Friday, December 17, 2010

On The Web: Blatant Self Promotion

A regular feature of the Noir City Sentinel, house rag of the Film Noir Foundation, is “Noir or Not?,” in which a film’s status in that darkest of pantheons is considered. For the Sentinel’s true crime edition, the task fell to me. The title in question? On the Waterfront. It was a tough piece to write, because before I could settle the noir matter I had to address my complicated feelings toward the movie.

True confession time: WATERFRONT is one of those classics that I respect more than like. I blame the Actors Studio. The Method school of performance it touted as the apex of emotional realism now reads as stylization of a different kind. Aside from some ferocious muckraking moments, the film crowned Best Picture of 1954 doesn’t speak to me. Three years earlier, Columbia Pictures released another film about harborside corruption. THE MOB (ironically made with the working title WATERFRONT) is a sharp-elbowed racketeering exposé with a crackling script by William Bowers. If you’ll permit a little blasphemy, your correspondent prefers it to WATERFRONT. It’s faster, funnier, more suspenseful, less ... psychological. In it a young Charles Bronson slams the degrading and tainted shape-up system of hiring longshoremen, but does so amidst corkscrew plot twists and wise-guy dialogue. True noir has no agenda other than to whisper in our ears that not only are we all doomed but destined to die unfulfilled, that at best we’ll go out with swag within arm’s reach and the lover for whom we stole it pulling the trigger. Not so ON THE WATERFRONT. It has points to make. It’s an issue drama in noir threads, a sheep in wolf’s clothing.

Nothing like walking up to a revered movie and kicking it in the shins.

My Waterfront essay is one of several from the latest Sentinel currently available for free on the the FNF website. You can read it here. While you’re there, why not kick in a few bucks to the Foundation and get regular access to my genius?