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Out of the Past (1947)Director: Jacques Tourneur
Why we study it• It’s based on a novel Build my Gallows High written by Dainel Mainwaring (under the pseudonym Geoffrey Homes) and adapted with our old friend James M. Cain.• Kathie displays the worst characteristics of the femme fatale — greed, dishonesty, disloyalty, and a penchant for committing murder• Robert Mitchum as Jeff Bailey is alienated and obsessed.• He is about to make the right choice - a conventional life - when his past comes back to haunt him.• Ann acts as the idyllic but featureless traditional woman, standing by her man even when he tells her that he is mixed up with murder and another woman.
Why we study it• The lighting is stunning. Watch for how Kathie generally enters frame from out of the dark. Watch how Jeff moves between light and dark.• The idea of the city as corrupt - look at the different lighting in Bridgeport versus San Francisco.• Watch out for the symbolism in the framing. Tourneur does very little by accident.
Roger Ebert says:"Out of the Past is one of the greatest of all film noirs, the story of a man who tries to break with his past and his weakness and start over again in a town, with a new job and a new girl. The movie stars Robert Mitchum, whose weary eyes and laconic voice, whose very presence as a violent man wrapped in indifference, made him an archetypal noir actor. The story opens before weve even seen him, as trouble comes to town looking for him. A man from his past has seen him pumping gas, and now his old life reaches out and pulls him back.
“And then I saw her. Coming out of the sun. And I knew why Whit didn’t care about that 40 grand”.