OOur most enduring images and memories of film noir tend to have roots in the 1940s and 1950s: Speak the words and monochromatic visions of fedoras, tight satin dresses and streams of unrestricted cigarette smoke inevitably come to mind. ‘mind. This makes it a difficult genre to tackle these days, even if its themes and social corners are hardly era-specific. Lean too hard into period style and it looks like empty cosplay; update it too much and the dark romance wears off.
Guillermo del Toro’s devious and seductive remake alley of nightmares (now on all major VOD platforms) gets the balance about right, though its early ’40s production and costume design is lavish in a way that Edmund Goulding’s 1947 original, still among the darkest and hardest of all classic blacks, ever thought to be. Expensively ramshackle and ludicrously lit, Del Toro’s film indulges in a degree of genre fetishism, never less than when Cate Blanchett is onscreen, sheathed and lacquered and vamping up a storm as a venomous, fatal psychoanalyst. But it retains a real jolt of human corruption and moral curiosity, all in Bradley Cooper’s remarkable lead performance as an ambitious, cold-blooded carnival worker who wants to be in high society at all costs. Cooper wears a high-waisted fedora and suit well enough, but his character’s tortured inner life never feels dressed in quotes.
alley of nightmares struts around with conviction similar to that of Curtis Hanson LA Confidential (Amazon) – now 25 but so convincingly immersed in his time and aesthetic that he feels both much older and fresh as a daisy. This black-hearted, acid-tongued adaptation of James Ellroy’s labyrinthine police rot saga wasn’t a remake of a classic property: it just feels like it should have always been there, given the rich, sordid textures of his mid-century Hollywood. the world-building and fluidity of its star-studded cast in a jazzy, witty noir style. Hanson’s film was released a year after Lee Tamahori’s similarly styled, similarly plotted and little remembered film. Mulholland Falls (Amazon), a suitably whimsical and enjoyable diversion in which every actor nonetheless seems to strike and hold a pose.
Del Toro’s film also breaks a streak of bad luck for filmmakers reimagining already beloved examples of the genre: undistinguished 1970s remakes of The big sleep and Double Indemnity were forgotten for a reason. But Bob Rafelson’s hot and raunchy 1981 version The postman always rings twice (Google Play) is holding up better than mocking critics could have predicted at the time. Not trying to improve on Tay Garnett’s 1946 original, it instead focuses on what its predecessor couldn’t: explicit carnal energy between stars Jack Nicholson and Jessica Lange. And the curvy and underrated Steven Soderbergh The bottom (Apple TV) has successfully redone its black source (Robert Siodmak’s 1949 cross cross) by setting it in a particular milieu of mid-’90s American urban darkness, stark chiaroscuros replaced by bilious neons.
Young filmmakers are more comfortable transposing film noir principles into brightly lit, unrecognizable 21st-century worlds: See Rian Johnson’s ingenious fusion of black moral code and high school politics in Brick (2005; Chile), or the eccentric and wandering of David Robert Mitchell under the silver lake (2018; Mubi), in which millennial anxiety continues to derail his Los Angeleno mystery. In today’s cinema, there’s more than one way to keep black from going gray.
Also new in streaming and DVD
Now available on DVD and Blu-ray for the benefit of non-Disney+ subscribers, this thoughtful and benevolent initiation film from Pixar breaks away from their frenetic storytelling formula to explore more tender teenage realities with just the right amount of excitement. metaphorical intelligence. Oddly denied a theatrical release, it’s one of the studio’s smartest recent efforts.
The premise is intriguing: Jacob (a committed George MacKay) fancies himself a wolf trapped in a man’s body, finally meeting a kindred spirit during his therapy. But Nathalie Biancheri’s moody film is too preoccupied with moral binaries to have as much impact as the allegory of gender dysphoria it keeps suggesting.
Speaking of indomitable, the cast of former MTV pranksters are (mostly) back together, and middle age has apparently brought them no wisdom. It’s exactly what you’d expect from a reunion of Johnny Knoxville et al: their shtick remains unchanged, even if a few friends have been lost along the way, lending a sort of lofty challenge to their arrested development.