Inspired by Dave Hicks’ excellent blog, I have decided to write about my favorite film for each year from 1926-2008.
1947: Out of the Past (Jacques Tourneur)
When I made The Last Lullaby, some people called it film noir, and then others would ask me what exactly that meant. It’s a much-debated term, and I try and stay on the side of being simple as much as I can. Noir in French=dark. Dark here usually speaks of both a thematic darkness and a literal, visual darkness.
Still not sure what I’m talking about? Take a look at this film. It’s a prototypical film noir, and almost everyone agrees it’s one of the best.
I became a fan of noir, probably before any other genre, for a number of reasons. One of them is that I like a good story, and I guess I mean that in the traditional sense of the term: Something with a plot, a conflict, and a vehicle that charges toward some resolution, as ambiguous as that might be. Many of the noir films fit this description. They have surprises, they keep you guessing, and they’re usually taut and charging forward at a pretty good clip. Don’t get me wrong, some of my (other) favorite films are purely character-driven, but I do really like the feeling of being sucked up into a plot, unsure of how it will all end up.
Out of the Past has one of these stories. It also has wonderful characters, two of the greatest noir actors (Kirk Douglas and Robert Mitchum) in two of their greatest performances, noteworthy composition, fluid camerawork, evocative lighting and one of the moodiest house locations in the history of cinema (It reminds me a little of James Mason’s compound in North by Northwest.)
Wholly satisfying on every level, this film is one helluva ride.
What moviemakers can learn: Sometimes great literature makes great movies. But even more common are the great movies that come from dime store novels and short stories. Less dense material often translates better to the medium of cinema than long, meticulously detailed novels.
Other contenders for 1947: As with other years, there are definitely some things I still need to see. These include: Raoul Walsh’s The Man I Love, Carol Reed’s Odd Man Out, Jean Renoir’s The Woman on the Beach and Robert Rossen’s Body and Soul. Although they wouldn’t be the closest runners-up, I love Jacques Becker’s Antoine and Antoinette, Raoul Walsh’s Pursued and Henry Hathaway’s Kiss of Death. Then there’s a film that pains me a little not to have as my top pick, since it’s among my favorite films of all time: Michael Powell’s Black Narcissus. This is a really tough year for me to call, but I just like the Tourneur film a little bit more than everything else.
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.