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Film Friday | Weekly Roundup

Pretty Clever Film Gal is still struggling with the plague but crawling along the road to recovery. Thankfully, there was much to entertain and divert this week, what with the return of Bobby O. to TCM and the silent film bonanza sparked by Hugo and The Artists. It feels like a fine time to care about silent movies and old things. I’ll reserve any cynicism about off-cycle nostalgia rearing its head in troubled economic times (Squirrel Nut Zippers, anyone) and just bask in the glow. As I was (mostly) upright this week, the Film Friday Weekly Roundup is restored to its former glory, and all is right. Happy reading and happy viewing!

Death for Sale

Death for SaleMy TIFF experience marched on with Wednesday’s screening of the Moroccan film Death for Sale. I approached this movie with some apprehension because what I know about Morrocco… well, frankly what I know about Morroco I learned from Casablanca. I don’t often watch contemporary foreign films for that very reason. I always  have the sneaking suspicion that there’s a lot of cultural context that I’m missing. But Death for Sale was billed as a film noir, and film noir I know. While I still felt there was a lot of nuance escaping me as I watched the movie, there were enough classic film noir elements to keep me firmly rooted in the narrative and to give me a broader context in which to read the film.

Director Faouzi Bensaidi sets his film in the Moroccan port city of Tetouan. Times are tough in Tetouan, especially for trio of friends Malik, Allal, and Soufiane. The three are chronically unemployed and eke out an existence through petty thievery and other minor acts of criminal mischief. But like all desparate people (and petty thieves) everywhere, all three dream of bigger and better things. And thus we have a heist in the works. Despite some minor details like Soufiane’s tangent into radical Islam, Death for Sale travels the very familiar film noir path, complete with betrayal and a one bad-ass femme fatale.

Death for SaleDeath for Sale does veer from what I think of a film noir is some ways. The pacing felt somewhat off to me. In fairness, pacing is another component that makes me wary of watching foreign films. Pacing in narrative and visual media is mostly likely influenced by the cultural pacing of your own life, and I suspect the pace of life in Morocco is very different from my own. I did eventually adapt to the rhythm of Death for Sale and, ultimately, I read the narrative pacing as reflective of the stasis that Malik, Allal, and Soufiane find themselves trapped in.

The cinematography also threw me off balance at first. I expect film noir to present visual images of sharp contrast. Tetouan is trapped between mountains and a perennial low, gray sky. It’s like an opposite end of a film noir spectrum… instead of those stark contrasts every thing is rendered in a fuzzy, oblique, difficult to read flat. Again, stylistically, the cinematography is a mirror of the characters lives and works in the end. In keeping with the visual tone, the narrative tone is sometime oblique as well. We’re treated to some day-dream kind of sequences from Malik, another cinema trope I don’t expect to find in a film noir.

All that said, Death for Sale is a film noir, all be it a modern Moroccan one. And, ladies and gents, I’ve seen some hardcore noir and the final denouement of Death for Sale ranks with any of them.

I don’t have any current information regarding the wider release date for Death for Sale. You can watch the trailer here:




Today on TCM: The Big Heat


TCM isGlenn Ford - Lee Marvin - The Big Heat airing The Big Heat today at 1 p.m. Set your DVR because this one is a keeper. In the meantime, follow the links for some thoughtful writing on this 1953 Fritz Lang classic, starring Glenn Ford, Gloria Grahame, and Lee Marvin.


Film Friday | Weekly Roundup

In my continuing quest to pass as Canadian, I’m spending the last half of this week “out in it.” That’s right, as you are reading this and enjoying the best the interwebs has to offer, I’m in an unairconditioned lodge in the middle of the woods, boiling my own drinking water! I like a day on the lake as much as the next film gal, but… no movies for four days! That’s doesn’t mean that I’ve left my blog readers hanging. I crash crammed my way around the interwebs and dug up these gems for you. Happy weekend and happy viewing (and think of me as you kick back with Netflix)!

  • Tales of the Easily Distracted brings us this consideration of Double Indemnity. Note to self, watch Double Indemnity again.
  • Forgotten Classics of Yesteryear brings us a another review of a John Ford silent movie, Four Sons. Even better he’s posting this on YouTube along with The Iron Horse. And even better better, he’s also posted hard-to-find The Phenix City Story. Check out the YouTube channel and send some thanks Nate’s way.
  • The Movie Morlocks site featured a great little Chaplin piece this week, Chaplin Vs. The Mimics. Chaplin is now so iconic and deeply ingrained in the collective consciousness, it’s difficult to think of The Tramp being an invention. Of course it is, and this article is a fascinating read about Chaplin’s struggles with imitators and the sticky wicket of considering who influenced whom and when.
  • Sadly, the Silents and Talkies blog is now defunct, but the archives live on for your enjoyment – including the two part “Is that mustache really necessary” series. Read part 1 here and part 2 here, and think about it. Don’t mustaches always kind of look like a caterpillar crawled onto a dude’s face? And be sure to check out the new Scathingly Brilliant blog of @kategabrielle.
  • The Toronto Film Scene site has a sweet little piece about film noir by writer Bennett O’Brian. It not only makes me want to curl up on the couch with a good noir, it drove me to read Paul Schrader’s “Notes on Film Noir” as well.
  • Since watching The Scarlet Letter, I’ve had Lilian Gish on the brain. Check out an adorably ancient Gish being interviewed by Joan Rivers in 1983:

Related Posts:

Read the Original NYTimes Review of “Conflict”

Conflict - Humphrey Bogart - Sydney Greenstreet - Lobby Card - Pretty Clever FilmsRead the 1945 NYTimes Review for Conflict. Do you fit this description:

The appeal of this film, which is unpleasant and obviously morbid in theme, will be to those customers who are fascinated by the anxieties of a tortured man, who like to listen figuratively to the desperate thumping of a telltale heart.

Then read my review of Conflict, where I never refer to Greenstreet’s battle with weight.

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