5 Movies: Film Noir

Continuing my occasional series in which I recommend five movies which have a link between them. Last time I did 5 Alfred Hitchcock movies, this time I am going with film noir.

1. The Third Man (1949)

Starring Joseph Cotton, Orson Welles, Alida Valli, Trevor Howard. Screenplay by Graham Greene, Directed by Carol Reed. UK Certification: PG

A classic British noir set in post-war Vienna which deals with friendship and betrayal. Outstanding cinematography from Carol Reed gives the film an unforgettable look, while the zither score is occasionally annoying the jaunty nature of it contrasts with the downbeat story. It has been said that the treacherous Harry Lime was based on the infamous MI6 mole Kim Philby.

2. The Killers (1946)

Starring Burt Lancaster, Ava Gardiner, Edmond O’Brien. Directed by Robert Siodmak.

UK Certification: PG

Based on a Hemingway short story of the same name, the film is mostly told in flashbacks as a life insurance investigator tries to figure out why hoodlum and failed Boxer the “Swede” left a substantial amount of money to an old woman who ran a boarding house. This was Burt Lancaster’s first film and he shines as the doomed character and while Hemingway’s short story only accounts for the opening 20 minutes of run time, the story of the film compliments it perfectly and follows many of the themes of Hemingway’s writings.

3. White Heat (1949)

Starring James Cagney, Virginia Mayo, Edmund O’Brien, Directed by Raoul Walsh. UK Certification: 15

We all know the famous last “Made it Ma! Top of the World!” but the movie as a whole tends to be overlooked. Unusually for noir genre, the moral ambiguity of the characters is more clear cut as virtually all the central characters are out and out villains and our trustee being the one in danger of being found out. James Cagney gives a wonderful performance as the psychotic Cody Jarrett and thanks to Raoul Walsh’s direction, the pace never lets up.

4. The Man Who Wasn’t There (2001)

Starring Billy Bob Thornton, Frances McDormand, James Gandafini, directed by Joel and Ethan Coen. UK Certification: 15

A brilliantly observed homage to the genre which works as a post modern deconstruction of the genre, and a film noir in its own rite.

5. Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (2014)

Starring Mickey Rourke, Eva Green, Jessica Alba, Ray Liotta, Bruce Willis. Directed by Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez. UK Certification: 18

This very stylised portmanteau film is based on the graphic novel by Frank Miller. Mostly show in black and white, the film sparing uses splashes and hints of colour for emphasis to great effect.

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