straight down the line

Killer’s Kiss: scenes of NYC, some classic noir shots, and a bit of animated giffery

Last night, I watched Killer’s Kiss which I had never seen before. I found the movie strangely compelling. It has a lot of flaws, and my reading/research after watching turned up that Stanley Kubrick was hardly proud of this effort and considered it basically on par with a student film. He produced it with no budget or shooting permits (he was actually on welfare at the time), and I thought that explained a lot. There are definitely moments of the movie that feel like you are watching raw footage of New York City, not carefully constructed and designed scenes.

But, generally, I really, really enjoyed it. There it a freneticism to it that keeps the film moving in a way that feels sort of inevitable and desperate (which is why the end felt for me, cliched and disappointing). I also loved the vision of New York City, particularly the sequence towards the beginning that shows small vignettes of scenes of Time Square from that period:

Click to view slideshow.

(What is that cat-person eating candied apples all about, anyway?)

I thought the sound in the movie was also interesting. There’s actually relatively little dialog, but lots of ambient city noise. Apparently, Kubrick fired his sound crew during the filming, and ended up adding all the dialog in during post-production (including having to bring in a different actress to voice the original female lead).

I was on the lookout for some classic noir-ish cinematography, and there was this shot fairly early on with the standard “venetian blind” effect. But mostly I wanted to share this one because I was wondering throughout the entire film while Vinnie’s office was plastered with blue jeans ads?


By far the frame that I loved the most and wanted to share was this one, in the scene where Davey’s manager is getting beat up (and ultimately killed) by Vinny’s thugs:

killers_kiss9The characters are lit in such a way that they actually look like moving shadows, and the effect is dramatic and a bit uncanny.

Aside from looking for some shots to share, I was also on the lookout for a scene that I might want to make into an animated gif, and when I saw the sequence in which Gloria is telling the story of her childhood, I knew exactly what I wanted to do.

I should say that I loved this sequence the best out of any part of the movie. I loved the juxtaposition of the footage of Gloria’s ballerina sister dancing  all along while Gloria tells the very sad, strange story of her family. Given Kubrick’s non-existent budget, you can understand the choice: he could either just shoot Gloria telling the story, which goes on for a while, and would probably be a pretty dull piece or he would actually have to film some sort of flash-back of that entire story which would be complicated and expensive to shoot.

Instead he let’s the story be told behind this very simple footage of a ballerina dancing (who was, by the way, played by Kubrick’s second wife, Ruth Sobotka.) In comparison the kind of frenetic, cityscape of the film, this sequence stands apart, as the single figure dances on a black stage, lit by footlights.

I created two gifs of the sequence, and I was really pleased with the way they looped naturally. It’s always nice when gif loops in a way that makes it feel seamless:




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