…for the week to go to training at her new job. She left me here with our little one, who does not keep quiet or entertained for long periods of time. I resorted to dispensing Funyuns and drinks galore, as well as turning Blaze and the Monster Machines on repeat to pull myself away from the noise in order to create this sorry excuse for a video essay. I based it almost entirely on Ebert’s “How to read a movie” because it was the most relevant to my intentions.
I started off with some issues with the file type of my downloaded version of Kiss Me Deadly, which ended up being resolved by manually adding the .avi extension to the file name. After that was resolved, I opened the video in Windows Movie Maker.
From there, I trimmed off the fat, and started watching the scene on half of my screen, with an open Notepad on the other half.
I took a lot of notes, and with each successive playback, I noticed another example of the left/right dynamic on which I chose to focus.
After my notes were done, I read them aloud while watching the video and noticed they synced up rather nicely with the visual cues I mentioned. I set to recording the narration straight from my computer since my phone USB cord and my audio recorder are both MIA. That was rough, so I apologize for my fans-blasting narration overlay.
Once my narration was recorded, I increased the volume of my critique to roughly 7/8 of maximum and decreased the video volume to roughly 1/8 of maximum.
I had a little one to keep track of, so I limited myself to a single playback of the scene, and tried to pack as much into the single playback as possible. Here is its transcription, in case you have bandwidth issues:
So we have our main character here, Mike Hammer, a private investigator trying to solve the riddle of why a hitchhiking woman was killed. He’s hot on the case, pulling up in a car that was actually gifted to him from her murderers, attempting to dissuade him from pursuing any leads. They’d put a few bombs into the car, so him driving the car around is essentially him giving his would be killers the finger. In this scene, he is going to see Carmen Trivago, a singer.
Note here that he pulled up from the left hand side of the screen, the “past” as Roger Ebert described it, moving to the right hand side, the “future”. Which, to me indicates that he has found some clue that will lead him in the right direction.
He walks up the steps moving from left to right, once again.
Here, he steps in to the Trivago’s hotel. You’ll notice he is located on the left hand side of the hotel lobby, making a snide remark about the steps. This aligns with Ebert’s negative left, while the helpful but cranky sounding clerk points him in the right direction of Trivago.
He walks up the steps. Left to right, once again.
Here, in the hallway, while he’s searching for Trivago, he moves left to right yet again!
…I think there’s a pattern here. Which is partially why I chose this scene. I’d argue that his positioning is due to his “invasion” of another person’s property, especially not at their behest .Then, he knocks.
He enters after no response. Unaware of his visitor, Trivago continues to sing. Here, you notice the unfamiliar Trivago is standing in the negative space, while Hammer is on the right. Now is a good a time as any to note the clothes hanging in the apartment, which visualize a bit of the film’s mystery, hiding portions of both characters at various times. I think the extension of Trivago’s signing here serves as an expose of Trivago’s romantic nature.
Once Trivago is done talking to himself, wherein his romantic nature is on full display, which is useful for the characters’ positioning in the next dialogue exchange. Hammer steps behind Trivago, flipping their positive and negative roles, especially accentuated by Hammer smashing a valuable opera recording to let Trivago know he means business.
Then the two switch places again, while Trivago starts to play dumb. Here, I get the feeling that Hammer is positioned in a positive light because of the familiar/unfamiliar dynamic from the audience’s perspective. Trivago then rushes past the obscured Hammer to place himself in the middle of the shot and himself a more positive dynamic, giving information to Hammer all the while.
Once he finishes his round up of his meeting with Diker, the two separate from the center of the shot. In this portion, the interrogating Mike Hammer stays in the negative, while Trivago, the willing informant nestles into the strong axis.
As Trivago starts to recollect the gangsters appearance and request for information regarding Diker, the camera pans left, into the past. Here, Trivago maintains his positioning on the strong axis, telling Hammer exactly what he knows.
Once Trivago runs out of information, the camera pans right once again, to show Hammer leave the room, into the future, reestablishing himself as a positive force by sticking to the right axis all the while.
Then I uploaded the clip to YouTube and tried to write this post three times before this version. For some reason uploading took a significant amount of time (~45 minutes) to upload my little 30MB video.
So, for some reason, the emojis in my tweet caused all of my issues regarding my video essay posts. Hadn’t had that problem before. #noir106
— Spencer Scott (@spencer_cscott) March 23, 2015
The offending tweet was rather relevant to my inspiration for choosing this scene. Pagliacci is also the subject of a great joke, codified in The Watchmen. So my inner nerd was what fueled my decision in picking this scene as well; I played in my schools’ orchestra for 7 years, and grew up a comic fan. A couple of years ago, I took the time to go see an opera, which I’d previously thought of as high brow, wealthy-person-targeted productions, and it really changed me, somehow. You should see at least one in your lifetime, especially if you held the same reservations as me; it’s like a single-cut live movie–much more so than traditional theater productions.