Monday, December 2, 2019

CMBA Profile: Down These Mean Streets

If you love film noir as many of us do, Down These Mean Streets, is required reading. The Big Combo, Gun CrazyPark Row, Rear Window and Pickup on South Street are just a few of the films reviewed. Anke Lindner is a self-proclaimed film noir lover and it shows.

  1. What sparked your interest in classic film?

It’s hard to say exactly when, how and why I became a classic film fan. Neither my parents nor my grandparents were interested so I discovered them myself. I was probably around five and I assume some classic film came on TV and I was hooked. I loved history (still do) and somehow old movies were like a history lesson, a window into another world.
Growing up in Europe, I didn’t even have something like TCM, a channel dedicated to classics. Being a movie fan back then took real dedication because sometimes you had to stay up very late to catch these movies. I used to watch old movies on an old crappy television, before digital restoration, edited for TV, mutilated by commercials and bad dubbing…and still fell in love with them. Something just clicked with me, much more than it did with contemporary movies. 
Then I discovered that people actually wrote books about old films. Many film titles and stars I only knew by name from books but I promised myself that one day I would watch all these movies I had only seen photos of.

  1. What attracted you to the world of film noir?
First, I started to love old movies (not just Noir) because films have never looked as good again as they did in the 40s. The films were the pinnacle of American style with beautiful clothes, cars, hairstyles, architecture, interior design etc. The digital revolution in videography seems to have all but abandoned the art and power of cinematic lighting that illuminated the Golden Age of motion pictures. Back then every photo mattered.

Second, before I became drawn to the dark themes of Noir, as a child the first thing I noticed was that there were men in sharp-looking suits and dames in fabulous outfits. So different from the awful clothes people around me were wearing. They all dwelled pretty near the gutter, but that didn’t mean they couldn’t look glamorous while doing so. Eddie Muller called it "slumming with style”. 

Third, deadly dames, dingy dives, drunken barflies, dangerous hoods, crooked cops, flawed heroes, high heels on wet pavement,  neon light through Venetian blinds, the evil that men do. Noir is the "B" side of a 45 record, the depiction of life beyond the light. What’s not to love?

Dialogue. Did I mention dialogue? If more people talked as if they were in a Noir, life would be a lot more fun.

  1. What makes a film “noirish?”
Eddie Muller phrased it like this: “there is something darker than night in these films". The depths of fear, loneliness, anxiety, alienation and futility of hope are existential. They seem to express the very core of human pain and suffering.

Also, Noir cannot do without moral ambiguity, it needs shades of gray. It can’t have a protagonist who’s without blemish or fail. Ambiguity creates tension and that tension comes from the moral struggle of the protagonist(s).

Noir doesn’t need a femme fatale, but it does need a dame.

  1. Would you tell us your five top noir films and directors?
I don’t do lists so these are in no particular order, but one of my favorite directors (not just for Noir) is Sam Fuller. Pickup on South Street ranks very high in my opinion.
Clearly, Robert Siodmak has to be on the list. The man just defines Noir and his output in it is unparalleled. Also Fritz Lang for the bleakest of them all, Scarlet Street, and many more.
Phil Karlson deserves mention for 99 River Street, Kansas City Confidential and Scandal Sheet, and so does Richard Fleischer for The Narrow Margin and the underrated Follow Me Quietly

  1. To someone not familiar with Film Noir what films would you recommend?
I think you can’t go wrong with any Bogart/Bacall movie. They’re just iconic, and even people who don’t know any classic films do know who Bogart is.
I’d also say Double Indemnity, The Third Man and This Gun For Hire.

  1. What other film genre(s) do you favor?
Westerns are my second favorite genre. I also love gangster movies, pre-codes and have lately developed a real love for melodrama. Especially with Davis, Crawford, and Stanwyck.

  1. Name three films that most classic film fans love, but you hate, and if you can tell us why?
The Sound of Music, it. drives. me. nuts. To say I hate this movie would be an understatement. I despise it. Cliche piled on cliche, the unbearably annoying, I mean cute children, an unattractive nun with the ugliest hairstyle ever (some guy ditches his girlfriend for her?) and those songs which warrant their own entry in the Geneva Convention.
There is a scene in Wilder’s One Two Three (a movie I love) where Otto Piffl is “tortured” by having to listen to Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polkadot Bikini. They would just have to change the soundtrack to The Sound of Music for me.

Doctor Zhivago. The schmaltzy Lara’s theme is nauseating. And Omar Sharif reminds me of a depressed basset hound.

James Dean in East of Eden and Rebel Without a Cause. Dean was the original whiny snowflake and crybaby.

There’s a reason I don’t review films I don’t like. It’s too easy to go on a rant. I like to be snarky, but not really mean. Taking apart movies I really hate seems counter-productive to me.

  1. Do you have interests in any other arts that you can share?
I’m interested in (interior) design and architecture, especially Midcentury Modern. It was such a great era for design. I don’t know if that counts as art, but I’m a really good cook. 


  1. I love Anke's passion for all things Film Noir. She's a great writer and I always look forward to new Noir reviews/articles from her. I'm with her on Doctor Zhivago, it's a rare dud from my favourite director David Lean.

  2. Anke Lindner(aka Margot Shelby) is a wonderful thinker(whether she admits it or not) and writer. I enjoy her takes on Noir and Hopefully she'll give her fans a Western review of movies like FORTY GUNS(1957), THE FURIES(1950), JOHNNY GUITAR(1954), FOUR GUNS TO THE BORDER(1954), and others.

    I highly recommend her blog DOWN THESE MEAN STREETS.

  3. Down These Mean Streets is required reading indeed! Thoughtful insights, a delicious sense of humour, and lively discussions. Great stuff!

  4. Haha! I agree re: Julie Andrews's hair in The Sound of Music. It certainly doesn't have the same cachet as Eleanor Parker's 'do, that's for sure.