces.  In the scene where thugs corner the boxers manager in a back alley in a case of mistaken identity, the mood of turmoil is added to the dramatic sense with the use of distinct shadows against a bleak and gritty building.

StillCapture8(Killer’s Kiss, 1955)

From the angle of the shot, the audience feels almost as if they are in the alley possibly hiding behind something watching the scene unfold which enhanced the feelings of dread.

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