Thursday, December 22, 2011

the big black dark

I'm just back from walking Nicholas. Outside, the dark and the streetlamp gold and the sheen of frost on everything reminded me of two things - Christmas ornaments and the particular way water works in film noir. The glitter of Hollywood rain and the way sun lies on the waves of the 1940s ocean in the black of some scene that's supposed to be night but which is actually day so the film wizards do some sort of magic and turn down the light.

Last night Stephen and I went to the Someday Lounge for the film screening of The Big Black Dark, the new short film noir by Northern Flicker Films. They screened it on the darkest night of the year - clever. Film noir is maybe my favorite genre, so I was extra excited for this. And a little wary. I'm always wary when the modern world creates something noir. On film, it usually turns out to be a spoof or a pastiche. Brian Padian's The Big Black Dark is neither.

It has elements of both - it's funny and it does recreate that noir style - even going so far as to be shot on film [!] - but it's not a spoof and it's not a poorly-made recreation. It's its own thing. For me, it's the perfect mix. The opening credits are great, and the music is not some wannabe noir jazz riff. That to me is always the first marker of a bad modern noir - the wannabe noir jazz soundtrack. And the wannabe noir dialogue with phrases like, alright, you mugs, getcher hands up or I'm gonna fill ya fulla lead. Nothing like that here, thank god. And the writing was sharp and the dialogue smart.

The sense of time is a nice ambiguity. Period clothing and period props but modern elements in the sets too. For instance, there's a scene where our hero is on the phone. Behind him is a fan that looks to be from the forties, he's dialing the amount of numbers you'd dial today, and the telephone itself seems to come from a time somewhere in between, tying it all up together. The world was created so carefully, the ambiguity set up so well, that when there was a CD in one of the scenes, I didn't even notice the object as out of place. It fit.

I'm going to try to stop saying so much about specifics in the film - I don't want to toss a bunch of spoilers out there. Let me just say that the second-person voice-over narration worked great, the way rear-screen projection was used was brilliant, the ending was excellent.

Great acting from Lanie Hoyo and Mike Barber, who didn't overdo their roles, didn't spoof it up.

Great deadpan / shell-shocked turn from Matt Sipes - that part calls for a good actor and he poured subtle life into it.

And Christine Calfas - that's the back of her head up there - whoosh, sexy as ever and perfect for this movie. She put a subtlety into her performance that was just wonderful. Again - the possibilities for overdoing this art form - the role she plays could easily be pushed too far, but Christine works this part gently and just nails it.

The biggest surprise for me, actor-wise, was Brian Padian, himself, who was absolutely marvelous - quirky and funny. I had no idea he was an actor as well as... well, all the other things he does on this film - writing, directing, producing. He blew me away.

Can't wait to see it again. I hear it'll be available soon with a blooper reel and everything. If you want to check it out, the facebook page for The Big Black Dark is here.

2 comments:

  1. Sounds like my kind of thing. Thanks for the review, I'll check it out.

    ReplyDelete