I watched Killer’s Kiss and Chinatown in order to get more of an idea of noir this week.
I watched Killer’s Kiss first, and I am really happy I that I did watch them in that order, since this movie is older than Chinatown. I felt like the cinematography in this film had many classic noir techniques used. The angles of many of the shots were off-kilter and not your standard shot, as seen in the picture of the stairwell. I feel like this is a shot that is easier to make effectively when on stairwells, because stairwell by nature provide a lot of distinct angles. The sharp angles I believe evoke more of the mysterious noir feel, because while stairwells are a normal part of everyday life, this particular angle makes you feel like there is more than meets the eye, as if something is lurking in the shadowed, dark angles.
The shadows and silhouettes in this film also create this eeriness. This is seen in the stairwell still from this movie, but also in the scene just before Albert, Davey’s manager is killed. I think that lack of light and being unable to see distinct features on the figures of the men, makes the scene more mysterious, thoughtful. This form of cinematography allows the viewer to imagine what is occurring, which I believe is the noir style. Clarity is not the aim of noir, but rather taking the views you have been going and attempting to dissect the story using this information.
This style is also used in Chinatown, although I don’t believe it is as prevalent as it was in Killer’s Kiss. There are a few scenes where shadows and silhouettes are used with only one source of lighting, such as the scene in this still, where J.J. Gittes finds Ida Sessions dead in her home. However, these scenes don’t occur too frequently in the film. There are more scenes in the movie in the Los Angeles sun and outside. Incidentally, in the scenes in this film where the shadows and noir elements are present, they create more of a suspenseful feeling. The viewer knows when a noir mood is arising something important is about to happen. I would also say that the mystery plot like of Chinatown adds to the misleading aspects of noir.
Music, or the lack of music, I also noticed assisted in creating a noir atmosphere. In really pivotal scenes in both films there was no background music. It made everything in the scene extremely realistic and suspenseful, like for instance in the mannequin fight scene in Killer’s Kiss. They could have opted to have dramatic music during these moments in the film, but instead it was silent and only the actors could be heard. This lack of sound I felt kept the dramatic music from detracting from the tension, making it more realistic and gritty.
I was actually surprised by how much I enjoyed watching these movies overall. Noir style films aren’t really my genre. But I did like that at least Killer’s Kiss had a happy ending.