Inspired by Dave Hicks’ excellent blog, I have decided to write about my favorite film for each year from 1926-2008.
I have only seen this once, and it was 15 years ago. But it struck me at the time and has stayed with me ever since as perhaps the most atmospheric noir film I’ve ever seen. I don’t mean to frustrate with this choice, as I know most people haven’t seen it. I hope, though, that people will seek it out and that eventually, as the years pass, it will no longer be one of these undiscovered Renoir gems.
The movie’s an adaptation of a book by famed Belgian crime novelist Georges Simenon. I remember the story not making too much sense, but I don’t think it’s Simenon’s fault. There are stories about one reel from the movie being definitively lost.
The movie is visually very dark (maybe the darkest I’ve ever seen), opaque, foggy and almost dream-like. If you like your noirs less plot-driven than sensory-driven, I can’t think of a more effective film.
What moviemakers can learn: Leave gaps, leave things unanswered. Most people in the audience like to work a little to fill in blanks. Keep them interested by giving them that opportunity.
Other contenders for 1932: Like every other year, I definitely have gaps from 1932. They are: Raoul Walsh’s Me and My Gal, Carl Theodor Dreyer’s Vampyr, James Whale’s The Old Dark House, Rouben Mamoulian’s Love Me Tonight, Yasujiro Ozu’s I Was Born, But…, Alfred Hitchcock’s Rich and Strange, Howard Hawks’ The Crowd Roars, Pál Fejös’ Marie, a Hungarian Legend, Howard Hawks’ Tiger Shark, Ernst Lubitsch’s The Man I Killed, James Parrott’s The Music Box, Irving Pichel and Ernest B. Schoedsack’s The Most Dangerous Game and Norman Z. McLeod’s Horse Feathers. I really like Howard Hawks’ Scarface, the Shame of the Nation and Luis Buñuel’s Land Without Bread. And my closest runner-up is Tod Browning’s Freaks.
After living in Los Angeles for seven years, Jeffrey Goodman returned to his hometown of Shreveport, Louisiana to direct The Last Lullaby. Co-written by the creator of Road to Perdition, and starring Tom Sizemore and Sasha Alexander, The Last Lullaby was filmed entirely in and around Shreveport and financed by 48 local investors. Goodman is now at work, raising money for his next feature, Peril.